You know it’s funny, Criterion at one point in time was perhaps one of my favourite developers, producing some of the most exciting adrenaline-fueled arcade racers out there. Its famed Burnout series would continue to evolve and improve with each new release capping things off in grand fashion with the excellent open-world Burnout Paradise. The developer would then move on to another well-known racing franchise – Need for Speed – a series struggling to find its own identity at the time and in desperate need of a reboot. Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit was Criterion’s first effort behind the wheel and put simply they nailed it. Fast forward ten years and we find ourselves with a remaster of that very same game. Has time been kind to this metal crunching, wheel-squealing racer?
Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit Remastered takes place in a fictional part of the US where street racing reigns and the police force are doing all they can to bring justice to those involved with speedy vehicles of their own. It sounds like something out of a Fast and Furious movie but it sets the stage for what is easily the game’s greatest selling point – allowing the player to burn rubber and race but also jump on the other side and try to stop the races as a cop.
As a racer, you will, of course, set your sights on a first-place finish but the added obstacle of cop cars chasing you down and doing their best to arrest you add an exciting and challenging extra layer to the race that’ll keep you on the edge of your seat right up until your wheels cross that finish line. While you’ll be able to battle back with shunts of your own, your main focus should be on evading and beating the other racers.
Playing as the cops adds some much-needed variety into the mix, your role now switched over as you attempt to apprehend the very racers you were once competing with. Trading paint and full-on smashing into racers will deplete a damage meter that once completely empty will eliminate them from the race. I have to say competing on this side of the law is my preferred choice, the thrill of carefully picking off each racer, slamming them into a barrier or watching as they fall victim to a spike strip unrivalled.
Speaking of spike strips, some events allow both the racers and cops use of equipment that can be used to aid in evading or capturing. Cops can make use of the aforementioned spike strips along with EMPs and roadblocks while racers can counter EMP attacks with a jammer, use turbo boost and even drop spike strips of their own. With a limited number for each as well a cool-down period after use, timing when to drop them can prove key. Too soon and you leave yourself exposed toward the tail end of the race. Too late and you may find yourself back-footed. Again, much like the police versus racer dynamic, the equipment keeps you fully engaged in events giving you something else to have to deal with.
Whether you’re playing as a racer or a cop, you’ll take on different event types across the campaign. Time trials offer racers a chance to sample more expensive cars before unlocking them while the cop version sees the player responding to a call as quick as they can colliding as little as possible or else suffer a time penalty. Races meanwhile vary in terms of equipment available to both sides as well as how many are competing. The rate at which the game spits out new events keeps things moving along nicely and rarely did I ever find myself repeating the same race type one after another too often.
As you win events, you’ll earn bounty which in turn will boost your racer or cop level and unlock new cars, equipment and upgrades for the latter. Again, much like unlocking events, you’ll find yourself constantly rewarded and your choice in vehicle growing very quickly.
The campaign itself is a rather simple affair, hopping between events by choosing from what is essentially a menu interface one by one. With well over a hundred events in total, there’s a lot to work your way through and while to some the presentation and structure may feel rather archaic, to me it was actually refreshing. With so many racers nowadays focused more on open-world exploring and social interaction, it was great to be able to cut the fat and simply choose the event I wanted to tackle. You are free to explore the world for yourself but there’s little here to engage you and you’re better off sticking with the individual events.
The game also has an online component which at first, I was concerned with how easy it might be finding players online (as can be the case with some Switch releases). I’m pleased to report however I had no issue at all thanks to the game’s inclusion of cross-play. Whether playing in the afternoon or evening, there was always a group ready to go. Better still is just how much fun it is playing against other actual players who are often much savvier and craftier than the computer.
The game still looks pretty good even ten years later but more importantly runs well on the console whether playing in handheld or docked. Seacrest County is still a thrill to race around offering plenty of variety when it comes to environments while the selection of cars look and sound the part. As far as remasters go, Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit Remastered is a decent update.
The Need for Speed series isn’t the behemoth it used to be but it’s great to see one of the last great entries in the series make its way over to Nintendo Switch. It may be a ten-year-old game, but it manages to stand toe to toe with other more recent examples on the console with ease.
Version Tested: Nintendo Switch
Review copy provided by Electronic Arts