Also worth mentioning is the Autolog, which is a strikingly non-intrusive implementation of social media in a game like this. If you have friends playing the game, it will list their best times on available missions, giving you something to shoot for - and should you beat them to the finish, you have the option of sending them a taunting message to encourage them to try to take their title back. It's wholly optional and admittedly feels kind of pointless if you don't have friends who are playing the game, but if you do have a buddy or two in Hot Pursuit, it's surprisingly satisfying to get an extra in-game reward of notoriety for proving your driving skills.
Like all good modern racers, Hot Pursuit is essentially car porn. Over 60 different vehicles from car makers from Chevrolet to Subaru have been faithfully rendered in the game. Every time you select a ride before a mission, you can listen to a narrator describing the vehicle in question in loving detail - its technological advancements, its overall design and the like. Between that and the fanfare whenever you unlock a new car (with maker, model and price included) it's hard to not feel like this is just an extreme case of product placement, but car aficionados will likely get a kick out of it.
Just in case you doubted that the game was made by the same folks who did Burnout, every crash or successful ability use will be accompanied by glorious and dramatic slow-motion shots of cars spinning out and flipping as steel crumples and glass goes everywhere. You don't drive these multi-thousand-dollar vehicles to not crash them, right?
Bottom Line: The core gameplay of Hot Pursuit is functional and entertaining, though the game fails to make its case until it pits cops and racers against each other in high-speed hunts, giving players on both sides the tools they need to see justice done - or evade its grasp. Hot Pursuit shines visually with both the cars and the varied environments found in the 100-square-mile Seacrest County. It's great fun online and off, and features one of the best implementations of social media I've yet seen in a game targeted towards core gamers in Autolog. There might not be a ton of depth here, and the lack of customization may put some diehard racing fans off, but there is a ton of fun to be had.
Recommendation: Racing fans shouldn't miss Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit, though you may be looking for a game with a bit more depth to it. Even non-racers may enjoy the game - I certainly did - and should consider giving it a rental at the very least.
This review is based on the Xbox 360 version of the game.
John Funk likes to pretend he's Vin Diesel every day of the week except Sunday.
Game: Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit
Developer: Criterion Games
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Release Date: November 16th, 2010
Platform: Xbox 360, PC, PS3
Available from: Amazon (PS3), Amazon (Xbox 360)