Game Reviews

Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit

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Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit

Picking a side isn't always easy. When the choice is between an irresponsible boy racer clogging up the roads with his souped-up Subaru and a noisy, belligerent cop filling the air with his obnoxious siren, what do you do?

Legally speaking, the police are in the right. But sometimes it’s more fun to side with the cheeky outlaw.

It’s this dichotomy that drives Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit, and it’s a firm foundation on which to build a racer.

Unfortunately, when you’re barrelling down a desert highway at 200mph control is also pretty important – and it’s here that Hot Pursuit crashes, against all expectations.

Cops ‘n’ robbers

From the start you're given the option to play as either a racer or a cop, and each campaign has its own game modes. For instance, a racer can be chased by police in Hot Pursuit or vie for the lead against other racers in an Elimination event.

Meanwhile, being a cop pits you against the criminal as an Interceptor or sees you race against your own in a Power Struggle. Exactly why police would hold a drag race between themselves is never explained.

All the while you have a few special abilities at your disposal. The ever present nitrous boost is included (although, strangely, it doesn’t feel very speedy) along with oil slicks and an EMP charge for the crims, while the police get spike strips and road blocks.

Smooth criminal?

Hot Pursuit is a looker. Whether you’re playing as a cop or a racer, cars glitter and blur in a manner similar to Need for Speed: Shift. No unpleasant surprises there.

The tracks are a little rougher round the edges, however. They're no less good-looking than tracks in previous titles in the series, but you'll often steer to one side in an effort to drive on a strip of off-road land only to crash into an invisible wall.

Some corners are cutable and others aren't, and it's not clear how to tell them apart.

This fear of coming across another invisible wall, thus putting you at the back of the pack, will also prevent you from taking risks trying to find the route’s difficult-to-spot shortcuts.

Flaws like this can be easily overcome provided the rest of the time the racing mechanics work well, but there's another obstacle that stops Hot Pursuit really picking up speed.

Cop out

Most of Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit's problems on Xperia Play are down to its controls.

The D-pad covers steering and cars auto-accelerate by default. You can change this to manual in the options, but for some reason the brakes are mapped to the 'down' button on the D-pad, meaning you have to split your thumb over two keys to brake effectively.

This control scheme can’t be changed, either, which is a real missed opportunity given that the L and R shoulder buttons would have made far better brakes.

The X button is assigned to handbrake turn, which slows you down to the point where it becomes unwise to use it at all when racing, even though you get points for drifting.

Despite this, it’s perfectly possible to get used to the control scheme and adapt to braking in an unorthodox fashion (even if it infuriates you at times).

There's a multiplayer mode for two players, too, if you can find somebody else willing to give the game a chance, but this is disappointingly limited to local play only.

If you’re looking for a quick fix of cops and robbers on Xperia Play, Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit is a match for Polarbit's Reckless Getaway, so if you've already burned through that then this should be your next destination.

(Screenshots from iPhone version)

Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit

A great core mechanic is hampered by a badly designed control scheme meaning your tolerance to messing up will decide whether Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit is the game for you