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Car Corner
Need For Speed Hot Pursuit

January 1, 2011
By Scott Lewis

This I am going to get away from real cars and focus on virtual cars... as in the lastest game in the Need For Speed franchise... Need For Speed Hot Pursuit.

I have been a big fan of the Need For Speed games. I can think of at least 9 versions I have bought... starting with the original that allowed two players to go head to head over a dial up modem. Those were the days.

The latest version is better and worse than previous versions.

Let's start with what's better. The graphics are amazing. I think I thought this with at least three other versions. I remember NFS 3 (High Stakes) looking so much better than 1 & 2. NFS Most Wanted (on the PC) looked so much better than NFS Hot Pursuit (an older version on the GameCube). Then NFS Shift (on the XBox 360) looked a lot better than NFS Most Wanted. Now NFS Hot Pursuit looks head and shoulders better then all of them.

Overall the game play is excellent. I have the graphics turned up as high as they will go and everything looks wonderful. In fact, this is the first version that I can't see when objects in the scenery appear. In previous versions you could see objects that were supposed to be far away pop on screen as small items, and then grow in size as you got closer. It was not distracting, but you did notice it. I can't even see anything like that with NFSHP. It really does have a photo realistic look about it.

The car detail is an order of magnitude better than NFS Most Wanted. The biggest problem I had with NFS Most Wanted was that all the other cars were generic. Only the cars you were racing and the cop cars looked like real cars. Everything else was just a generic thing that looked like an old cartoon. The cars in NFS Hot Pursuit are real cars. I can't tell you how many Cadillac CTS and Infiniti G35 Coupes I have crashed into. This adds a lot to the feeling of racing in the streets when the cars that are not part of the action are recognizable.

Power ups are a little different in this version of NFS. The most noteworthy being the EMP (Electro Magnetic Pulse). You activate this with a keystroke (yes, I am playing this on the PC) and it targets a car in front of you. If you can hold the car in view for a few seconds the EMP will blast the car and do damage. Obviously you have to avoid getting hit by an EMP as well. I don't much care for the EMP. If you are going straight it just zaps your car and does damage, but does not really impact your performance. Unlike a spike strip which will cause you to spin out (more on this later).

As a racer you have access to spike strips, a jammer, turbo and the afore mentioned EMP. Spike strips are dropped behind you and are very useful. Though I find it odd that racers get spike strips as well as cops. The jammer prevents others from using their power ups against you for a brief period of time, or even neutralize them.

As a cop you replace the jammer with calling for a road block, and replace the turbo for calling for a helicopter.

Overall I would say the power ups are balanced.

Now for the bad stuff. Spike strips are temporary... and should not be available to racers. In NFS Most Wanted the police would put down a spike strip and it stayed put. It did not slide, it did not shrink when a jammer was hit. And most important... if you hit a spike strip it did take you out. You were running on flat tires and would be caught almost immediately. I did hit a spike strip in Most Wanted that only caught one tire and I managed to keep driving for quite a while, but my speed was too slow to evade the police.

In Hot Pursuit when you hit a spike strip is spins you out and does some level of damage to your car. And this is part of the problem with Hot Pursuit over Most Wanted... everything does some damage to your car... BUT the damage does not effect your speed at all. When you reach a certain level of damage you are done. If a cop car gave you that last piece of damage to take you out then you are busted. If you did it yourself by crashing into something, then you crash out of the game.

In previous games the damage effected your car. I don't know if this was the case in Most Wanted, but it felt more realistic in Most Wanted.

In Hot Pursuit there are a series of different types of challenges, Race, Hot Pursuit, Gauntlet, Preview, Time Trial & Duel. Preview and Time Trial are the same... you run solo and try to finish in a certain amount of time. These are very hard. I almost never get a gold and barely get a bronze in these challenges. Race is just that... you race against 5 - 7 other computer opponents. Duel is the same but just you against a single computer driver. Gauntlet is the same as Time Trial but the police are after you.

That leaves Hot Pursuit, which has you as a racer or cop, with 3 to 4 each of computer AI racers and cops. This is definitely the most fun part of the game... and where the title comes from. Unfortunately there are way too few Hot Pursuit challenges and way too many of all the others.

Then there is the lack of free roaming. In Hot Pursuit EVERY challenge is a point A to point B event. You NEVER race laps. And you never just roam around to get a feel for the area. In Most Wanted you could roam around and check out the area. You could also use that in the challenges where your task was to do nothing but crash into cop cars, or avoid road block, or evade the police. None of that is in Hot Pursuit.

You also don't collect cars. You get to pick from ANY of the cars you have unlocked. Each event uses a certain series of cars, and you pick one and go. You can change the color... for that event. Hot Pursuit does not even remember the color you use. And since you don't collect the cars you also don't earn any money to modify cars. You get what is there and that's it. No deciding if better tires are more important that a bigger nitrous setup.

This takes a lot of the fun out of it for me. I liked buying cars and earning money to pay for upgrades. Or saving money for a much better car. I also miss the times when all you had to do was crash into at least 20 cop cars, while disabling at least 8 of them, and only after doing those did you have to evade the police. Most Wanted had timed events as well... like get into a chase with the cops that lasted for 20 minutes (yes, a real 20 minutes) then you could evade them. Try going just fast enough to not get caught until there are 15 cops on your tail before you can try to out drive them to get away. It could take 30 to 40 minutes sometimes to evade the police. But at least you could take it to the areas of the map you knew best... kind of how you might do it if you had to run in real life. I really miss that and wish Hot Pursuit had those elements.

Online play is a mixed bag as well. You select quick race or you try to arrange races with your "friends." Yes, they are trying to add the social network thing to NFS. You can friend online players. But if you don't friend them all you have is random races that are created for you. You can't chat with other racers, or communicate with them in any way unless you friend them. I am not into friending people I have not even typed a single comment to. Why isn't there a simple text message in the waiting room for a race... to communicate (read: trash talk) with the others while waiting for a race to start. I find the online racing to be fun because it is against humans, and boring because there is too little to do. You have three kinds of races... Hot Pursuit, Race and Head to Head. That's it. I don't know what more I expect, but I guess the missing elements that I really liked in Most Wanted have spoiled the taste of the online portion of this game. Maybe I should friend some random people out there and see what that is like.

Conclusion

Overall I like NFS Hot Pursuit... so much so I can't stop playing it. However, I really wish it was much more like the game play in NFS Most Wanted, but with all the awesome graphics.

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