Coming from EA and Stellar Entertainment Limited is a remake of one the more successful games from the Need for Speed franchise, in the shape of Need for Speed Hot Pursuit Remastered. This title is chiefly remembered for being the first that Criterion took on for EA, and for its outrageous speed and smashtastic gameplay. Now, if it was down to me – and EA, I am available for consulting duties at very reasonable rates – I would have loved to have seen a remastered version of 2005’s Most Wanted; the game that tops my personal leaderboard of NFS titles. It just doesn’t seem that long ago that I was tearing around the mean streets of Seacrest County the first time around, although it was a decade ago that Hot Pursuit emerged. So, the question is can the heady blend of cars, speed, cops and weapons still grip us in the way that it did ten years ago? Start your engines as it’s time to find out!
Hot Pursuit Remastered is split into two halves – Career and Online. And then just to add the dualistic nature of the gameplay, it is then split further into two sides – Cops and Racers. Each of the two “teams”, for want of a better phrase, has their own progression, and as you gain Bounty you not only gain levels, going from a “Speeder” to “Most Wanted” on the Racer side for instance, but you also gain access to new and better cars as you go. And even better than that, the two sides can also unlock weaponry that can be nailed to your car to give you the edge as you go racing or busting speeders. Obviously, better cars means you can go faster, and better weapons turns the streets into a battleground. That in turn means more mayhem, which equals more fun.
So, starting with career mode, as it is here that the majority of progress will be made, and immediately you are faced with the choice of which team you want to drive for. On starting the game, there are only two options, a race for the Racers (surprising, I know) and a Hot Pursuit for the Police. Hot Pursuit basically involves catching up to a speeding vehicle, and beating it into submission. Forget softly, softly policing; there is none of that on display here, and boosting into a speeder, smashing him into a barrier and possibly off a cliff are all seen as proportionate tactics. The crashes are depicted in loving slow-mo as well, with chunks of bodywork flying everywhere; they do look absolutely fantastic.
The other events the police can take part in are Rapid Response, sometimes in a car that we have borrowed as a preview, and that means we have to race as fast as possible to a location in order to trap a racer. This is a lot harder than it sounds, as every little collision costs you time, and with how narrow some of the roads are, combined with the speeds you’ll be doing, it sometimes seems impossible to avoid a bang or even a shunt into traffic. Interceptor meanwhile sees you trying to bust a lone racer, but this one has come tooled up, and it turns into a war of attrition to see who can reduce the enemies car health to zero.
Racers meanwhile also have access to events that are only available on that side of the coin. Race is pretty much as it says on the tin; a straight race to the finish to see who can get the best time. Again, the other racers may or may not have weapons to use against each other, and dodging spike strips certainly adds a little frisson to the proceedings. Gauntlet sees a lone racer trying to beat a target time along a route where the police are waiting, Preview sees a manufacturer giving you access to a super speedy car to try out, and finally Time Trial again does what it says on the tin, seeing you trying to beat a set time along a set route.
As you complete races or challenges, new events on both sides of the game open up, with multiple races and race types appearing in the same locations. There’s certainly no shortage of content to go at, and that’s largely down to this Remastered version of the game including all the previously released DLC in one package. As a result, cars from Lamborghini and Porsche, as well as supercars like the Bugatti Veyron, are included, along with a multitude of new events and even extra achievements.
The other side of NFS Hot Pursuit Remastered, apart from career mode, is found in the excellent online offerings. Now, usually when I review games with an online component, the fields are somewhat sparse, but this has not been the case with Hot Pursuit Remastered; I’ve been both amazed and gratified to see the public lobbies fill up. And not only fill up with Xbox racers, but the cross platform play has been on display as PC players also join in the fun. And not once have I spotted a hint of slowdown or lag: the racing is fast and indeed furious, with some real scraps being had on the way to the line. The matchmaking is smooth and fast, the racing action likewise, and indeed the only thing I don’t like is the one minute wait between races. With a few modes that are unique to online, such as Arms Race and Most Wanted, which sees racers trying to protect a fellow racer from the attention of the cops, there’s a lot of content waiting online as well.
So, it plays well, and there’s a lot of content to go at with this Remastered version of Need for Speed Hot Pursuit. And it seems as if the HD stick has been waved around to great effect too: the cars now look suitably shiny. However, the speed is the main takeaway from this game – that and the action of trying to bust/avoid being busted that makes the game come alive. The scenery of Seacrest County is beautiful, with many mountains and cliffs to admire, and in the night time or wet races the reflections from the roads of headlights ensures it all looks stunning. Hot Pursuit was never a bad looking game, but in its new HD cape it truly looks amazing.
The pace of the game is the main draw though, and when you are flat out, drifting a bend, and then hitting the nitrous to get back up to top speed, the motion blur and the way the scenery turns into a streak of green makes you really feel like you are there. Unfortunately, crashing is heartbreaking too; seeing your shiny Maserati crumple as it hits an oncoming car is glorious. Sound-wise the devs have done their homework as well, with the engines in each car sounding noticeably different; the roar from a Shelby GT500 being particularly spine tingling.
With Hot Pursuit, Autolog returns as well, and it’s here that the multiplayer starts to shine. As you are offline, if your friends are on and playing, when you next login you are told that “Your time has been beaten!” and of course you have to immediately take revenge. This can lead to some great back and forths across the online services. Swapping scores and times with your friends in this way helps to elevate NFS Hot Pursuit to more than just a game; it turns it into a personal competition.
But is there anything that I don’t like? Well, the drifting method is still a bit weird to me, having to brake then immediately accelerate to get the back end of the car to step out. The other thing is that the game isn’t that old, and I am constantly thinking “I remember this bit, and I remember this race”. It would have been nice to have some new races and events included, but as it’s a Remaster and not a remake, I can understand why there weren’t. Other than that, it’s still very good fun, either alone or with friends.
In conclusion, if you have ever wanted to smash police cars/racers off the road then Need for Speed Hot Pursuit Remastered on Xbox is the game for you, and that goes double if you’ve never played it before. It’s fast, furious and will have you on the edge of your seat as you hurtle round corners, inches from disaster, winning a race by the skin of your teeth. If you played the original then there’s not a lot new here, but it looks and plays great – that in itself means it’s got to be worth a punt.