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Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit (Video Game Review)

It’s been a long time since we’ve seen original product from Criterion Games. Sure, it’s provided a swell amount of downloadable content for Burnout Paradise (including an island expansion and several vehicles), but we’re talking about a brand new product, one that made us so addicted to the company’s products to begin with. Well, thanks to Electronic Arts, the next level has finally arrived with Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit. Loosely inspired by the PS One edition that came out over a decade ago, Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit lets you drive on both sides of the law as you race through the circuit-packed Seacrest County. You can either take your chances as an illegal street racer, competing against other cars and vying to up your “wanted” level, or take on the role of police officer, ramming vehicles off the road and using a number of resources available. The best part is, throughout the game, you can change sides at any time, thanks to the variety of events that pop up on the map. The illegal racer side is closer to the general spirit of Need For Speed, as you’ll need to put your foot to the pedal in order to keep up with the competition. The cop side relates more to the Burnout games, as you ram cars off the road by sheer force or use certain ploys to make them stop, such as spike strips, road blocks and a handy EMP zapper.

No matter which side you choose, all sorts of fun awaits. Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit is one of the most engaging racing games we’ve played on Xbox 360, no matter which campaign you take on. The races themselves are quite exciting, especially when cops get mixed into it, calling upon helicopters and fellow units to try and bring you down. However, it can be a little too aggressive at times. The AI almost seems to know what it’s doing throughout the entirety of the race, taking shortcuts at the last second that throw you off and refusing to show even the slightest hint of slowing down, even after you ram them at full speed. Plus, it’s a little awkward hitting them with a spike strip, and then having to wait for them to speed back up before you bring them down. Novice players might be frustrated at first over all this. Still, if you stick with it, Hot Pursuit rewards you in spades. Along with new vehicles, you also gain access to extra power-ups and more courses, giving you plenty of room to run throughout Seacrest County. Furthermore, you can hop online through the game’s Autolog hub, challenging players in real-time events and posting your best times through a constantly evolving challenge system. Just when you think you’ve got your buddy’s time beat, another one emerges to dominate the road. It’s a never-ending battle that you won’t get enough of, so make sure your Xbox Live connection is intact.

While the visuals aren’t running at the same blazing 60 frames per second speed that Burnout Paradise runs at, there’s no question that Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit looks wonderful. The car models are fantastic, especially the higher-end cop cars that most precincts wouldn’t cough up the cash for. The other rides, licensed through a number of real car makers, are also quite pleasing. The tracks themselves are beautiful, letting you feel as if you’re really running through a California town at top speed. The night courses are dazzling, thanks to the real-time lighting in the game, and we’re big fans of the damage system. And we thought Burnout’s wrecks were pretty. Not everything is perfect with presentation, though. While some of the soundtrack is pretty good (it’s nice to see Weezer get some racing love), the rest of the tracks don’t really compare. You’re better off just blaring some racing tunes from your own media player. Fortunately, the sound effects make up for this, with plenty of police chatter and impressive racing noises. There is no doubt you are going to love it when you hear tires squeal in this game. After nearly two and a half years away from new game developments, it’s good to see Criterion Games back on the open road – and doing good things. While Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit’s AI issues and lacking soundtrack keep it from racing perfection; it’s still well worth your time, thanks to a huge online component and plenty of fast-paced racing action. If you’re any kind of racing fan at all, or just want to play a little cops and robbers - it the road, Jack.

Game Information:
Developer: Criterion
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Platforms: Reviewed for Xbox 360
Release Date: November 16, 2010

Score: 7 out of 10
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