Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit could redefine online racing forever

Now, while the game is built on the same tech as Burnout Paradise and the real-life car manufacturers have agreed to having their beautiful cars smashed, scratched and rolled, the damage model is not quite as exaggerated as I'd expected. The cars clearly look wrecked when they crash, but there's definitely less structural deformation than in the Burnout games. It's no big deal, but the crashes appear just a little less spectacular as a result.


Above: The cars get way more bashed up than this in a crash - you couldn't call it tame even with the licenses

What is spectacular is the sense of speed. The game is very fast, although still rooted in the real world. Doing 255mph feels like 255mph. All the cars in the game have their real life performance specs mapped in, and while this is far from a realistic sim, there's clearly a lot going on in the handling model.

Jeez, itsh da cops!

Hot Pursuit's title isn't just there as a throwback to the series' PS2 heyday – it's the main mechanic of the game. The cops vs racers mechanic extends from the single-player mode (in which you can play out an entire career as a cop or a racer if you so desire) to the multiplayer Hot Pursuit online battles where players get into teams.

The primary objective for the racers is to get to the end of the race in one piece, preferably ahead of their racing rivals. The cops, on the other hand, must deplete the racers' energy bars by ramming them off the road and busting them all before the end. In the past, this has been good enough for Burnout's cop mode, but NFS has weapons up is metal sleeves.


Above: You dodged the road block - now drop a spike strip and EMP the chopper to get the fuzz off your tail

Each player has a finite number of weapons assigned to the d-pad. These range from turbos, spike strips and weapon-jamming chaff deployments for the racers to EMP shots, helicopter backup and road blocks for the cops. Watching your mirror and dropping a spike strip to take out a cop racing up behind you is simply brilliant fun, and saving your jammer until an EMP bolt is locked onto your car feels like the best tactical decision in the world.

Straight races are less explosive, but still fun as you try to barge each other off the road. The game has all of Burnout's boost system, so drifts, near-misses and wrong-side driving will allow you to catch up if you get too far behind.

It all sounds like a great system, plays like one of the best arcadey driving games of the past ten years and will feel immediately familiar to both fans of NFS and Burnout. I love the idea of the social integration and demand its presence in all future racing games. It's going to live or die by the strength of its community, but if pushing the online gubbins to the front of the game works, there's no reason this one can't become an instant online classic.

24 Sep, 2010