Need for Speed gets stripped back to its arcade roots… is that a good thing?
I’ll get straight to the point… Yes it is a good thing! While Shift on iPhone was a solid racer, it lost its edge by vying for too much realism. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good realistic racer, like Real Racing and GT Academy But sometimes you just want to let rip on the road, throw out the rulebook and just have fun! I’ve played a lot of racing games over the last 10 years, not only on the iPhone, but on DS, PSP, Gamecube, PS2, Wii, 360 and PS3, and in that time I have yet to have more fun behind the wheel than I did with one game, and that was Burn Out 2. Taking out the AI rivals was pure joy, and even better was doing so in the pursuit events in a cop car. And that is exactly what you do here in NFS: Hot Pursuit, except this time it’s all about the cop cars… performance cop cars that is… such as Porsches, Lamborghinis and Bugatti’s.
The game is broken down into 24 events, which comprise of straight up races with your fellow police colleagues, and time trails dressed up as a race to the crime scene. But, it is the takedown events that are easily the most fun. Whether it’s taking out a set quota of bad guys before the time runs out, or just taking down one high powered thug, these events are what you paid the price of admission for.
Both you and your enemy start out on the lower spec cars. I say lower spec when compared to the later Limbo’s etc, but they are still pretty powerful saloon cars like Evos and Imprezas. As you progress the competition’s cars get hotter, and – if you’ve earned enough money in events – so does your ride.
Unlike Burnout, it’s not just your car you have as your weapon to take down the opposition. You also have a couple of tricks up your sleeve and the police departments finest at your disposal. The first of these is the road block. When available to you you can activate it, and you will eventually see your colleagues lined up ahead. Depending on the skill level of your target, they might swerve to avoid it, or simply career directly into it. Either way, the damage won’t be enough to take them out in one go, instead it will deal a good amount of damage and make it easier for you to finish them off. The second trick is the EMP device. This one is a little far-fetched, but basically lets you fire an electro magnetic pulse at your target, momentarily disabling their car, and allowing you to deal out a few good old fender benders. The third, and the most fun, is the stinger (or spike trap), this requires you to zoom ahead of your target and drop the stinger in their path. If done correctly and at the right time, you can stop them dead in their tracks.
There really is nothing more rewarding than whittling down the target vehicle to just a whisker of health then unleashing a stinger on them, propelling their car spinning into the air in a glorious finishing move cut-scene.
As well as unlocking more events, and of course earning money to purchase better and more badass cars, you can also unlock achievements. They do nothing more than increase your personal kudos, but are an added incentive none-the-less. These include High Roller, earning 2.5m dollars; Porcupine, taking out 5 opponents with a stinger; and EMPwnage, being hit with 10 EMPs.
Should you wish to cheat, then you can buy higher performance cars with real cash in the garage. Doing so activates in-game purchase of $500k, $1.5m or $2.5m, enough to unlock the Lambos etc. The long way is of course the best method, but you’ll have to replay the levels over-and-over in a multitude of cars to earn enough.
All this high-speed pursuit requires a good control set up on the iPhone, and thankfully it’s a pretty sturdy setup. By default, the acceleration is automatic, with only braking and nitro activated manually through taps and gestures. This works fine for this game, and with its arcade feel you’ll never really need to change this setup. EMP, Road blocks and the Stinger are all activated through onscreen buttons, and you can also perform a 180 hand-brake spin with a downward gesture whilst turning, valuable when an opponent decides to hot foot it in the opposite direction
One huge omission though is the lack of steering options. Only tilt is available, and while this is usually my preference, I know many players prefer touch and virtual wheel options as seen in so many other racers out there. It’s bold of EA to go with one option, and while it does work very well, they should offer players a choice.
As with many of EA’s racing games, the production values are high. From the opening cut scene, the interface and interactive garage, through to the in-game visuals itself, the graphics look nothing short of fantastic, with a fast moving arcade look and feel to the tracks and cars. While the cars vary, the tracks however get a bit same, with only three tracks to play on, albeit with varied weather conditions.
The sound is a standout. EA often gets licensed music to play in the background and NFS:HP is no exception, including techno-rock gods Pendulum. Perhaps the real music to your ears though are the authentic sound effects of the cars, wailing sirens and police radio chatter. At one point I almost expected an officer to shout “We’re in pursuit of a red Lamborghini with two great looking chicks in it”! Cannonball Run Style (now I’m showing my age!)
Overall NFS: Hot Pursuit is a great arcade racer. You won’t get an experience similar to the console game, but for £2.99 you get your money’s worth and a lot of fast fun. It’s a slightly short-lived experience with around 3-4 hours run through, but if don’t mind the lack of variation, you can always find a ton of fun replaying the levels for better scores with different cars. And if you can find a friend then you can go head-to-head over Bluetooth or Wi-Fi. Unfortunately there is a lack of online multi-player, which is huge shame, and one of the main draws for the console edition – let’s hope that comes in an update.
Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit is out now for £2.99. Get it on the