Need For Speed has fallen wayside in the past decade or so in favor of more realist racing sims like Gran Turismo and Forza Motorsports. With Hot Pursuit, Burnout developer Criterion hopes to bring the series up to speed and they do so with flying (and crashing colors).
Hot Pursuit begins with a brief tutorial on the Autolog feature. Autolog is a sort of social networking system that acts like a dumbed down Facebook of sorts. Not that thats a bad thing. It keeps track of your racing achievement including race times, impressive victories, cops wrecked, etc and uploads it to your wall. Meanwhile your friend will get an update about how you left their best time in the dust. Then they'll get the chance to best you. It breeds a new type of off-hands multiplayer that is at best a welcome addition and at worst hardly a distraction.
Actual racing (or pursuit) takes place in the game's fiction Seacrest County, where (apparently) rich outlaws from all over the world have come to tame the wild roads with their exotic speed machines. You can play as one of these racers, perform a series of typical challenges such as go from point A to point B before running out of time, finish 1st in a duel, etc in order to gain new cars and equipment. You can also play as the law, the Seacrest County Police come to these races with just as much horsepower and just as much disregard for human life. And this is where Hot Pursuit truly shines.
As an officer of the law, it's your job to poop all the racing parties in Seacrest County. You'll unlock faster, more powerful cars as you progress and like the racers you'll get a small variety of offensive weapons at your disposal.
Cars handle much more realistically then they did in Need For Speed's recent memory, making for a higher learning curve and more rewarding sense of accomplishment when you nail a difficult drift with an overly speedy vehicle. The equipment is mostly the same between racers and officers but differ slightly. Spike strips and EMP being shared between the two. The racers get an added bonus with a disturbingly fast overly long turbo and a police jammer. Cops get to set up barricades and call in helicopters (which drop multiple spike strips). Wrecks are gloriously brutal and awesome to watch, as expected of the former Burnout developer.
Your knuckles will go white and you'll hold your breath as you take sweeping curves and turbo through traffic, all the while the cops on your tail. It's this face paced action that keeps Hot Pursuit interesting and it's online mode doesn't pull the sparkplug on the action. Multiplayer feature only a couple of modes. Mainly your standard non-cop racing and then there's Hot Pursuit. You'll rotate between races from cop to racer with and against up to 7 other players.
Four players are racers, competing against each other to take 1st place and running for their lives from the police. The other four players play as the police and they are competing against each other for most racers captured while also co-operatively trying to stop the race altogether. This creates a dynamic multiplayer scene that is in a single word: CUTTHROAT. I played a match as a racer and only me and another "team-mate" remained with all four cops still on our trailed. I pulled in front of him and let loose a spike strip, sending him to his law enforced doom. On the opposite side of the spectrum, I had another officer EMP my car in an attempt to wreck a racer I had been whittling down. These events are a blast and really keep Hot Pursuit spinning in your disc tray.
My only quarrel with Hot Pursuit is the lack of variety in single player events. While there are plenty of different things, they all are just tweaks away from being identical in most cases. It can start to feel like your grinding away for cars after awhile which can get dull.
I give Need For Speed Hot Pursuit a 4/5. It's a great step in the right direction for a legendary series that had sort of got lost in the Pit Stop. Here's to hoping that Criterion can keep the pedal to the metal with a steady of stream of DLC in the near future.