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Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit made racers out of me and my friends. The social leader boards kept us coming back to shave seconds off lap times and the cops 'n robbers chases got us competing for the top spot. It more than made up for the lack of the increasingly rare split-screen mode.
Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit is the latest entry into the ever expanding Need For Speed series, but this time Burnout developer Criterion is in charge and Hot Pursuit has a lot to live up to.
At its core Hot Pursuit is an extremely streamlined racing experience, there is no messing around with car customisation or performance tuning. It's very much a matter of picking your vehicle, putting your foot down on the pedal and never letting it off. I loved this bare-boned approach to the genre as it puts gameplay centre stage.
The game features straight up races, time trials and head-to-head duals. The best of these are the modes where you race against other drivers while law enforcement vehicles track you down and try and force you off the road. It reminded me a little of Chase HQ.
In addition to the Racing career is the fully realised Police campaign which sees you making rather than breaking the law. As a law enforcer you can deploy roadblocks and call in helicopters as you try to shunt computer controlled cars off the road. Successfully taking down a racer results in the kind of spectacular crash Criterion are famous for, as chunks of twisted metal and glass create a glorious display of destruction.
Hot Pursuit also features a solid multiplayer that feels just as tight as single player, perhaps even more so. Having real people behind the other cars gives the racing much more of a competitive-edge and makes photo-finish victories all the sweeter.
Hot Pursuit feels like taking control of abig-budget Hollywood movie.
Hot Pursuit feels like taking control of a big-budget Hollywood movie. I found the races to be totally absorbing and exhilarating. After finishing a particularly close race I would often have sweaty palms and realise that I'd been tensing most of my muscles in a desperate bid to cross the finish line in first place.
The feeling of sheer speed reaches its peak as the game gets more chaotic. The thrill of narrowly squeezing past police roadblocks as sirens wail gave me chills of excitement.
Something that me and my mates most got into was the Autolog system. This constantly synchronises your best lap times with your friends. This meant we could see who completed each event in the best time, what vehicle they used and how many attempts it took them.
Although this doesn't quite replace the rib-poking fun of racing together on one console (ed: you are right, where have all the split-screen modes gone?), it's a fantastic feature that really changed the way we approached the game. It also made for some great banter and fighting talk with my college buddies in-between lessons.
Criterion have created an extremely polished and addictive game by putting your friends right at the heart of the experience.
I'm normally not bothered about online leader boards, but thanks to Autolog's prominence in Hot Pursuit it became nigh on impossible for me to ignore my friends' times. Every time they pinged up on Facebook having one-upped me I had to jump straight back into an event and re-secure the top spot. This was sometimes easier said than done and I found myself replaying the same race over and over trying to shave a few valuable seconds off my time.
Add to this the levelling system - where you earn Bounty to access exotic vehicles - and you have a compelling arcade racing game. Criterion have created an extremely polished and addictive game by putting your friends right at the heart of the experience.
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