Under Ghost Games, the Need for Speed franchise has been missing any sense of identity. Each of their three games in the franchise has been middling at best and never felt like they actually filled a hole in the genre. As of this February, EA has shifted the series back to Criterion Games and reduced Ghost to an engineering studio. That’s great news for series fans, as Criterion is the studio behind some of the best modern arcade racers out there.
For their first effort, the studio is putting out a remastered version of their first game in the series, Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit. The 2010 game came right on the heels of Burnout Paradise, the peak of Criterion’s early work. It easily became one of the most beloved NFS games in the franchise’s long history. I’m happy to report that while some of the game is showing its age, it’s still the best Need for Speed has been in awhile.
Hot Pursuit is, in many ways, best described as a barebones racer. However, instead of viewing that as an insult, the team turns it into a positive. This is a stripped-down racer that makes gameplay king. There’s not really any sort of story and you don’t have a ton of different types of races. Instead, Hot Pursuit squarely focuses on delivering white-knuckle races and thrilling car chases.
“As far as gameplay goes, this is a throwback to when NFS was at its peak.”
Fortunately, it mostly hits the mark across the board. While the types of races you’ll participate in are relatively low, they all feel great. If you like arcade-style racing, Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit is worth checking out. You don’t have to hit your lines or even stay on the track. Instead, you’re drifting around corners and boosting through the best shortcuts to get a leg up on your competition.
And, of course, you have plenty of tricks at your disposal to either run from the cops or take down those pesky street racers. Whether you’re dropping spike strips, dumping a turbo boost into your engine, or calling in helicopter support, Hot Pursuit has plenty of options at your disposal. The minimalistic approach to car combat is a welcome breath of fresh air for anyone who suffered through Fast & Furious: Crossroads earlier this year.
As far as gameplay goes, this is a throwback to when NFS was at its peak.
Given that this is a remaster of a fan favorite, that’s not really a big surprise. However, with how muddled the series has been over the last decade, it was hard to not come in worried. Thankfully, Criterion has delivered a product worthy of the Hot Pursuit name. It’s not perfect, but the racing is tons of fun and it looks great. For a series in such dire need of refocusing, that’s enough to make me excited.
Now, there are some problems that have arisen in the ten years since the game first launched. As I’ve mentioned above, there are only a handful of different race types. Yes, you get to play as both street racers and cops, but even between the two factions, there isn’t much variety. As a street racer, you have your normal races, some time trials, and races where you get to use fancy gadgets to help cross the finish line. Then, if you’re playing as a cop, you have time trials and races where you’re trying to wreck the street racers. That’s about it.
“If a boringly good remaster is what it takes to get us back to the series I grew up with, I’ll more than take it.”
Of course, a lack of variety isn’t the be-all, end-all for racers. After all, plenty of genre greats are just looping around a track. That said, I did find myself getting a bit bored of just doing the same thing over and over again. I would love something to switch things up even more. There are some cool multiplayer modes that do this, but I’d like to see more in the single-player version.
It’s also worth mentioning that the Autolog system that helped make the original so cool doesn’t feel as noteworthy in 2020. Sure, it’s neat to see your friends’ times on each race and compete against them. However, that mechanic is pretty par for the course these days. That isn’t to say that Autolog is bad, just less impressive than it was 10 years ago.
Really, that sums up Hot Pursuit well. It’s still a good game with some nicely updated visuals. However, when you put it up against games like Forza Horizon 4, it feels dated. We should expect that though. We won’t truly know what Criterion can do with the series until they put out their first new game in the series.
That said, they have added something that should help keep the game running long past its release window. Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit fully supports cross-platform play. That, along with several quality of life updates, makes for an experience that is easy to recommend.
Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit Remastered isn’t going to set the world on fire. However, it’s important to remember the dumpster fire that this franchise has been languishing in for the last decade. If a boringly good remaster is what it takes to get us back to the series I grew up with, I’ll more than take it. Hopefully, Criterion uses this momentum to deliver something that finally puts Need for Speed back on the map.
Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit, Criterion Software, Electronic Arts
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