It’s hard to believe that 2010 was already a decade ago. Nonetheless, here we are.
Marking the tenth anniversary of Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit, Criterion Games and Stellar Entertainment have once again come together, as they did for Burnout Paradise Remasteredback in 2018. Much like last time, they’ve remastered and repackaged the original game, updating the visuals for the current generation of consoles and bundling in additional DLC.
Needless to say, this feels like a bit of a stopgap. Solid an arcade racer it may be, it’s worth noting the first remaster in Need for Speed’s history comes on the precipice of the next-generation of consoles. Perhaps this is more of a pitstop, refueling for bigger and better things ahead.
Whilst I still dream about a return of the Carbon or Underground subseries — albeit with a new game and not a remaster — the Hot Pursuit games are among my favourites. Long time listeners of the Press Start Podcast might remember I played so much of Hot Pursuit 2on the PlayStation 2 that the pause screen was permanently burnt into the display.
Of course, this is a far cry from what I spent hours playing back then. As you’d expect from a remaster, the graphical fidelity is hugely improved. Going back to the original PlayStation 3 version was a shock to the system seeing how far we’ve come since then.
All the licensed cars look as good as you’d expect these days, but the surrounding environments — which are the same sections of forest, coastline, countryside, or desert on repeat — all seem rather flat and lifeless. Of course, with the cops hot on your tail, you’re not likely to be taking in the surroundings.
With only a handful of exceptions, the roster of cars is mostly the same as they originally were. With the Super Sports Pack, Lamborghini Untamed, and Porsche Unleashed, the game’s DLC, now integrated into the main career, expect more than your fair sure of Porsches and Lambos stocked into your garage.
Disappointingly, they all feel exactly the same to drive, however. Nothing feels like it handles any differently; the speed and acceleration sliders are just adjusted here and there. These are all cars designed to go fast, and that’s where the variety ends.
As far as I could tell, the soundtrack is mostly the same too. In itself, it’s a bit of a musical time capsule. Hearing ‘Opposite of Adults’ by Chiddy Bang was a throwback.
As far as the gameplay checks out ten years on, it a rather unobtrusive, easily accessible arcade racing game. True to form for Need for Speed, tracks are rather forgiving and invite you to maintain a high speed and slide around every corner. Keeping your foot down, picking the right shortcut, and refilling your boost is the key to posting the fastest times.
Here comes in to play the much-talked-about Autolog system, which features in the marketing today as much as it did back then. Capturing your fastest times and achievements, Autolog records you and your connection’s accomplishments and pits you against each other for bragging rights. At the time, I understand it was a point of difference, but is part and parcel of multiplayer racers.
Whilst I couldn’t find a race pre-launch, everything you’d come to expect from multiplayer is carried over. I appreciate that you can set up custom races for just you and your friends and split up into racers and cops.
Of course, the fundaments of the police pursuit orientated subseries are all here. The titular mode, Hot Pursuit, sees a point to point street race thwarted by a police chase. Suddenly having to concentrate on more than holding your racing line, these chaotic modes are where the game shines. It can get quite desperate stuff, as your car’s health dwindles low and you duck and weave between traffic to scrape across the line in the first position.
Whilst the game’s slow to start, as soon as you open up the full gamut of races and modes it picks up pace. Of course, in Hot Pursuitthere are two separate careers which you can complete simultaneously: one as a Racer and the other as a Cop.I’d recommend bouncing back and forth between the two, swapping shoes every so often to break up the rather tedious time trials.
I had as much fun sabotaging races as I did evading the law.
As you unlock extra equipment races heat up even further. Not only do the Cops have an arsenal of helicopters, spike strips, and EMPs at their disposal, but the Racers also have a few tricks up their sleeves. In some of the most adrenaline-inducing modes where you have a set amount of these powerups from the jump, you’d be forgiven for confusing this with a combat racing game.
All this aside, it’s a rather no-frills racing game. Absent is any sort of real narrative or car customisation. The former isn’t missed, but the latter is a little bit of shame. Limited only to a palette of colour options and a pretty rudimental photo mode, it’s hard to get excited about poking around the garage despite the litany of licensed vehicles.
Still, the sorest letdown of the game is the tracks and the setting. The tracks aren’t anything special, lending themselves to sprinting from A to B without giving it much thought. One alpine course with a series of hairpin turns is a notable exception, but otherwise, they’re pretty bland.
Weirdly, half the time the ‘shortcuts’ feel like a waste of time. Besides getting a little bit of refill on your boost, often it’s a short jaunt offroad that doesn’t feel like it’s closed the gap on the race leader at all.
A free roam mode is available too, which can drop you in on the map at any of the race starts. Why you’d ever bother to do this is beyond me, unless maybe you wanted to test a car or mess around with a photo mode that does afford you a few more options drive. The world’s terribly empty with no real offroad areas to poke about or collectibles to uncover.
Perhaps my biggest complaint with this remaster is how unnecessary it is. They had already remastered the better game in Burnout Paradise and this just doesn’t feel like it was necessary. Again, it feels like a stopgap. Unless you’re bored to death with Burnout or Forza Horizon 4 and have an itch to scratch, I can’t recommend what is a lesser game.
THE PS4 VERSION OF THIS GAME WAS TESTED FOR THE PURPOSE OF THIS REVIEW. A DIGITAL REVIEW CODE WAS PROVIDED BY THE PUBLISHER.
Amid its chaotic titular mode, Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit Remastered is as nail-biting as it was a decade ago. With a new lick of paint and the full suite of DLC included, it is a definitive version of a game that — at its best — sits between a combat and arcade racer, pitting Racer against Cop. Aside from these highlight moments, its a touch barebones and doesn't stack up against what else is available today.