Hot Pursuit is the ultimate arcade racer with a definite touch of OutRun and Ridge Racer in respect of its handling. This becomes evident, in fact, when cornering, with cars gripping the track and sliding around as if Scalextric models! There's nothing to fault with regard to the handling model with the cars entirely under your control even when hurtling along at top speed whilst deploying a spike strip. And when the tarmac is covered in a layer of water the situation becomes even slicker, making powersliding that little bit more satisfying - to the extent that I would have been very happy if the entire game was set within a storm!
At any stage you can choose to play Cop or Racer with the two careers running alongside each other on the game's overview screen - Cops earn Bounty that counts towards rank whilst Racer's Bounty just pumps up their overall wanted level.
Without a single slow car in the game you're going to be travelling at breakneck speeds, whereby you are only allowed to make decisions within the framework of a fraction of a second and so forth. A real killer, of course, can be indecision, as there's simply insufficient time faced with an oncoming car travelling at 180mph. Thankfully there aren't any traffic jam levels of cars on the roads, except just sufficient to cause problems if you're not concentrating 100% - an easy thing to do when you've got opponents to think about!
Built into career mode is Autolog which can be described as a social network for Hot Pursuit. The games track the achievements of your friends and inform you what times they've set which provide challenges to try and beat. You can add text to a Wall for instance, egging your friends to beat your times, or else post up pictures of your favourite parts of the country - although it must be said that on-the-fly pics snapped mid-race are unfortunately not HD - with the pause menu photo mode being the only way to take lovely crisp pictures.
And whilst it would be fair to admit that Autolog is excellent, an element I wish all racing games installed in some shape or form, it's not quite as revolutionary as EA and Criterion seem to want us to think. In fact, much of what it does appeared earlier in the year in Activision and Bizarre Creation's Blur, which also supported Facebook and Twitter by the way - which Hot Pursuit doesn't.
Combing a definite Cops and Robbers vibe to the gameplay you'll find Multiplayer in Hot Pursuit is always great fun. Although there's straight up racing the game really excels when you've got two cops trying to take down six racers. Initially I was really concerned that weapons would cause a Blue Shell situation, unbalancing multiplayer races, but this has been avoided, to great relief! This factor is largely down to most weapons being avoidable in some way, but it's also due to the fact that none of them are ridiculously overpowered.
You'll discover that Seacrest County is a beautiful location for driving the world's most powerful cars, with routes showcasing some really stunning vistas and with an excellent variety of environments. And the world itself feels believable too thanks to weather effects and changes in lighting (there's day and night here), whilst the cars themselves are all modelled to the expected level from games of this generation. Crashes are less destructive than those found in Burnout, for example, but that doesn't mean they're not spectacular either, rife with car damage and plenty of barrel rolls!
However, what lets Hot Pursuit down is its relative simplicity and basically the lack of things to do. Customisation is missing almost completely which has been a staple diet of the Need for Speed series a long time; all you can do here is change the colour of your vehicle. Also lacking are collectibles and side objectives which made Burnout Paradise such a time sink. Okay, this isn't a Burnout game, yet it doesn't exactly feel like Need for Speed either. The free roaming mode feels pointless at the moment with nothing to collect, or any stunt locations - nothing at all. Even if DLC includes side objectives, the county itself is not so intricately woven such as you find in Paradise, made almost entirely of long freeways.
Despite feeling like a fusion of Need for Speed and Burnout, Hot Pursuit remains the most exciting title the franchise has enjoyed in a long period. The core driving is nothing but exhilarating, being visually flawless, like a cut diamond, and the Autolog features are genre leading. But there's still something missing, sad to say. Whilst the high-speed pursuits remain up there with the best gaming experiences of the year, the game needs more than this: car tuning, the resemblance of a story - even complete with cheesy acting skills! - combined with an excuse to explore the open world.
Ultimately, Hot Pursuit could have done with a bit more Need for Speed and Burnout.
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