Over the weekend I was invited to an event EA was holding in Chicago to promote their latest collaboration with Criterion, Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit. To start off with, let me just say that this area of Chicago was awesome, and as many times as I had been to the city in the past, I had never been to the Wicker Park area. Now I want to live here.
With that said, the event was held at the Debonair Social Club, and the set-up was pretty lavish, including a couple Lamborghinis set up outside, one police car and one regular, both with the Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit logo on the side. It seems those fancy cars also came with fancy models to put in them. I can’t complain about that.
The latest Hot Pursuit returns to the Need for Speed franchise’s roots, providing high-energy, down-and-dirty game play. I definitely got that vibe, just from the one game mode we were allowed to play.
So, after hanging around outside for a bit, we were let inside. Downstairs they had a couple game stations set up for two players to face off head-to-head in the Interceptor game mode, which is the only one revealed so far. This is your standard cop chase. Hot Pursuit title has been touted as easy to pick up and understand after only a few seconds of playing, and I would wholeheartedly agree with that statement. While I’m not a stranger to racing games – I quite like them, in fact – it does tend to take me a little while to get used to a new one.
While that seemed to be the case here in the fact that I was driving like I took way too much advantage of the complimentary drinks, the game was very accessible, the controls were smooth and the game’s HUD was clean and easy to follow. You had different “weapons” you could use, mapped to the D-Pad on the DualShock 3 controllers we were using. For the cop side of things, these were fun toys like spike strips, EM fields, blockades and air strikes. Yes, you can call in a helicopter to come chase down the car you’re supposed to be chasing. How lazy is that?
Like I mentioned, the game handled and played very smoothly, and it looked great, too. But besides the racing itself, one of the most interesting features is the Autolog, which is basically a social networking framework for Hot Pursuit. It keeps track of your friends, their achievements, their track times and just generally keeps you up-to-date with what they’re doing in the world of Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit.
I get tired of all these games that have nation- or world-wide leaderboards, because, frankly, I don’t care that I’m 458,302nd place in the world and someone in Bangladesh is in the next spot above me. I’d rather see a leaderboard comprised solely of my friends, because that is really the only people I’m going to be worried about duking it out with on the virtual pavement.
When you log in each time you play, you’ll be alerted to your friends accomplishments and prompted to engage in the same events they have, so you can one-up them, thus rendering their feat short-lived. Of course, you can also race on your own, and your friends will see the same things about you. This whole idea is pretty cool to me.
I enjoyed my hands-on time with the game, and actually look forward to the final release and seeing more game modes revealed down the line. The game has a full open world that is reportedly four times as big as Paradise City, if you guys recall back to Criterion’s last title.
One thing I was curious about, since this is another EA/Criterion partnership, is what the forecast for downloadable content after release looks like. To this day, I still feel Burnout Paradise was one of the best supported games as far as DLC goes. I posed the question to an EA rep while at the event, but he had no comment on the matter. I’ll take that as a yes. One can only dream, right?
Below I’ve tossed in a bunch of screens from the event, to give you an idea of what was going on. You’ll also see a video of some game footage I threw together. It isn’t much, but hey, if you haven’t seen any footage of the game yet, it’ll give you an idea of what to look forward to.
The event was a great time had by all, it is a shame I couldn’t stay longer, as it was nearly a three-hour drive each way for me. But I give props to EA and thank them for inviting us to the event. Hopefully we can attend more in the future!