The Need For Speed series has been in a bit of a troubled spot for years now. Its self-titled 2015 release missed the mark with its painful use of FMV sequences and eternal night time setting, and Payback irked fans and critics with its insidious use of microtransactions. Last year's Heat, on the other hand, was a noticeable improvement from its predecessors, but it was a far cry from the series' glory days back on the PS2. With the series' popularity waning, EA has decided to give Hot Pursuit the remastered treatment. This new revamped edition runs at 4K 60fps, features cross-platform play, and all the DLC that was included for the racer post-launch.
Right off the bat, something which I admire about Hot Pursuit is that it lets players jump right into the action and is absent of some painfully weak FMV story to try and hold things together. It does hurt the pacing a little, as I often felt like I was skipping from event to event with little to keep me occupied in between, but I would honestly prefer no story over a half baked one. The Need For Speed series hasn't really been known for its engaging narratives, so the absence of a story I found to be refreshing coming off the back of Heat and Payback.
Hot Pursuit features a series of events in its Career Mode that are dedicated to both law enforcement and illegal street racing. There's a lot of freedom here, as you don't have to commit yourself to one particular side and are free to select events in any order. Players have a progression system linked to each side of the law and earn themselves points for advancing the career and pulling off some impressive mauveres. There's an abundance of cars here, and at times, it feels like you're handed the keys to a new ride at the end of every event. Hot Pursuit is great at making the player feel rewarded, and there was always that itch to play just one more race to see just what I would be walking away with afterwards.
Playing as the cops and slamming runaway racers off the track was easily where I had the most fun, and it was reminiscent of a personal favourite of mine - the Burnout series. In events such as Hot Pursuit and Interceptor, the goal is to hunt down racers using brute force and a whole arsenal of police gadgets. As well as giving these vehicles a hefty nudge, you can also call in road blocks, throw down spike strips, and fire EMPs to stun targets. I also liked the Rapid Response events too, as these provided their own twists on typical time trials. Here, you must make it to the crime scene as quickly as possible, but you'll receive time penalties if you damage your squad car or slam into civilians.
Playing as a street racer, the events are a little more what you'd expect from a typical Need For Speed game, but that's not to say they aren't fun. There is, of course, your typical races and time trials here, but the events that stood out to me the most were Preview and Hot Pursuit. In Preview you're handed the keys to a luxury ride which is leagues ahead of what is currently in your garage and must bolt to the finish line in the fastest time possible. Hot Pursuit sees you evade capture from the police, as this time you're the one being hunted. All the gadgets that you have access to playing as a cop can be used on you here and you need to focus on driving as speedily as possible whilst also avoiding the onslaught of the police.
Rubberbanding, however, is a major problem here, and it's disappointing that this wasn't fixed within the remaster. When racing, the AI sticks together like a flock of seagulls, and even if you've led the pack confidently throughout the race, you can still find yourself pushed back into fifth after a minor slip-up. Conversely, the opposite can happen. Gaining the lead always feels within reaching distance, even if you've spent much of the race clipping the barrier when attempting to make tight turns. It's all a bit messy, and I can't describe how stressful late stretches of races can feel knowing that you can be dethroned at any point.
Multiplayer is now cross-play which means lobbies should be pretty stacked, as players across PC, PS4, Switch, and Xbox One will be able to race together. Sadly, I wasn't able to access online multiplayer ahead of launch, but I am aware that the remaster adds two modes previously introduced within DLC, and these are Arms Race and Most Wanted. Arms Race resembles the chaotic nature of Mario Kart, as players can use equipment such as EMPs and spike traps in their race to the finish line. In Most Wanted, players are split into teams and the 'most wanted' player must evade capture from others acting as the police.
Both of these modes look to be fun additions, and it's great that they will have a broader player base, as they are no longer exclusive to those who have purchased the DLC.
I'll admit, I have never played the original Hot Pursuit, but looking at the remaster alongside the original there are some undeniable improvements in the visual department. It may look noticeably dated compared to other contemporary racers (it is 10 years old, after all), but shadows, textures, and reflections have had a noticeable bump up in quality. As well as the enhanced visuals and multiplayer modes, the remaster carries a few other minor changes. Over 30 cars that were previously added as DLC are now present from the get-go, a new Racer Garage has been added, and menus have been revamped with a new modern aesthetic. Admittedly, whilst I'm sure it will be a fun throwback for die hard fans of the series, it does just feel like a game of the year edition that has simply been offered a fresh coat of paint. That would have perhaps appeared enticing a year or so on from release, but it is now 2020, and the game is retailing for £34.99.
So, would I say Need: For Speed: Hot Pursuit is worthy of your purchase? Well, it depends. If you're looking for a chaotic racer that harkens back to the series' better days then I would say go ahead, but be wary that this is nothing more than a glorified game of the year edition released a decade later. If you're looking for something more in line with other contemporary racers then I would absolutely give this one a hard pass. I do find its cat-and-mouse gameplay an absolute blast and there's a noticeable improvement to shadows, lighting, and textures with the remaster. But all that said, the rubberbanding is an absolute pain and I do feel that what is offered in the package warrants its price tag all these years later.
Loading next content