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Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit (Xbox 360) Review

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Need for Speed: Most Wanted was one of my favorite launch games for the Xbox 360. It had everything you could want from an arcade racer, along with some of the most accidentally hilarious FMV sequences ever seen in a video game. Since then though, the series has taken a turn for the worse with one uneventful release after the other, becoming a racing game equivalent of the Tony Hawk series. Every year, another one of these games comes out and every year, barely anyone cares. That is at least, until EA told the developers of Burnout, to give it a shot and whoever made that decision needs to get a raise of at least 100%. From the crazy sense of speed to its heavy focus on offensive driving and even with its audiovisual style, Hot Pursuit plays a lot like if the cars in Burnout 3: Takedown weigh roughly five times as much. The Burnout developers took the Need For Speed franchise and improved it in every way you would want them to. With Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit, Criterion not only made the series credible again, but put out one of the best racing games ever made.

The entirety of Hot Pursuit is divided into two roles: cop and racer. Each role uses different cars, has different goals in events, has access to different power-ups, and even levels up with separate experience bars. The single player game is similarly split down the middle where you can only unlock racer events by completing earlier ones and the same can be said for the cops. There is no crossover and this dramatic differentiation between the two made me feel like I was playing a different game whenever I switched from cop to racer or vice-versa. The single player game has a variety of modes from classic racing game types, to various types of time trials where the player must get from point A to point B as fast as possible. They are all fun, but the main mode is (predictably) Hot Pursuit. Here, the racers must do everything they can to beat each other to the finish line while avoiding the onslaught of attacks coming from the cops, who have no goal other than to stop the racers by any means necessary. Each side can use EMPs or spike strips against their opponents. Cops can send road blocks and helicopters to intercept the racers, who can use turbo or a power-up jammer to try and escape that danger. The result is a frantic game mode that takes advantage of everything the game does well.

The single player portion of the game also features a friends leaderboard for each event thanks to the Autolog system, which is the best attempt by a developer so far to make an in-game version of Facebook. Using it, you can post messages or pictures on your wall which can be seen by all your friends. You can accept challenges made by friends to beat their scores in events. The system even shows you people playing Need For Speed that you might know based on how many of your existing friends are also on their list. It feels sinister somehow, like the game is trying to trick me into making other people I know buy a copy of it. Deep down though, I must like it because in an attempt to get my personal leaderboard more populated, I've so far used the Autolog system to add six people to my already full friends list.

The game's multiplayer also heavily focuses on involving your friends list as much as possible. You can set up friend-only games or instantly join in on any where one of them is playing if there's a free slot. There are three modes in the online game, and all of them advance your experience bar as a cop or racer, making either the single player or online game an equally good way to level up. Race is the classic Need For Speed multiplayer game type with no power-ups, where you and up to seven other players try and get to the finish line first. In interceptor, a cop and a racer go one on one. The racer plays it like GTA 4 where they can go anywhere on the map with the singular goal to get as far away as possible from the cop, who must do everything he can to wreck the racer first. This mode can be fun, but much like in the single player game, the reason to play is the Hot Pursuit mode. Here, four racers face off against four cops in an all out brawl. Playing as a cop is challenging and I've noticed that when the racers work together, they tend to have the advantage. The only problem is that although the racer's main goal is to cross the finish line before being wrecked, they are also trying to beat each other there. At the same time, a cop gets a huge bonus for being the one to take down a racer. As a result and despite being team-based, the game can evolve into an every-man-for-himself affair and the large probability of that happening keeps any hot pursuit match from being totally predicable.

In most events, this game features one of the best licensed soundtracks ever featured in a video game. However, in any mode where cops and racers face off against each other, the soundtrack switches to an intense orchestral theme that really makes the situation feel dramatic and dire no matter what role you're playing. The game also looks fantastic, featuring a variety of environments ranging from the coastline, to deserts, to mountains with great lighting at any time of day, and some of the most realistic weather effects ever seen in a video game. Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit is a fantastic game and the only people I wouldn't recommend it to are those who become violently ill upon even thinking about the idea of an arcade racing game.









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