Welcome to Seacrest County. Please drive safely.
Everybody likes cops and robbers, right? It’s a tried and tested formula that’s been reworked for decades… For those of us old enough to have burnt the midnight oil playing retro classic Chase HQ, you’ll be pleased to hear that NFS: Hot Pursuit will bring back many a happy memory.
The game’s premise is simple... Take on the role of cop or racer and drive as fast as your engine will allow you around the various, gorgeously detailed courses. Oh, and stop your opponent from reaching the end of the course...
The career mode sees you faced with a map of the aforementioned fictitious county and offers you a series of events to select. Whether you fancy becoming a law enforcer and chasing down the roadhogs in some souped-up patrol car or a wreckless racer doing your utmost to avoid capture, both are equally fun and get the adrenaline pumping.
Stopping your opponents can be achieved simply by ramming them to damage their cars until they’re wrecked – or by employing various technical wizardry (more on this later). And that’s the game in a nutshell; whether you’re the hunter or the prey, you get a whole lot of fun and plenty of reliability value for your money.
You can tackle the various events in any order you fancy, with more unlocking as you improve your skills and accrue more XP. Along the way, you’ll quickly start to accumulate a huge number of vehicles that you can put through their paces. Before too long you’ll have access to Porsches, Aston Martins and Corvettes… all of which you can drive fast and crash to your heart’s content.
Clearly this doesn’t claim to be a simulator steeped in realism like a certain recently-released PS3 game, this is an arcade racer pure and simple. As a result, it’s easy to pick up but exceedingly tough to put down. Since getting my copy, I’ve often booted up the game for a couple of quick races only to find I’ve been up most of the night whizzing about the tracks and everyone else has long been tucked up in bed. Although each race lasts only a matter of minutes, you’ll find yourself replaying them over and over to shave off vital seconds and set a new personal best.
And therein lies the addiction. Electronic Arts and Criterion Games – the guys behind Burnout: Paradise – have introduced something called the Autolog – a clever addition that monitors the progress of friends on your gamerlist and constantly challenges you to beat their times. Even when they’re offline, it’s as if you’re racing them – certainly something that many other games should adopt!
Every course you try, you’re instantly updated as to whether friends have bettered your time and are urged to give it one more try to grab your rightful place at the top of the leaderboard. When you do trounce their efforts, the game suggests you brag about your achievements by posting on the ingame wall (much like Facebook), throwing down the gauntlet to your opponents. It works really well and keeps the game nice and challenging.
Once you’re done with the pretty lengthy career mode, there’s the opportunity to hone your skills online, pitting you against real people who are slightly more devious than the AI opponents. Up to seven other gamers will join you in the lobby and you’ll be divided into teams of cops and joyriders.
In either mode, the police have plenty of nicely-balanced tools at their disposal to stop those pesky racers: EMPs that temporarily disable a targeted car by shorting the electronics, spike strips to blow the tyres, roadblocks that do exactly helicopters and roadblocks. As you progress these are upgraded and become much more effective. The racers have a few tricks up their sleeves too, with EMPs, spike strips, super fast nitrous boosts and radar jammers.
There are various challenges on offer; the lawmen, for example, can take part in high speed pursuits and rapid response races or simply take their newly-acquired cars out for a spin. A free ride option also allows you to get to know the circuits and multitude of shortcuts, particularly useful as some of those “shortcuts” don’t always work in your favour.
The fact that EA has managed to feature a raft of licensed vehicles is welcome – with each feeling suitably speedy and handling differently. There’s something supremely satisfying about using a sports car worth hundreds of thousands of dollars to deliberately ram people off the road – and, of course, you can rely on Criterion to supply sheer speed and jaw-dropping crashes!
2010 has been a fantastic year for the racing genre, with all the games offering something different - Split/Second (destruction), Blur (weaponry), ModNation Racers (customisation) and Gran Turismo 5 (realism) – but, in many ways, NFS:Hot Pursuit manages to leave them all trailing in its wake.
It doesn’t really tread on the toes of any of the others but provides what us gamers have been keen on for years – a pick up and play racer that’s all about speed and getting one over your opponents. As I said before, it’s simple but executed perfectly. Gorgeous visuals, lovely tunes, varied tracks, good old fashioned carnage and oodles of replayability both solo and online mean that this is a really enjoyable package that deserves to be in your collection.
I feel the need, the need for SPEED!
Tuesday, December 21, 2010
Welcome to Seacrest County. Please drive safely.