Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit Remastered
Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit Remastered comes at an interesting time for both the legendary series and the creators of this particular incarnation of Hot Pursuit. The Need For Speed series finds itself in a tough spot as the prior few games have left something to be desired – despite EA taking chances with things like a mixture of FMW and CG with the self-titled Need For Speed, and going for a more movie-style plot with Need For Speed Payback. Need For Speed Hot Pursuit’s 2010 incarnation allowed a post-Burnout Criterion to show their skills off in something other than pure vehicular mayhem while still creating plenty of that – with a bit of Chase HQ-style action mixed in.
EA is riding a nice wave with Burnout Remastered having success both in its initial release and finding a whole new home on the Switch in the past year – making this a great time to release another highly-regarded 360-era game with all of its post-release content and higher-end graphics on modern devices. Hot Pursuit remains one of EA’s most ambitious racing games and that makes it a perfect candidate for a remastered incarnation as it still looks and feels completely different from anything in their catalog, while still offering up the same kind of high-quality racing excitement that fans have grown to expect from Criterion over the past 20 years. Similarly, one of the brightest spots in the NFS franchise’s 25 years has been its Hot Pursuit mode.
Over time, this has evolved from a more simplistic Chase HQ-style ram-a-thon into what we have in both the original release of this game in 2010 and the remastered version – a far more elaborately-crafted mode that’s still meant to shut folks down. Now, you can be on either the side of the racer in Hot Pursuit mode or the police in Interceptor mode, with different tools of each trade to try and survive and thrive. In Hot Pursuit, you’ll play as a street racer trying to not only win the race, but avoid or completely disable cops and their arsenal of weapons. You’ll be given only a spike strip or frequency jammer to block car-disabling EMPs, but later, will gain access to EMPs to use against rival racers and cops as well as a turbo boost to escape their targeting, and can level up their abilities as you progress.
The pace of this mode is frenetic, and it builds wonderfully. It starts off as just a street race, then after about a half-mile you’ll have a cop intervene. Then multiple cops will join in with their sirens blaring, barking out orders to one another. Each will come equipped with spike strips, EMPs, the ability to call in road blocks, and even bring in helicopters to aid them. Later on, you’ll deal with multiple kinds of cop cars trying to stop you in a single race – from the regular Crown Victorias, to newer, faster cop cars – including Lamborghinis.
The action never stops – you’ve pretty much always got at least one cop car on your tail, and between tracking them, paying attention to their back and forth chatter to figure out what’s coming up, looking at rival drivers and being mindful of weapons in your path, there’s a lot going on at any one time. However, there’s more strategy here than in a usual race because of it – you have to use your brain a lot more here than in a normal race. You absolutely need to be mindful of the track and its shortcuts, because not doing so means you’ll be more susceptible to the cops. It might seem like a lot to take in with so much happening, but you also don’t need to worry as much about your position here as much as in a normal race since the cops aren’t just after you, they’re after everyone – so rather than worry about being in 5th, focus on racing well by slipstreaming the 4th place driver, drifting and boosting properly, and let them either get into a ramming contest with the police, or slam into a road block.
Disabling cops yourself is risky, and works pretty much like Chase HQ (also the same principle when you’re playing as a cop trying to disable a racer in Interceptor mode) – you ram their car enough times to completely disable it, and have to decide whether it’s worth possibly getting rammed into a tough spot by a cop by doing this or destroying the vehicle and giving you one less cop to worry about for the time being, and netting some bounty in the process. You can also use the weapons to disable them, but they come in very limited quantities, so you need to be skilled at ramming them to make sure you can get a car off the road when you need to. Ramming regular racers off the road counts as a takedown – furthering the Burnout vibe from the game.
Bounty doubles as currency and a kudos-esque system for rewarding skilled play as well. It’s the key to unlocking new levels in each career, and new cars to help advancing in them. It’s awarded for things like escaping crashes, finding new shortcuts, achieving in-game milestones like wrecking X number of cop cars, and even for playing the demo and owning other EA racing games. The best way to earn it is to place in the top three at the end of every race, as you’ll get 3,000 points for a 3rd place finish, 6K for 2nd, and a monstrous 10,000 points for 1st. The core action is as fun now as it was a decade ago, and it’s a testament to how getting something right the first time can pay off in the long run.
EA has put in some work to make the core experience more fun and modern-feeling, though. The photo mode is one such example, and allows you to really capture the visceral and sometimes violent action at the absolute perfect time. A rewind feature would help in this regard too, or better yet take a page out of what 2K does for the mainline WWE games and include frame-by-frame movement to get the exact right shot. The game’s Autolog-branded multiplayer suite of modes is back and better than ever with cross-platform play enabled. This means you can play the Xbox One version against PS4, PC, and Switch owners and vice versa – ensuring that the game has a long tail of play online. Six more hours of mission-based content has been added over the course of 30 challenges to help beef up the experience, and it works nicely in a mission-based game like this as the bite-size stage design allows you to bounce from area to area and enjoy things are your own pace far more here than it other racers.
Visually, Hot Pursuit Remastered is a massive step up in graphics from the original release because it tweaks a lot of smaller areas and turns it into something that looks more modern from stem to stern. Vehicle detail has gone up quite a bit with things like headlights and tail lights gaining a lot of small lighting details – while cop cars gain the most from the detail boost with on-car lighting. When you’re chasing racers at night and you hit a tunnel, your adrenaline starts surging the second you see the lighting all go back and forth against the tunnel since it is almost sensory overload and it just fills you with excitement.
The framerate is a bit better now than it was before, and things like tracks and trackside detail have been bumped up – with better-looking road textures and better roadside foliage. These aren’t massive increases in the sense that they’ll sell you on it if you didn’t have it before, but they are impressive to behold since the baseline game is a decade old now and small flourishes like this help it seem like a full-on modern release.
The original release of Hot Pursuit had a fantastic soundtrack and better, more immersive sound mix. The OST was a solid blend of rock that wouldn’t have been out of place in a Burnout game – and that holds true here in the Remastered version of the game. The sound design has been improved with better sound mixing for the more attack-based combat, where each kind of attack whether it’s a quick smash or a heavy smash into the railings or into a tunnel. Impact is more forceful now than before and really shines with some great headphones to make it even more visceral.
Overall, Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit Remastered may very well be the best Need For Speed game on modern hardware. There’s something about the more focused menu-centric system in place here that makes it more fun to go back and forth between racing and police action, and the retooled graphics and sound do a lot to help make the game more intense than ever before. If you enjoyed the game the first time around, it’s better now and feels more modern than one would expect for something that isn’t a ground-up remake. For anyone who missed it, you can now enjoy a better-looking, better-sounding, and better-playing version of one of the best racing games of the past decade.
Reviewed By: Jeremy Peeples
Publisher: Electronic Arts
This review is based on a digital copy of Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit Remastered for the Xbox One provided by Electronic Arts.