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in truth, i've never been a huge fan of racing sims. however, where i have played them, i've always tended to go for straight down the line realism rather than street racing or customization gimmicks. as such, purer sims like Gran Turismo and Forza have tended to be much more my cup of tea than say Project Gotham Racing, (the ridiculous) Pimp My Ride, or the (terrible and thankfully short-lived) Juiced series.
one notable exception to this pattern, however, came out of my encounter with Burnout 3: Takedown. at the time it was released, one of my (then) uni housemates bought it and, despite some initial reluctance on my part, it soon became the house game.
while each of us would work on our career-mode progress when the others were at lectures, what really got us hooked was the split-screen multi-player mayhem that Burnout made so deliciously accessible.
while my affection for Burnout 3 and the memory of my tastes being expanded have remained, those experiences largely remained a thing of the past in the face of the two subsequent major Burnout releases -- in the most because my experience of them did not involve that kind of regular, communal interaction.
having trudged my way through many a lame racing game since -- Nail'd being a recent example -- i have at times determined that when the next Burnout game is released (Burnout 6, as it's currently known) i will throw myself into seeking out that kind of rich, off-line-multiplayer-led experience.
however, with Burnout 6 seemingly caught in an early-stage-TBA type place, i figured that i had a while to work out how to go about recapturing those beer fuelled, time-rich, responsibilities-poor student experiences. that was until i recently realised that Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit, a game that i had taken little if any notice of when it emerged among the glut of racing titles late last year and early this, was in fact, the new Burnout.
i had an opportunity to dive into the career and hone my skills before organising a reunion with the boys.
given that EA invited Criterion (the developers of the Burnout series) over onto Need For Speed for this title, it makes some sense, but the branding had camouflaged the manoeuvre from my somewhat obscured vantage point.
however, having been belatedly slipped a copy in a 'i think you might want to have a closer look at this' kind of way, i rapidly realised what had happened and that i was woefully underprepared. still, in the meantime, i had an opportunity to dive into the career and hone my skills before organising a reunion with the boys.
the vast majority of Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit is pure Burnout. The visuals are lush and slick, the cars are gorgeous, rousingly sonorous, drive superbly and boast a decent (if not quite a Forza 3 or GT5 matching) level of attention to detail with regard to the different experiences on offer.
the one major persisting element from the Need For Speed series is the cops vs. street racers theme. you play as either a devil-may-care petrol-head competing in a series of illegal races, or a (Ryan) Seacrest County law enforcement officer. Either way, you have a clearly defined objective, and access to the same awesome roster of blisteringly fast cars in which to achieve it.
as the cops, you chase and apprehend the perps by any and all means -- including road blocks, EMPs and helicopter support. as a street racer, you smash and weave through the blockades and use radio scanners, coms jammers and even reclaimed police spike-strips to slow down your pursuers, whilst also competing against and hopefully taking down other racers. and throughout all of this the driving mechanics, AI, frame-rates and in-game sound are all equally impressive.
alas, to my horror, it was absent.
more to the point, the collision physics are just as impressive as they were when Burnout 3 first landed, and, just as in that game, it's the elaborate, brutal and slow-mo rendered takedowns that make the game. they are certainly no less fun to execute than they ever were, if not more so if when you get to flip a cop car.
however, it's not all good news. the soundtrack is pretty bleh and, by default, far too high in the mix, and there are annoying glitches with the crash/takedown slow-mo replays which occasionally return you to your race in such a way as to render you unable to avoid crashes or jaunts off course. i remember this issue from Burnout 3, and while it doesn't ruin this as it didn't ruin that, i assumed it would be strictly a problem of the past.
overall, Hot Pursuit is a really exciting find which after only a couple of hours had me itching to make some calls and make a date for a split-screen nostalgia fest. then i made the casual step of glancing round the back of the box to check for the obviously-going-to-be-there offline multiplayer indicator.
alas, to my horror, it was absent.
i know it's out of vogue, and that game companies generally assume that people don't have any friends anymore, but i had simply assumed, given the nature of the game and the outcry that greeted Burnout Paradise's lack of split-screen action, that it would be available here. i was wrong.
include a proper sodding offline multiplayer mode.
i would love to unreservedly endorse Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit as either the evolution of the Need For Speed franchise, or the new Burnout release (depending on your perspective), but unfortunately i cannot. even though the online multiplayer is fairly strong, I was left wondering when developers will finally realise that without an offline equivalent, the longevity of a game is seriously compromised.
instead of strangling the second-hand game market by shipping each box with a once-for-always code, and thus making used buyers shell out for a new one (and therein making yourself look like money-grabbers), why not just make a game that is fulfilling enough to be worth keeping for longer by including a proper sodding offline multiplayer mode? it makes me so angry. aarrrrgggghhh -- tiredsmash, tiredsmash.
[if you'd like to see more of the weird and wonderful world of reallyquitetired then the door is always open at his semi-detached house/blog]
With so many different perspectives it can be hard to know where to start - a little like walking into a crowded pub. Sorry about that.
But so far we've not found a way to streamline our review output - there's basically too much of it. So, rather than dilute things for newcomers we have decided to live with the hubbub while helping new readers find the columnists they will enjoy.
Our columnists each focus on a particular perspective and fall into one of the following types of gamers: