Need For Speed Hot Pursuit turns 10 years old in 2020, and EA is cashing in on the anniversary with a brand new remaster. Need For Speed Hot Pursuit Remastered, originally developed by Criterion Games with additional work for the remaster put in by Stellar Entertainment, does a fine job capturing what made the original stand: rock-solid driving, a bevy of gorgeous cars to choose from, and beautiful crashes, all while offering noticeable improvements in terms of environments and graphics.
The central hook for Need For Speed Hot Pursuit Remastered is the ability to play as both sides of the law in the illegal street racing scene of the fictional Seacrest County. As a racer, you are driving Lamborghini’s, Porsche’s, and Dodge Charger’s across miles of road in races littered with shortcuts and police waiting to take you down. On the other side, playing as a cop tasks you with taking down said racers and competing in time trials to see how quickly you can respond to the scene of a crime. Most of the game will be played in Career mode, but in addition to multiplayer there is also a free roam for those who want to drive around, get the lay of the land, and take photos with their cars.
Regardless of which side you play as (and you have the ability to play events as both whenever you so choose) Need For Speed Hot Pursuit Remastered is happy to let you bask in over-the-top action. Races frequently devolve into cars slamming into each other, police helicopters dropping spike strips a quarter-mile ahead of you, and plenty of crashes to keep the adrenaline pumping. Both racers and cops have access to a series of tools, such as EMPs, that allow them to both defend and assault other cars. The result is a thrill ride, one that never gets old thanks to the variety in the cars on display.
Vehicles are separated into one of a handful of classes, each with a multitude of cars that have different stats and handling that make testing them out on the open road interesting. Which car you pick also informs how you play. If you’re about to play in a Hot Pursuit event where police will chase you, it’s wise to take a vehicle that handles better off road so you can take full advantage of shortcuts. Conversely, playing as a cop will often result in long chases across paved roads, so sticking to the faster, more exotic cars will be your best bet. Regardless of what you pick, each vehicle has a unique feel and weight to it. Which, backed with some excellent handling across every car, makes for some excellent driving.
Compared to its predecessor, Need for Speed Heat, I prefer the linear progression path to unlock cars in Hot Pursuit. In Heat, you earn cash that you can spend on both cars and parts for said vehicles. Hot Pursuit, meanwhile, unlocks new cars as you increase your ranking in either racer or police. You may not be able to swap out engines, brakes, and other parts to customize a vehicle to your liking, but there are noticeable differences between vehicles in each car class that makes them rewarding to test drive as you drive up and down Seacrest County.
And even though Need For Speed Hot Pursuit Remastered is clearly a remaster, the graphical improvements do much to prevent the game from feeling like it’s from the last generation. Cars are typically gorgeous, and when you’re moving at high speed any imperfections tend to go by the wayside as you’re focused on the road in front of you. In terms of environments, there has been some improvement in terms of textures, though nothing particularly noteworthy. But more importantly, there is a greater variety to the world itself. Destructible items such as signs and pylons will go flying when you collide with them, which weren’t present in the original game. Buildings have a larger colour palette and greater detail. It all adds up to create a game that won’t stand out from its current gen competitors, but is a serviceable upgrade compared to the original.
What hasn’t been upgraded, sadly, is the problems that arise with the slow motion reaction shots. When a car crashes, the game slows down and focuses on the crashing vehicle, which often screws up your driving because your car continues to move while this reaction shot takes place. This leads to crashing into walls and roadblocks frequently, which will ruin your time and typically requires a restart in order to recover.
I also wish that Need For Speed Hot Pursuit Remastered improved the Autolog system. Much like the original, it keeps track of your friends performance, allowing you to compare your completion time on events with each other. I would much rather have the ability to look at global leaderboards, even if it is something that few people use. That way, I could better gauge how I am performing outside of a small sample size.
With Criterion back in charge of Need For Speed, I wonder how the veteran developer will tackle the franchise having spent many years removed from it. If the return is anything similar to Need For Speed Hot Pursuit Remastered, it’ll be something that Need For Speed fans should eagerly anticipate. Because if you’re looking for a good remaster of a great racing game, you should look no further than here.