The Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit demo is now available to play, and we’ve been checking out what it’s like, and what it shows for the final game, due out on November 16th (US) and November 19th (Europe) for the Xbox 360, PS3, Wii and PC.
Initial impressions of the Hot Pursuit Demo:
The first thing you’ll notice is an effective intro which is loud, colourful and channels the influence of action movies and Criterion Games’ Burnout series. It sets the scene well for the arcade action of the game itself.
You’re able to easily create or link an Electronic Arts account with your console profile (certainly on the Xbox version we played it seemed a much smoother process than for some previous games), and then it’s into the main game menu, featuring the Wall for communication, Career Mode for the playable demo levels, and the Autolog feature which tracks your performance and recommendations with the activities of your friends.
All of it works, although the wall comments and recommendations are fairly limited – mainly allowing you to see which friend is just ahead of your best performances, and to boast when you beat them.
What about the game itself:
This is not a sim by any stretch – it’s a pure arcade racer which mixes elements of previous Need for Speed games, Burnout, and the classic Chase HQ. You’re given the choice of driving as a racer to claim first place, or jumping into a patrol car to force illegal racers from the roads.
The ‘pure’ racing experience is OK – the graphics are impressive and extremely fast with no signs of any speed issues. In the demo version, you’re one of 6 cars on track on a long and winding coast road.
You’re given the choice of 3 open-topped sportscars from Porsche, BMW and Nissan, and there are slightly handling differences in addition to top speeds, but they’re not big enough to prevent you doing well with any of the cars. And the general handling model is fairly basic but effective – there is an element of fishtailing which can happen with all the cars, and is a little frustrating when it wrecks a good time.
The main issue with the handling model is drifting – any time you brake and turn, or turn tightly, your car will automatically start drifting, which looks cool enough but definitely isn’t the fastest way to drive. Drifting also slows you quite substantially, and it appears that the computer controlled cars can pick up speed out of the drifts far more quickly than any human efforts.
In addition to drifting, you’re also able to power-up and use nitrous by slipstreaming, driving on the wrong side of the road and cutting close to other cars – and it’s plentiful, meaning it can be useful to gas out of corners more quickly as well as maxing out your speed on the straighter stretches.
Join the Seacrest County Police Force:
But it’s the chance to be a cop which makes the game – and is definitely the better part of the package. You’re able to choose from a Ford Crown Victoria or Nissan 370Z patrol car, both of which also benefit from the same nitrous power up to slam into racers and end their fun.
But you also get some additional toys – in the demo, you’re able to drop speed spike strips behind you (Known as stingers in the UK), and also call in road blocks to slow the racers down. You’re limited to 3 of each, and there’s a little bit of powering up of each bar before you can use them, but the speed spike strips are particularly satisfying when there’s a racer right behind you…
And as you’d expect – contact and crashes are nicely done with some great footage of unfortunate racers careering into obstacles, cars being rolled and wrecked, and general carnage…
Hills, bends and shortcuts:
The roads are fairly nice to look at, but you won’t get to see much – for one thing, both roads in the demo are jam-packed with bends, and for another, you’ll be going to fast to notice much in the way of details.
Which is a bit of a shame as there are numerous shortcuts to use, but often you won’t notice them until you’ve gone past, and because of the speeds involved, it’s likely you’ll end up nerfing your patrol car into an obstacle.
Sharp bends and hills are put together nicely, and tend to force you onto the correct side of the road to avoid oncoming traffic, although the roads seem fairly deserted a lot of the time…
Stop with the promo:
There is one element of the demo which is particularly infuriating – and fortunately it’s nothing to do with the gameplay. Every time you complete a race, you’re forced to stare at a static promotional message about the game. Fine the first time, annoying the second time, and by the 3rd or 4th time, it makes you want to kill people… It’s a good reason to pause just before you complete a level and restart instead to avoid it (Unless you’ve got a personal best time).
So it’s a good demo of a strong arcade game which will be a lot of fun – particularly in multi-player. The best part of the game is definitely chasing racers with your sirens blaring, and smashing them off the road – which overwhelms the more standard racing action.
Multi-player isn’t available in the demo, but should be good, with the chance to smash real friends from the streets – but despite the Seacrest Country setting, the roads do feel slightly limited if you compare the action to chases in Grand Theft Auto multi-player for example, or consider the same gameplay in an open Test Drive Unlimited setting. By having set courses, the action is pretty short and sweet – in the demo, times of around 2 minutes seem pretty common to complete the cop challenge.
It’s definitely worth downloading the demo for a blast, and it’ll be interesting to see how the full game expands the features and challenges when it arrives next month.
Pre-order Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit
- Amazon (Xbox, PS3, PC, Wii)
- Game (XBox, PS3, PC, Wii)
- Gamestop (Xbox, PS3, PC, Wii – also selling the PS3 and Xbox limited edition version which includes Alfa Romeo 8C Competizione and Ford Shelby GT500, plus four unlocked cars at the start of the game – the Audi TT RS Coupe, Chevrolet Camaro SS, Porsche Cayman S and Dodge Challenger SRT8)
- Play.com (XBox, PS3, Wii, PC) – the Xbox and PS3 versions come with a Play.com exclusive car pack – codes to download the Porsche Cayman S and Dodge Viper SRT10.