Twenty-six years may have passed since the first Need for Speed game was released on 3DO, but the series is still going relatively strong. Although it’s not the number one name in racing anymore, having seemingly been surpassed — at least through word of mouth — by Forza and Gran Turismo before it, people still get excited for a new game in Electronic Arts’ venerable series after more than two and a half decades of longevity. That’s saying something, especially within a medium that is constantly evolving thanks to ever advancing technology and changing consumer appetites.
Back in 1998, which feels like it existed within a different lifetime, EA Canada and EA Seattle released what would go on to become one of the most popular and beloved racers of all-time. They called it Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit, and it gave gamers a lot of something they didn’t know they wanted: police pursuits. I still remember my friend, who owned a PlayStation whereas I owned an N64 at the time, never being able to shut up about how great that game was. That said, I don’t remember playing it much myself.
Twelve years later, EA listened to fans and gave us a much wanted remake of that ever popular PC and PlayStation classic. Bearing the same name as its predecessor, 2010’s Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit modernized things but retained what made its inspiration so popular. The result was a fast-paced, balls to the wall racing game featuring fast cars, angry police and lots of crashing.
Although there’s no mainline sequel to play this year, Need for Speed hasn’t taken 2020 off. No. Not at all. The folks behind the brand have followed 2019’s middling Need for Speed: Heat with a somewhat surprising remaster of Hot Pursuit. By that we obviously mean a remaster of the remake, or reboot if you prefer that term. It’s been released on current-gen consoles, including PlayStation 4, Xbox One and Switch, along with PC. However, as is the case with many other games, it’s going to be playable on next-gen hardware.
Now that another ten years have passed, is there still a strong appetite for this cops and racers title? Does Criterion’s once impressive remake stand up to modern expectations? That’s what we’re here to discuss, after having been given an Xbox One review code by EA’s press partners.
Unlike almost all of the other games in its series, Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit Remastered is completely devoid of a story. Everything simply centres upon a battle between dangerous racers and aggravated cops within a fictionalized version of California, Washington and Oregon. As such, the campaign or career mode is split into two parts, with one being racing focused and the other being all about stopping those same racers by any means necessary.
Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit Remastered features all one hundred plus events of the original game, as well as of its previously released DLC: the SCPD Rebel Racer Pack, the Super Sports Pack, the Armed & Dangerous Pack, the Lamborghini Untamed Pack and the Porsche Unleashed Pack. Thus, there’s quite a bit of content to be found here, at what is currently a $54.99 price point. We’re talking about the Canadian MSRP, though.
Things begin quickly and without much ceremony, thrusting you right into the action. You’ll be able to choose to start as either a cop or a racer, and will find yourself bouncing between the two at will throughout at least your next several hours of gaming. There’s no set path, although things are dependent on the events that unlock and the order they do so in. This means that you may find yourself needing to do a couple of races before being able to get back into your favourite cop car, or vice versa.
Since there’s no real storyline, and no real cause for progression, your goal is to simply complete events. As you do so you’ll level up each of the two separate disciplines, unlocking new vehicles and weaponry in the process. By weaponry I mean EMPs, spike strips, helicopters, boost abilities and the like. These will come in handy as you do your best to level the playing field, and will actually level up through progression, becoming stronger and stronger.
One thing that’s really important to mention is that Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit Remastered, like its predecessor, does not allow you to change the difficulty level. It’s a set challenge, and one that may leave some in the dust, because this isn’t an easy game by any means. Things don’t begin easily, nor do they finish easily, which should come as no surprise. You’ll be fighting for first, second and third, or fighting against asshole AI racers from the beginning, without a lot of time to breathe. Granted, if you’re a racing game veteran, or have at least played some arcade racers in the past, you should be okay. This isn’t Dark Souls or anything. It’s simply a challenging and sometimes frustrating racing game, which is occasionally too cheap and difficult for its own good.
When I first played through this game back in 2010, it was with a close friend. We took turns with each and every event, and found it to be a challenge. Jumping back into the game ten years later brought some good memories of that night back, along with some sad thoughts about a much better life and time period. Hopping into this thing almost directly after finishing DiRT 5 had me prepared for more arcade racing, but I’d forgotten how challenging Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit was. Not to the point that it was too difficult for me to play, but to the point where I found coming in first a good challenge. The time trial like events were especially challenging, because some of the gold and silver goals are pretty crazy. It didn’t help that I’d often forget to use the nitrous.
This brings us to the racing, itself, which hasn’t changed very much in a decade. Then again, this is a remaster and not a remake or a reboot, which was the case the first time around.
Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit Remastered is a fast-paced racer, which blends typical Need for Speed attitude with the destruction and presentation found in one of Criterion’s Burnout games. The result is something that feels a bit like a mix between Need for Speed and Burnout Paradise, especially when you take the camera changes into account. You see, whenever you pass a new cop at the side of the road, or happen to take another car out, you’ll see the camera change to focus on them. After showing you what it wants to, be it a new challenger or some deadly looking destruction, the game then switches the camera back to you, at which point the computer has driven a bit for you. This is very much like what we got with Paradise and its recent remaster.
The racing is fast and it’s also very furious, with one of the goals being to destroy opponents by bumping into them and bashing them into the guard rails. Of course, those aforementioned weapons also come into play, and become more important as you progress through the game.
Traffic is also a big factor here, although it’s not as plentiful as it is in certain other games. You’ll still need to keep your eye out for pedestrian vehicles, though, and will pay the price if you don’t. Crashing may not be a be all end all thing in most, if not all, events, but it is a negative thing that slows you down and can prevent you from winning.
Although things remain fun and pretty addictive after ten years, Hot Pursuit Remastered shows its age. It may have received a pretty nice coat of new paint, but it’s still almost entirely the same game it was before, and that means it carries forward the same pros and the same cons. Thus, the things I liked about it back then remain, as do the issues. For instance, I like the sense of speed, the ability to drive as cops, the weapons and the edge of your seat gameplay. On the other hand, I’m not a big fan of how cheap the game sometimes is, its unforgiving difficulty and the lack of precision in the controls. In the years since this thing originally released, we’ve been treated to some incredible arcade racing games with great controls, the best of which have been Forza Horizon through Forza Horizon 4. Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit Remastered doesn’t control nearly as well, and sometimes makes it feel like you’re controlling a much heavier vehicle than you are. It could be called tank-like at times as a result.
When you mix the unforgiving and unchangeable difficulty with the controls, you get occasional frustration. You’ll sometimes miss the shortcut you hoped to take, crash when you didn’t mean to or miss out on first place because your car didn’t control as well as you hoped. That said, it’s not like this is a modern game with the controls of something from the 90s. It’s just not up to modern standards, and doesn’t feel as tight as we’ve become used to racers playing.
Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit released at a time when Electronic Arts was all about online passes and social features. As such, this particular game was notable for introducing something called the Autolog, which remains in place now. Autolog is a social mechanic, which entices you to turn friends into rivals by competing against one another in game picked events. Simply put, it’s a menu option that lets you see the times people on your friends list set on certain events, and lets you challenge them. If you beat them the game lets them know, while also awarding you a shiny trophy or achievement. This was a much bigger deal back then, and I remember enjoying challenging friends during my rental period. Only one person on my friends list owns the game now, and he’s yet to give me anything to play on Autolog. I ended up befriending somebody else, though, and did so through a multiplayer match. That gave me lots of Autolog recommendations/challenges. The problem is that the times are too good for my skill level.
I may have played a ton of arcade racers, and consider them to be both a personal favourite and comfort food, but I’m not incredible at them. I’d say I’m well above average, or at least above average, but I’m not a liar or too full of my self to admit that I’m not an expert at them.
Like Facebook, Autolog incorporates a wall feature that lets players comment on their friends’ achievements. Folks can also post and share things to their friends and their walls. This will be something that groups of friends will appreciate, but isn’t something that I’ll get much use out of these days. It was neat back in 2010, though.
Hot Pursuit Remastered also features online play for up to 8 players, which worked well and without fault during my time with it. What’s interesting is that this version supports crossplay, meaning that one could theoretically play against folks with the Xbox, PlayStation 4 and PC versions. Perhaps even the Nintendo Switch one, once it’s released on November 13th. I did not, though.
The only technical issue I had with this game involved crossplay. Hell, the first and only crash I’ve had — thus far at least — occurred before I’d even started one race. While it was loading, the game asked me if I would like to enable crossplay for multiplayer. Of course I said yes. Then it crashed to the dashboard. The next time I opened the game I decided to say no so that I could actually play the thing, and not risk another crash on my new review console.
During my time with this game it ran well on our review Xbox Series S, and looked quite good in the process. Well, just about as good as a remastered version of a 2010 racer can, I guess. Of course, I didn’t get to play it in 4K, due to not having a console capable of achieving that resolution, or owning a 4K TV as of yet. I plan to upgrade soon though. Still, Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit Remastered looked good and was almost problem free on the Series S. The cars looked nice and shiny, the world had some nice detail and improvements to it, and the sense of speed never left. That said, some of the textures still looked kind of dated, including the dirt.
There’s also not as much variety in the game world than one would like. Lots of the tracks feel similar, because of the heavy use of desert, forest and canyon locales. Repetition definitely sets in there pretty early, and in the race types, which feature a mix of time trials, typical races, races with cops involved and cop events where you’re trying to stop racers or respond to an emergency as quickly as possible. How quickly you do get there will depend on which of the numerous licensed cars you’ve chosen, or been given, and your controller based driving skill.
While this game is fast, it’s also very loud. In fact, it’s one of the loudest racers I’ve ever played. On default settings, the vehicle effects were at 8/10, whereas the music was at 10/10. Despite this, the loud car noises often drowned out the licensed songs from artists like 30 Seconds to Mars, M.I.A., Deadmau5 and Weezer. At least I know my speakers work well, thanks to this loud, raucous and boisterous game.
At the end of the day, whether Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit Remastered is for you will depend on your preferences and how many other games you have on the go. If you’re a big fan of this series and loved the first Hot Pursuit Remake, then this will likely be for you, so long as you’re interested in revisiting the game again. It hasn’t changed much after all. If not, maybe wait for a sale or pass. It all depends on your preferences and how much you like this type of game. Overall, it remains solid and challenging fun, but can be frustrating and dated feeling.
This isn’t a game that needed a remaster, but it’ll likely find an audience on modern devices because it’s fast, boisterous and pretty fun. Some also consider it to be the last good Need for Speed game, although that isn’t something I agree with. Rivals was easily the best of this generation, and was a pretty good game in and of itself. The others since have varied in quality to say the least.
This review is based on the Xbox One version of the game, which we were provided with. We played it using an Xbox Series S.
- Still fun, after 10 years
- Looks better than ever before and does 4K
- More than 100 events, plus online play
- Feels somewhat dated
- Not as fun as it once was
- The fixed difficulty is a pain at times