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E3 2010: Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit

It’s been a long time since the words “Hot Pursuit” adorned a Need For Speed title. Almost a decade, in fact. But the series high lifetime NFS fans continue to crow about is back, and it’s being brought to you by Criterion Games, makers of the much beloved Burnout series. Wow… looks like arcade racing is in especially good hands.

Cops and Racing: Need For Speed doesn’t get much more pure than this. Players can square off as either faction, pursuer or the pursued, and tear through 100 miles of next-gen open road for an arcadey game of cat and mouse. Or, more appropriately, Road Runner and Coyote, if we’re judging by the whiz bang title sequence that opens up the races.

Cops come equipped with EMP and road block deployment abilities, while the Racer class is outfitted with radar jammers and decoys (which both send the fuzz’s tracking capabilities into momentary hell.) You ready for the Bounty? That’s Hot Pursuit’s term for the XP, and it’s the currency you’ll earn for every successful Bust and/or Escape.

Bounty is shared off and online with up to 8 players, only split up by Cop and Racer classes (which, of course, you can hop back and forth between.) NFS purists are doubtlessly already on board, but should those of us who dug the hell out ofNFS: SHIFTlast year be disappointed? Heavens, no! You’ve still got the licensed cars, the streamlined interface, and perhaps best of all, those midrace milestones that eliminate the need for constantly restarting botched laps. Bounty can be accrued by drifts and proper driving, and better still, by aggressively executing a successful radar jam or a strip of tire-shredding spikes from a helicopter can also add to your tally.

Perhaps the biggest innovation over last year - or any year, for that matter - is the Autolog, Hot Pursuit’s in-game social club. Hopefully, this new online feature doesn’t get written off as the “Facebookification” of social gaming, but it’s really not (even though it does have a wall where your buddies can post LOL :P) The crux of the Autolog is to take your friends list within the game and keep careful tabs on who’s been where, and who’s done what, then display it to you on a super-slick, easy-to-read interface. We’re not talking a convoluted leaderboard system where you’ll have to settle for being 2,000,000th place in the rankings, but a persistent goal matchmaking system that recommends events and modes using pictures of the people you care about.

After all, playing online isn’t about being the BEST PLAYER EVER for most of us anyway, right? But what you can do now is look at how your friends progress, and/or the milestones they set, and earn Bounty to best them whether they’re online or not. Sort of like some twisted game show host that keeps offering you incentive to outdo the people you care about whether they’re logged on to PSN or XBL, or asleep in a different time zone.

From our hands-on, it was pretty easy to tell that Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit is built to glide online, but what could give the experience a leg up over anything else you’ve seen is the unprecedented UI in the social aspects of the Auotlog. Plus, anybody who’s kept up with the map packs of Burnout: Paradise knows full well that Criterion loves to update its games with startling frequency, and generally, at little to no cost. Longevity? Oh you needn’t worry about that, Mr. Wheeler. Either way, you’ll be able to see for yourself this November.

Jun 15, 2010