There’s something so undeniably appealing about a good car chase. It’s a staple of movies and TV shows for a reason: It’s exciting to chase, it’s exciting to be chased, and the escapist fantasy of operating a car in such an unsafe way is a vicarious rush for anyone who’s ever sat frozen in interstate traffic.
So, of course, car chases have been a staple of video games, giving players control over all that excitement. It’s been almost 40 years since Midway released the original Spy Hunter in arcades, and Need For Speed has been doing its cops-and-racers bit since Hot Pursuit on the original PlayStation. But to my mind, it’s never been done better than the series reboot, simply called Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit, released in 2010.
Let’s Do the Time Warp Again
EA and its various partner developers have been trying to recapture the pure fun and speed of that game ever since, with only marginal success. So they decided to stop trying, and re-released Hot Pursuit as a remastered edition yesterday. It’s available for $40 on PS4 and Xbox One, or $30 on the PC. It’ll be out on the Switch next week.
Hot Pursuit is all about the chase: evenly split between devil-may-care racers in exotic supercars and the equally insane police chasing them in unlikely blue-and-white versions of some of the same supercars. While you can participate in vanilla street racers across the fictional Seacrest County without cops or traffic, the game is at its most exhilarating when you’re trading paint with someone who’s been chasing you for miles.
The single-player mode is quite good, allowing the player to gradually unlock more and more powerful cars (and cop cars), as well as teaching you to use the various gadgets that can be deployed during a chase to turn the tide. These ridiculous X factors turn this from a more conventional racer into a slightly more focused version of Twisted Metal.
Spike strips are the most simple, either set up in front of racers or deployed Bond-style from the back of your car. But cops can also use roadblocks or call in helicopters to maintain distance, while racers can jam radar, hit the cops with EMPs, or simple boost into them with destruction derby abandon. If you’re racing and feeling particularly competitive, you can even use these tricks on your fellow racers to secure that number one finish.
All of this comes together in the multiplayer mode, where Hot Pursuit really shines. Four cops and four racers face off, using highways and terrified motorists as a playground for the kind of scenarios usually necessitating the liberal application of Vin Diesel. Races are relatively short, but packed with so much white-knuckle driving and strategic application of gadgets that they rarely fail to get the blood pumping.
Hot Pursuit’s combination of solid driving mechanics, exhilarating speed, and giggle-inducing combative racing is a near perfect Big Mac of racing goodness. There’s nothing realistic about it, nor any attempt or pretense of being so. But speaking as someone who doesn’t know a catalytic converter from a cup holder, it’s far and away my favorite “pure” racing game ever.
Bring Your Friends
The “Remastered Edition” of Hot Pursuit isn’t much to talk about on a technical level. It’s a 10-year-old game, and while it was state of the art at the time, it’s definitely showing its age with minimal improvements. Likewise, car nerds probably won’t be impressed with the selection of vehicles a decade out of date, even with a couple of dozen DLC cars added on.
But that’s not the point. As the reveal trailer indicated, the real draw here is injecting life into the multiplayer. The servers are back on, and cross-play for consoles and PC has been enabled, so there should be at least a year or two of repopulated lobbies to look forward to. That’s well worth the price of admission to me.