EA Games' has published some very successful games in the past with Need for Speed, and early impressions based on the demo would lead me to think Need for Speed Hot Pursuit will continue on that path. Criterion Games, with the assistance of DICE, has put together what appears to be one sexy looking racing game.
Here are our early impressions of the title, which isn't due for release until November 16th.
The first thing you notice after the initial credits is a brief overview of the gameplay. The graphics in this cutscene are absolutely amazing - the first time you saw N64 graphics amazing - and it only degrades slightly during the actual game. The menu interface is usually not a big deal to most people, but I also found this to be one of the easier ones to navigate, and it looks like a cross between Twitter and Tron.
The gameplay itself is like prior Need for Speed installments; however, you get added features as an officer. Rather than simple smash and grab procedures, you can now call in road blocks or helicopter support, drop spike strips and use EMPs. I found the roadblocks to be useful if you need to catch up to a group of racers, but it's not very effective against one of them. Spike strips are extremely effective, and can easily take out a racer that tries to knock you off the road. As for the helicopter and EMP, these items were not unlocked in the demo.
The demo features two different levels, one requires you to have a friend with the demo as well to unlock it. Carson Ridge Reservoir features two of the new officer take down abilities, the Crown Victoria or 370Z and a mission to take out four racers. While this mode was fun, I found it relatively easy to takeout the AI, and at times they would run into my car so often that they took themselves out.
The real highlight of the demo is on Grand Ocean Coast. As mentioned, this level requires you to have one other friend with the demo, but it may be worth it - to really get a feel for the game. In this mission you can select the Boxter Spyder, Z4 sDrive35iS BMW or a non-patrol version of the 370Z. While this is just a basic race mode, it's what most gamers want in a Need for Speed title. The race was actually a bit of a challenge with the AI at first, but once you get the area's layout down it's much easier to navigate.
Outside of the gameplay is the new Autolog feature. Essentially this is a built-in social media application just for the Need for Speed Hot Pursuit world. Whenever your friends break your best race time or achieve a higher score, the Autolog will automatically update you. Rather than just competing against the AI during single player modes, this now incorporates some added challenge to beat your friends. Each time you beat a friend the Autolog also prompts you to post a victory message to your wall. It's a lot like Facebook's public news feed. As if narcissism on Facebook isn't enough, these social media features will let you gloat like the best of them. Honestly though this is a very neat feature, and I wouldn't mind seeing it placed in other games.
The only negative features of the demo have nothing to do with the gamplay. The issue lies within the structure of the demo itself, and its spam-like features. Clearly with the new Autolog feature it makes sense to put emphasis on its abilities or encourage others to join up and play the demo together, but the "tell friends" option is ridiculous. One press of the button and a message prompt appears with a boiler plate of text asking your friends to join, which is fine. The problem is that every single person on your friends list is pre-attached to the message. Aside from this strange feature, Need for Speed Hot Pursuit appears to be a highly detailed game with greater emphasis on modern technology.
Need for Speed Hot Pursuit releases November 16 for the PC, PS3, Wii, and Xbox 360.