TGS ’10: Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit Hands-On

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Pretty, shiny cars, and good ol’-fashioned racing.

Since neither of us are exactly pros at racing games, it was with some trepidation that we approached Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit at EA’s 2010 pre-TGS showcase. We needn’t have feared.

Criterion’s Hot Pursuit is supposed to be something of a throw-back – the third of it’s kind (well, discounting the at least a dozen other NFS titles). And while it’s still about exotic cars you’d never actually afford to drive, the focus has shifted to racing, chasing, and being a competitive ass.

Racing-wise, the controls handled smoothly. Though not a veteran of the racing circuit, it only took a few minutes for us to learn the ropes. You choose one of two modes: You can either drive as a racer, or as a cop. Obviously, as a racer, you need to go as fast as you can without running into obstacles. But as the cop? You get several tools to use in pursuit of those racer-punks, including spike strips, police blockades, and helicopter (helicopter!?) back-up. The classic way to stop offenders was to simply bump into them until they crashed. Fun: 1, Public Safety: 0.

Both cop and racer roles seem to deliver what they need to. The racing is accessible high speed action yet, forgivingly, it will put you back on track if you happen to crash and burn (I managed to smash up the car and still come in first). Meanwhile in the cop mode, chasing is a big change from racing, and when you deplete that last health point of your quarry, the crunchy destruction of the crash is very satisfying.

Graphically, the cars are outstanding. Sleek, glossy exteriors, they reflected the landscape around them. You could spot trees, hills, oncoming cop cars … all sorts of objects.

Yet above all else, Criterion is aggressively shilling this game’s “Autolog” where stats on all your friends’ victories and times are stored. The Autolog kind of resembled a Facebook wall in a way with a feed about what your friends are doing and setting places where you can store in-game photos, and there are even recommended races for you to join. The PR people might be over-selling it a little, but it’ll be a great one for the obsessively competitive types.

Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit will be available on November 16 for the Xbox, PS3, and the PC.

TGS 2010 reporting is done jointly by Fintan Monaghan and Lisa Gay.

Read more Tokyo Game Show coverage here

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