Gamescom 2010: Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit Preview - The Thrill of The Chase
Written Thursday, September 02, 2010 By Dan WebbView author's profile
Although Need For Speed got praised to the high heavens by ourselves at E3 this year, I did say I’d be more interested in seeing what Need For Speed has classically done best - street races with cop involvement - in its new form. Ask and ye shall receive would be about right, as one of Criterion’s focuses at Gamescom this year was exactly that: 6 players, one track, lots of shortcuts, lots of cops and some high octane street racing. Beautiful stuff.
Before we jump on to talk about our experience with the street race itself - ironically called 'Roadsters Reborn'… reborn indeed! - Criterion were keen to show off a few new things. Although the British based developer was keen to push their social networking side once again, we’ll concentrate on the stuff that’s actually going to matter with the vast majority of gamers out there; and that’s the content itself.
Moments before we picked up a pad to kick some serious ass, Criterion gave us a sneak peak at one of their time-trials in Hot Pursuit. I can hear you now, “Pffffft, a time trial? That’s nothing new!” Well, the time trial itself wasn’t new, or even the concept, but it gave Criterion a chance to highlight their weather effects and possibly more impressively, the night-day effects they have going on in Hot Pursuit.
Racing against the clock to 30 Seconds to Mars’ "Edge of the Earth", the track glistened as the 911 GT3 RS slid round corners with sublime ease. It’s interesting that Criterion call it their weather effects though, because despite the wet track, there was no rain in sight. Sure, the thunder and lightning lit up the sky as the day started to turn to dusk, but whether they’ve included rainfall in the final version, and not just wet tracks, remains to be seen. That being said, the effects they’ve done on the wet track from a visual standpoint were a stunning sight. In fact, the whole transition from night to day, the high speeds and epic vistas all go far, to create an incredible piece of eye candy.
Eye candy aside, it’s time to get down and dirty, and our hands-on with Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit was one of the highlights of the show.
Gravitating towards the Boxster Spyder - in metallic grey in case you were wondering - after the rolling start gave us control over our sexy super cars, the traditional Need For Speed play kicked in. To say there was a bit of argy-bargy is possibly underselling how manic the start was, as all of us attempted to knock our opponents into oncoming traffic and what not.
The ability to build up your boost was key in the street race, harking back to more of the traditional Burnout style of play, and driving on the wrong side of the road, avoiding traffic, was possibly the easiest way to rack it up. Of course, everyone was attempting this and jostling for control of that outside lane was one of the draws of the multiplayer. Factor in the oncoming traffic and yeah, you can assume there is a lot of traffic.
As Need For Speed was so many years ago, that reliance on taking risky shortcuts and using the cops to your advantage comes into play just as much here. If you’re out in front, expect to be the target of a lot of heat, but hey, that’s part and parcel of what made the franchise so great all those years ago.
Incidentally, speaking of shortcuts, they adopt the same sort of high-risk, great return possibilities as they always have done, making them one of the true staples in the franchise. With over 100 miles of road and 30 miles of shortcuts, chances are you’ll never be short of places to drive.
About 50% of our way into the track, we found ourselves a good 4 seconds ahead of second, but in an instant that changed, highlighting the unpredictability of the gameplay. Opting to play it safe and not risk a shortcut, we took the long, but relatively easy route around a hairpin corner. Thinking to ourselves, “okay, if we don’t take that, we still need to stay in the outside lane and accrue some boost”; moments later, we hit an oncoming car, wrecking our ride, while 2nd, 3rd and 4th all took the shortcut perfectly. Although at that moment in time, it sucked to be me, that’s the beauty of the traditional Need For Speed gameplay.
By the time we’d gathered our composure and were back on the straight and narrow, it was time for us to opt for all the high risk, great return shortcuts, maybe overdoing it in between trying to raise our boost by driving on the wrong side of the road. “Close calls?,” you ask… yes, a few too many for my liking. That being said, it allowed us to get ourselves back into a position to fight for 1st. With the finish line a few mere miles away, it was time to make our final push and after boosting into 1st on one of the final corners, causing him to lose control, we took home the gold. Dirty, maybe, but hey, that’s what Need For Speed is all about. This is not Gran Turismo.
Everything we’ve seen of the racer to-date has been nothing short of positive, proving that Criterion know what they need to do to get this once epic franchise back into first place. Admittedly, our only concern at the moment revolves around whether they can offer enough of this street racer combat to keep us satisfied, as I can’t help but get the feeling that they're maybe missing the point with various other racer modes like Time Trial, Hot Pursuit, etc, but that’s something that we’ll only find out around launch. Needless to say though, everything else, from the visuals and the handling, right the way through to the intensity and constant jostling, has been right on the money.
Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit is racing into stores on November 16th, 2010 and November 19th, 2010 in North America and Europe respectively.