Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit Remastered Preview — A Big Fuel Injection

Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit is back with a bang. The upcoming remaster controls like a dream and should appease long-time fans of Criterion's classic racer.

By Ricky Frech

October 5, 2020

Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit remains one of the high watermarks for the long-running series. It was Criterion Games’ first game since releasing the wildly successful Burnout Paradise and the studio’s first go at the Need for Speed property. Hot Pursuit built on that successful foundation while also taking the series back its roots.

Well, since Burnout Paradise got the remaster treatment two years ago, it only makes sense for a Need of Speed: Hot Pursuit remaster to drop this year. The game is coming to PC, PS4, and Xbox One on November 6 and Nintendo Switch on November 13. It looks great and brings some nifty new additions to the table.

Most excitingly, the team’s highly-touted Autolog system is now cross-platform. Meaning, regardless of your buddy’s platform of choice, you can compete to get the fastest time on the track. They’ve also added a new wrap editor and more car paints to make sure your ride looks exactly like you want it to. Plus, all the post-launch content is now woven into the campaign. But what really matters is if it still plays well.

Fortunately, I was able to sit down with a preview version of the game recently and spent a good chunk of time racing around Seacrest County. Like an old pair of leather gloves you found stowed away in the back of your glovebox, Hot Pursuit slips back on perfectly.

Look, I’ve made zero secrets that the direction Ghost Games has taken the Need for Speed franchise isn’t my cup of tea. It’s a franchise I grew up loving, spending countless summer nights staying up too late playing Underground, Hot Pursuit, and Most Wanted. But since Criterion moved on to other projects after Rivals, the series has just been spinning its wheels.

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Over the last few entries, the series has been missing a direction. Heat tried to bring back the thrill of running from the cops. However, the mechanic was so overbearing and a hindrance to progress that I was instantly turned off. Hot Pursuit brings the franchise back to what it used to be: great racing, smart gimmicks, and no fluff.

Of course, if you played Hot Pursuit back in 2010, this isn’t surprising. The game was among the most well-received Need for Speed games of all time for good reason. This remaster is running off of the same engine, just with some extra touches.

The cars control like an arcade dream. No, this isn’t a sim racer. You don’t need to perfectly hit every line to have a good race. Instead, Hot Pursuit wants to pump up the action in every sequence. You’re drifting around corners, hitting the nitrous in straight-aways, and deploying spike traps to slow down the cops. Oh yeah, that’s important to remember. Hot Pursuit has elements of a car combat game.

In fact, in many ways the Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit remaster is everything that putrid Fast & Furious: Crossroads game wanted to be. Where that game felt like controlling a wet turd sliding down the highway, Hot Pursuit feels like an arcade racer should. Where Crossroads tried unsuccessfully to incorporate weapons into the mix, NFS keeps it simple, leading to races that actually feel fun.

Plus, with Hot Pursuit the crashes you inflict actually feel great. This is from the team that brought you Burnout, after all. And the game lets you see the on-road conflict from the perspective of both street racers and cops.

Now, it’s a little weird to play as a supercop who’s police budget has apparently exploded into James Bond territory. I mean, we’re just chasing down people for speeding tickets. Do I really need to hop into a black and white Porsche? Regardless, jumping between the two sides of the campaign is a ton of fun. They each have their own race types and, outside of the one where you can’t touch anything as the police or you lose time, I think they’re all pretty solid.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to check out the multiplayer modes much in the preview. They sound cool, but I can’t really say one way or the other just yet. There’s one called Most Wanted where players are either on team street racer or team cop. The street racers are trying to protect one of their own, while the police try to knock the most wanted out of commission.

Another gives players full access to all the weapons and aims to feel like a car-based deathmatch. Again, these sound like a ton of fun, but I couldn’t find any other players during my limited preview access.

From what I did play, Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit Remastered is shaping up to be quite the product. The game takes the series back to its streets vs cops roots and the arcade racing feels as good as you remember. For people that have friends, the Autolog system should make each track feel even more competitive. And, if you’re like me and don’t interact with other humans, it should affect your experience too much.

Of course, this is a preview build. Things can still change and the team has a bit of work to do to get performance totally up to snuff. However, everything I’ve seen so far has me convinced they can get there. After all, just look at the Burnout Paradise remaster.

Most importantly, Hot Pursuit has me actually interested in where the series goes from here. I was pretty much ready to write the series off after Heat, but Criterion has flipped my opinion. Hopefully, with them back at the helm, Need for Speed gets back to the top of the arcade racing pile.

Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit Remastered comes to PC, PS4, and Xbox One on November 6. The game will launch on Nintendo Switch on November 13.

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