Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit turns the tables on illegal street racing

Street racing has been all the rage in racing games over the last few years, and I can’t help but think that it’s an idea that’s well past its prime. EA seems to agree, having turned the tables on the lawbreakers that their Need for Speed series had previously embraced. Hot Pursuit puts players in the police uniform of an officer tasked with taking down an illegal street racing operation – the very same sort of operation you would have participated in if you’ve played previous entries in the series.

Before you scoff and assume we’re just talking about another street racing game with an undercover cop story, don’t worry – Hot Pursuit makes no attempts to pass itself off as a street racer. There’s no undercover element in this game, crimes to commit, or pink slips to earn. Instead, you’ll be placed behind the wheel of a police car in pursuit of reckless racers.

 Hot Pursuit

As you’ll quickly learn in your role as law enforcement, it takes a speed demon to catch a speed demon. With the accelerator automatically on, players will focus on steering by tilting the device, slowing down by tapping the brakes, and using an assortment of gadgets to help catch the bad guys.

Each enemy racer has a health bar, and while ramming it will definitely do some damage, so will the tools at your disposal as an officer of the law. You can call for a road blockade that will have police cars and barriers set up around the next turn to slow down the enemy car, or you can try to get in front of your target and drop a spike strip for them to run over. Finally there’s an EMP blast you can use to disorient a vehicle. While the first two tools seem common in police chases, I don’t think we’ve ever seen the real world fuzz bust out an EMP device before. We’ll chalk this one up to ‘creative liberties’ on the part of EA.

In addition to pursuing enemies, which you’ll do in Interceptor events (single target) and Tough Justice events (multiple targets), players will compete against other officers in race events (Power Struggle) and against the clock in a timed event (Rapid Response).

 Hot Pursuit

Offering four different event types, achievements, and star rankings that will help you move up the ranks, the 24 events in Hot Pursuit are varied nicely and offer great incentive to replay and attempt to improve on your previous performance. As you move up in police rank you’ll unlock better cars, which in turn will make it easier to go back and earn three stars on a previous event.

As fun as Hot Pursuit might be, it isn’t without its flaws. Six months ago we would have called this an absolute stunner in the visuals department, but with how quickly things seem to improve in the world of iOS gaming, Hot Pursuit now looks above average at best. That’s nothing to sneeze at, mind you – but the graphics just feel a little lackluster when compared to a recent crop of iPhone titles that really seem to have pushed the iPhone to its limits.

We were also a disappointed by the lack of network integration. Hot Pursuit offers up a veritable mountain of achievements to unlock, but without being tied to a network like Game Center or OpenFeint, these achievements can never leave the confines of the game.

 Hot Pursuit

The absence of online multiplayer didn’t go unnoticed, either. Hot Pursuit offers a great mode that allows one player to take the role of officer while another attempts to evade capture, but it’s local only. Other little niggles, like the difficulty we experienced getting past a car we’d accidentally t-boned, or having to slow down to let our target get back in front of us, felt like simple design flaws that could have been easily overcome.

Despite some room for minor improvement, Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit is a blazing fast edge-of-your-seat arcade racer that’s an absolute blast to play. Some slight imperfections keep it from achieving greatness, but those can easily be overlooked in light of the fun that Hot Pursuit offers. If you’re looking for a racer that’s less about coming in first and more about smashing into your opponents until they just can’t drive another inch, Hot Pursuit had what you’re looking for.