I feel the need for some more speed
I've long been a fan of the Need for Speed series, back when I first played it on the 3DO. It's changed a lot as time has rolled on, some good and some bad. I was extremely sceptical when I heard that it might be going back to its roots - but my scepticism was pushed aside once I found out that the makers of Burnout were behind the new iteration of the game. Criterion have never really steered me wrong.
So for anyone who doesn't like to read a long winded review, Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit is a good one - with some minor irritations and missed opportunities to round out the package. It's definitely a step in the right direction.
None, put your pedal to the metal and race, race, race.
Press the right trigger to accelerate, left to brake, X for handbrake and that's all you need to know. You control the car with the left stick and just like every other racer that's the limit of the controls. At the core of the new Need for Speed is the fact that it's been retooled to appeal to both fans of Burnout and of old school NFS. Gone is the tuner options, customised cars and bodywork, performance boost and so on.
They have been replaced by a mouth-watering car list that would make any fan of Top Gear happy. The Buggati Veyron sits shoulder to shoulder with a Mercedes Mclaren SLR (several variants) and the likes of a Lancer Evolution X, Mazda RX 8 and Porche Boxter are just a few of the automotive giants that make the cut.
These cars are split between racer and cop careers and unlocked via Bounty, basically experience gained from online or offline play across various modes. Simply put the game is based on driving with style and substance, avoiding crashes, wrecking the opposition where you can and getting across the finish line first. The more you gain Bounty, the higher your Wanted level and the more cool things you unlock - got it?
You can drive a free ride experience sans damage and cops at any time, but there's no way to trigger a Hot Pursuit outside of career mode, which seems to be a little disappointing, since that has always been one of my favourite things to do. Instead you have to jump into career and take on racer challenges as well as cop challenges. These races are broken down into point to point events that have you against the other racers, or against the clock, or even against the racers and police.
You also get one on one duel races where you battle against another opponent who is basically right in your rear-view mirror until the end pretty much. There's none of this namby-pamby leading the pack in this game, you're lucky if you can stay out in front of the pack in some of the later races unless you master short cuts and other tricks.
Hot Pursuits are adrenaline soaked charges to the finish with racers and police hot on your heels, every step of the way. You are given access to some game changing tech later on that allows you to drop spike strips, jam cop radar and EMP (shutdown) the opponent's engine for a while. You can also kick in a turbo boost that gives you a massive punch of speed compared to nitrous which recharges the crazier you drive, just like in Burnout.
Seacrest County map lists all the events you can take part in and you can easily see what medals you have, what you need to get and what races are coming up. The GUI is flawless really.
That's all there is to it apart from the Autolog, and for me...this is about 10% of the appeal of the game. I'm not really into beating anyone's score that has driven quicker than I have, I don't thrive on social competition...I'm a co-op person and sadly for me this game is lacking in that department since I'm not fond of 80% of the idiots I encounter on Live or PSN.
I don't get that feeling of AWESOME when I beat a time that someone else has set, I'm just glad to have done the race and move onto the next one. I want to play cooperatively with a friend in another cop car chasing down AI racers. But can I do that? NO...they left that part out of this game, sure you can play online with people and have cops vs. Racers...but there's no way to play as racers outrunning AI cops Fast and Furious style, or cops taking down AI racers. This omission is grounds enough for me to lower the score quite a bit.
Autolog for me is just there, I'm not concerned with posting things to my in-game wall and crowing that I beat X or Y. I just want to play the god damn game, what's next, FACEBOOK integration? Give me a break.
All that Autolog coding time could have been put to use fleshing out the game more, because at the moment it feels like I have half a game. One that's again it's mired by an almost safe-design, the short cuts aren't very exciting and the game doesn't grab me as much as the original Burnout Revenge did. There's none of the big air moments that made NFS and NFS HP 1 and 2 so much fun for me on the PS2. It all feels a bit watered down.
The car to car action in the dedicated Hot Pursuit modes is basically Burnout with tech based gadget thrills, the same cameras and the same Takedowns...yet it still doesn't leap off the screen and grab me by the throat. It's exciting enough, but misses out here and there with a feeling of: been there, seen it, done it all before.
Don't get me wrong though, it is fun.
I can't grumble about these, it's a pretty game with some amazing vistas and some gorgeous if somewhat pedestrian track design. There never really feels that anything beyond the basic A-B design of the track has been thought about here. Missed opportunities for some amazing set pieces abound and whilst it's fantastic to drive in a thunder storm, it still doesn't matter if you're just whizzing along at 250mph in the rain and never hitting any kind of death-defying curves or jumps.
The car graphics are great, the lighting is excellent and the rest of the graphics package ensures that the game moves along at a blistering eye-bending speed.
Don't get me started on this kind of thing. I am all for a challenge but when you can't maintain the lead in a race when you're in an obviously better car until the last mile or so. I start to smell a little bit of a rat, a rubber-band AI rat; either that or they just have much more Nitrous than the player and use it all the time. The AI sticks to the road like glue and very rarely makes mistakes. It is spectacular usually when they do however, and can hand you victory from the jaws of defeat - but is often a hollow one. I loathe cheating AI of any kind and this AI feels like it cheats a lot, gaining artificial speed boosts and so forth. It provides a challenge but usually to the most hardcore of gamers; yes...Eddy my friend I'm looking at you.
It's absolutely vicious as the police and even as the racers, with access to the tech you can use...beware spike strip country from both sides. It lends a feeling of frenetic combat to the proceedings but falls short when you realise that your Takedown didn't actually do much but net you some Bounty, the same bugger that you slammed into a wall is back and accelerating past you down the track five seconds after the crash.
Damage is ok with some passable deformation, but no real body damage to speak of. Not like in Burnout Revenge or Paradise for instance. Car handling is another gripe of mine, every car, even the Lancer feels fairly heavy and the muscle cars as you'd expect are the heaviest of the lot. It's not bad but it doesn't feel right for some of the cars compared to the other games I've played.
The cars have some little things here and there like spoilers that raise and lower and there's some decent animations going on outside of the race with various things happening, like flybys from fighter jets and so on.
It has some nice sounds, very nice sounds indeed and the roar of the engines, screeching of the tyres and the smash of car vs. car combat are excellently realised.
A nice mix of in-game music and various bands, including 30 Seconds to Mars makes the game's musical side, quite enjoyable.
The stars of the show are the various police radio exchanges. The rest of the voice work is pretty vanilla and the narration from the woman gets on my nerves after a while. Not fond of her voice at all.
Expect to pay 800msp if you get a 2nd hand copy of the game, since it features EA's Online Pass system. Once you're into the MP you can race against other users, do cop vs racer one on one in the Interceptor Mode and do cop vs. racer races where you can have teams of both against each other.
Nothing innovative there at all.
You get more Bounty for playing online of course, and I was pretty bored with the whole thing after a while. There seems to be a lack of balance regarding cops and racers, since you can have a level 18 cop vs a level 1 racer and that doesn't just seem very fun when you're dealing with high level choppers or spike strip attacks.
A lack of cooperative play against the AI really shows here.
I hate to say it but it's a vanilla MP package and I don't see it having a lot of legs beyond the initial, WOO factor.
Autolog fits into the mix too, so you can beat (whoop de doo) your best friends/enemies times and post the results on your in-game Wall.
Once I'm done with the career mode, I don't see a return to play online unless it improves. It seems to be rock-solid in terms of lag and so on, but just falls flat in terms of fun and game modes. There's only one way to explore Seacrest County with your friend and that's in Interceptor, where you can actually go anywhere you want when you're being chased by the cop, the track doesn't matter, only escape.
I'm sure I'll garner some hate for saying the truth about the multiplayer, from some vehement fanbots - yes, not fanboy, but fanbots - its' a new word. I'll stick to my guns though.
Burnout for Speed: Hot Paradise
It has the fun of Burnout and the lure of performance cars and so on from Need for Speed, but it just feels like there are so many missed opportunities for action and more thrills. Perhaps in the sequel, this is inevitable knowing EA.