Initially we were turned off by the split focus online, since we’ve been largely turned off by racing online due to piss poor matchmaking, cheaters, and being pitted against people we’ll never beat in a million years. That’s hardly an issue here in Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit. There are probably other modes online, but none of them matter to us anymore after playing a fully stacked race of Hot Pursuit mode with real people. It’s not just about playing who you want, when you want, it’s that separating races into two teams of any number of cops and racers fosters rare racing teamwork and can essentially yield two winners per race. Plus, the fact that weapons are divvied like loadouts means that unlike other games with random item pickups, luck takes a backseat to skill, strategy and timing. There is no Blue Shell here, so if someone pounds you with an EMP meters before the line, it’s because they risked life and limb to hold on to it.
The Autolog feature is also a godsend of an online addition. Most of us don’t bother to look at leaderboards, because let’s be honest, nobody cares if they’re ranked 20,000th in anything. Instead, the Autolog is basically a Facebook wall where you can see who of your friends beat who and what mode, with what car, when and by how much. At any time in the game you can take a picture of the events onscreen by clicking right analog stick and essentially “talk shit” with a screenshot by posting it on a buddy’s page.
Even if you aren’t actively using it, the Autolog is still working overtime. It’ll subtly show you your friends’ records below single player events so you can achieve micro-victories offline, even while your friends sleep. So whereas other racing games pad their roster with time trials and other superfluous modes, Hot Pursuit can keep the challenges coming all year long based on what your friends accomplish dynamically.
Burnout: Paradise? Yes, if only because it skips the open-world tedium of driving from race to race. Hot Pursuit adapts all the things that make Burnout wonderful into a more streamlined experience with an emphasis on driving prowess over of demolition derbyage. HP’s not as silly, but it thankfully doesn’t take itself too seriously either. Hopefully, Criterion will keep up its record of releasing consistently fun, often FREE, DLC too.
Gran Turismo 4? Yes? By this point we all know what Gran Turismo is, and it’s everything Hot Pursuit isn’t. HP doesn’t demand you know the inner workings of an internal combustion engine just to win, and instead delivers high speed thrills AND licensed vehicles at a mile a minute. It might not be the technical showpiece of car porn, but it makes up for that with hours of fun anyone can dive right into.
Need For Speed: SHIFT? Yes, but it’s but just like comparing it with Gran Turismo, the comparison isn’t altogether fair because Hot Pursuit has different goals in mind. While SHIFT was far better olive branch extended from the hardcore sim to midcore wheelman than Turismo, Hot Pursuit does it even better and it doesn’t come at the loss of becoming a better driver.
With so many modes and diverse rewards to uncover in Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit, it almost feels like 2.5 games in one package. Plus, the fact that the online component works so incredibly, and we still can’t pick a favorite between playing as a cop or racer speaks volumes to the game’s quality. Quite simply, there is no better, more accessible racing game out there.
Nov 10, 2010