Riding with Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit

The Need for Speed series has undergone massive changes over the years. Or is it an identity crisis? The series has delved into arcade-style police chases, illlegal street racing, undercover operations in open worlds, drag racing, and, most recently, simulation. Under the direction of Criterion Games, the esteemed developer behind the Burnout series, Need for Speed is about to get another tune-up.

Taking a cue (and the name) from the earliest entries, Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit is a high-speed game of cat-and-mouse. As the cop, your job is to chase the opposition through 100+ miles of open roads and stop them at all costs. As you undoubtedly guessed, your job as a racer is to get away as fast as you can.The career mode is split between the two sides and features full progression on and offline.

Hot Pursuit will not be the simple game of bump-and-chase that you remember though. Both sides will have access to plenty of toys. As a cop, you can set up roadbloacks, shoot an EMP pulse to disrupt a cars’ functionality, and even call in aerial support. Racers aren’t completely helpless and can go into overdrive, or use decoys and a signal-jammer to mess with the cops’ radars.

Criterion Games repeatedly touted connectivity as a core concept of Hot Pursuit. With icons for Friends, News, Store, Photos, and Feed, the opening screen of the game looks more like a page from a social network than a traditional menu. The developers aren’t satisfied with encouraging online-play with friends. At any given second, they want you to know what your friends are doing, how you measure up, and what you can do to stay on top.

As I watched two developers play, Criterion’s stamp was firmly evident. Hot Pursuit is screaming fast, with long, arcade-style drifts and over-the-top antics, like ramming through a roadblock at top-speed and driving away with only a busted bumper. Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit is another rerouting of the series, but it looks to be headed in the right direction.