Top 10 of '10: Number 7 - Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit (XBox 360)

by PaulEMoz in , , , , ,

This was always going to be a tricky one for me to look at, because I was coming into it with a massive sense of bias. Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit 2 on the PS2 is possibly my favourite racing game of all time, so I had a tremendous sense of anticipation for this one, and when that's the case, it's often possible to convince yourself that a game is awesome when it really isn't. So with that in the back of my mind, I put my sensible head on, remained objective, and played the latest entry in the Need for Speed series with a clear mindset.

Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit is awesome.

Rather than have an open world where you drive around looking for events, Criterion have gone back more towards the roots of NFS, and although you can drive around Seacrest County (where the game is located), events are chosen from the map, a lot like that in Burnout 3: Takedown (also a Criterion game). That leads to a more focused game with less boring bits... if you feel like having a look around, great... I don't like being forced to do it just to find bits of game.

Forza! No... it's Need for Speed Hot Pursuit...

As is the norm for any racer these days, you start out in some "lesser" cars (that said, there's nothing here that you'd feel embarrassed going to the supermarket in) and earn access to better and better ones as you progress. And as you do move further along, you gain access to "weapons"... nothing stupid, just the same equipment the cops have got, such as EMP or spike strips. This adds a little bit extra, but without being over the top.

Now, about being a cop. I never really enjoyed that mode as much as I could have in NFSHP2. Stopping the racers always felt a little difficult... you could ram them and park in front of them, and they'd cheekily reverse off and be out of sight as your time limit came to an end. Slightly annoying, that. However, in what is a stroke of genius this time around, Criterion have changed the cop mode into the nearest thing you'll ever find to a new version of Chase HQ in 2010 (or 2011, as it is now).

And if you look to your right, you'll see the lovely Stegosaurus.

Now, this all sounds just about perfect, but although I love this game, I've been a little frustrated by it. The main reason for that is... I'm rubbish at spotting the shortcuts. You might wonder how; after all, there are tons of them. But I get so into the actual racing that the scope of my vision doesn't stray far from the actual road and cars. As a result of that, although I can usually scrape through to the end of the race, my ten-year-old son has beaten me by some seemingly impossible amounts of time on some tracks. How the hell does he do it? Easily, I suspect... just as I would have if I hadn't started getting old...

Need for Speed Hot Pursuit has basically everything I want from an arcade racer. So why isn't it higher in the list? Well, this is my top 10 favourite games of 2010, based on how much time I put into a game and how much I enjoyed it over the year. For a while, I thought this might have been my number one game of the year. But once my progress was halted, I moved on to other things. And although I do love this game and expect to until the next one comes out, there have been others this year that I've enjoyed for longer...

Caught Speed-ing

by PaulEMoz in , , , ,

Oh man, this is awesome.

I'm saying that only an hour in, so I suppose it could all go wrong... but I can't imagine how.

Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit 2 on the PS2 is, as I have said many times before in many different places, one of my favourite games ever. Not just racing games... all games. I love that game. But after that, things have been a bit hit or miss with the Need for Speed series, as you'll read here someday (soon-ish) when I start my rundown of the entire series...

I definitely need some speed now... I'm last!

I think, in the main, that Need for Speed has a need for cops. They add an extra dimension to the racing that lifts it above the average. I was really happy to hear they were going back down that route, but apprehensive... could they get it right? Then I heard that Criterion were on the case, and I relaxed a little. Criterion are awesome.

And after an hour, I can say that Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit is awesome. It's exactly what I'd hoped for from a Hot Pursuit game, with lots more thrown in because Criterion loves us.

It's got aggressive cops - they're going to give you a hard time. And that's a Good Thing. It would be no fun if they chased you and then just milled around politely, hoping you might pull over. No, they'll ram you hard and aim to damage you as much as possible. Bring it on.

Seems a shame to smash a car, ramming a roadblock like that...

It's got decent and aggressive AI opponents. Even from the first race, you're not going to just pass everybody on the first straight and roar off into the distance. This game has opponents that want to win. Again - bring it on.

It's got shortcuts - proper, long offroad shortcuts like Hot Pursuit 2, and plenty of them. This is important. The shortcuts not only give you ways to get the jump on your opponents, but also provide ways around police roadblocks. The shortcuts were an integral part of Hot Pursuit 2... I'm glad to see them used properly in this game.

It looks lovely, and it feels great. Being a racer is as great as you'd hope (and they've given you limited weaponry in some races now, too), and being a cop feels, in some events, as much like a modern-day Chase HQ as you're ever likely to get. The only thing(s) it seems to be missing are the huge jumps... I haven't done any yet. I'm not missing them enough to matter.

This is huge fun, and pretty much a dream arcade racer for me. This is after two hours... I broke off from writing this to go back to the game. And now I'm going back to it again. This isn't a review, just my initial impression... there's loads of game to play yet. Loads of lovely game. It's absolutely clear to me that at least a few of the chaps at Criterion must have played and loved Hot Pursuit 2 at least as much as I did. They get what it is that made that such a great game and have taken all that and put it into this game, whilst adding the best of Burnout and their fantastic knowledge of the online system. Cheers, gang, I can't get enough of this game..

Scratching an itch.

by PaulEMoz in , , , , ,

You know how there are occasionally times when you just have to play a certain game? I've had that lately. In fact, I've had a hankering for some Burnout. Not Paradise, though... fine game though it is... but one of the more old-school efforts. I can't be bothered to go hooking up old systems to scratch this itch, though, so that left me with Burnout Revenge. Pity I didn't own it... but when you have that itch, you have to spend, and I popped out and (eventually) found a pre-owned copy. Aaaahhhh... I could almost feel the relief on the bus journey home.

The funny thing is, I had Burnout Revenge on the PS2, and didn't really like it. I was kindly sent it for review purposes by a lad at EA Canada, but I was so on the fence about it that I never completed the review. That's one of the problems with getting free stuff to review... it makes you feel bad if you don't like the game. Spend your own money, and you can say what you like. Anyway, sorry, EA Games lad.

Ahhh... the open road. Well, there's that car in the distance, but you can just ram that out of the way.

My main problem with Burnout Revenge was the racing. There have been a few problems with Burnout games over time... but I think I feel a feature coming on to discuss those. With Burnout Revenge, the problem lay with the introduction of "traffic checking". What did this mean? It meant that you could basically drive straight through most vehicles that were travelling in the same direction as you. It removed a lot of the skill from driving, and turned Burnout into Advanced Turbo Snowplough Simulator.

That's what you want to see... cars wrecked by your own fair hand.

Still, I bought it. The other modes are fun, and I was just in the mood to ram some cars and figured even the traffic checking wouldn't be too annoying. And I was right... I found myself enjoying the whole package, this time. The racing is still a bit silly with all the ramming going on, but it was just what I fancied. Road Rage is still great, although it seems much harder for some reason. Crash Mode is better than it was in Takedown... from what I've played of it, it seems that they've removed stupid stuff like the heartbreakers, which is definitely a good thing.

So, my itch is truly scratched. I've even enjoyed the two-player game this time around... Aidan was only four when I last played it and wasn't really up to the challenge. Five years on and he's a worthy adversary, and we battled to an epic 5-4 victory... in my favour. There will be much more of this in days and weeks to come. Good stuff.