Game name: Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit Remastered
Release date: November 6, 2020
Developer: Stellar Entertainment Limited
Publisher: Electronic Arts
I’m not the biggest racing fan, something you can probably tell from the lack of reviews covering that specific genre in this site. Nevertheless, the 2010 incarnation of Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit ranks highly among my most played games on EA’s Origin platform, as its high speed chases won me over from the second I launched the game for the first time. The weirdly addictive Autolog system ensured that I would keep going back to it, trying to get better in order to beat my friends at races I’d already completed, and the excellent multiplayer kept us hooked for an entire summer, something that only Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed would manage to challenge, a few years after that. Where am I going with this long-winded intro? Basically, I’m letting you know that there might be a hint of bias in this review, because it’s a remaster of a title that I hold dear.
It’s been a decade since Criterion‘s take on Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit came out, so I’ll dedicate some paragraphs to this remaster’s gameplay, which remains unchanged from the original.
Hot Pursuit is a very different beast from all the recent Need for Speed titles. It doesn’t feature a huge open world (technically, you can free roam on an open world-ish area, but it’s got nothing to do with the way new NFS games work), you can’t customize your vehicles, and the game doesn’t care much for story and big cutscenes. The gist of it is that there’s a place called Seacrest County, where illegal street racing is so prominent that the police department can use supercars as interceptors, and with the exception of shooting their targets dead, they are allowed to forge a path of destruction through the county if that’s what it takes to shut down a racer’s hot streak. Of course, that means racers are also into supercars, and love to smash into other people’s cars if that’s what it takes to win.
This is a true racing game, and the remaster is true to the original in that it refuses to add filler to the juicy meal that is the raw violence of illegal street racing (in games, don’t take this as endorsement of real-life illegal racing, please!). Every event is a race of some type, you have classic-style endeavors with other competitors vying to take the lead while AI controlled traffic gets in their way, straight up police chases where the interceptors deploy all the tools they have access to in order to stop a race, time trials (which are masked under the pretense of having to get somewhere to do something with a race), etc. This leads to an experience that feels exhilarating and action-packed at all times, since there’s no real downtime.
But wait, how will players stay engaged? Glad you asked, because while Hot Pursuit 2010 (and this remaster) don’t feature customization options or intricate skill trees, they do have ways of keeping us hooked which go further than just being excellent racing titles. A “Bounty” system is in play here, and getting podium placements, taking down opponents and completing our objectives will grant us points that are then used to increase our rank, which in turn, will unlock different things such as new cars or power-ups (for both the police and racer sides). That’s a fine system and it works, but the real draw of the game for me (aside from the top-notch racing, of course) is the Autolog system, which tracks your accomplishments and pits you against your friends in a never-ending competition. Every time I log in to the game, I’m greeted by a message telling me that a friend’s beat me on an event, and that usually triggers an instinctive response… going to that same event to try to beat my friend and regain my crown. It’s an incredibly addictive “social network experience” without all the political posts and fake news, just pure competition. I was afraid that the remaster would just remove this part, but thankfully the developers kept it intact (and, unlike Autolog in the 2010 game, which is now dead among my friends, I still get daily updates on the remaster).
Another thing that’s been done to increase your chances of finding players to compete with is the introduction of cross-play, a feature that EA has been pushing in all their new multiplayer games lately, and I couldn’t be happier about it. Thanks to cross-play, we can now play with friends who don’t own the game on PC, and I think that this is the most important aspect of the remaster. The graphics update is nice to have, but on PC it’s way less noticeable than on consoles, so the introduction of cross platform multiplayer is the true star of the show for anyone who owned the game on Steam or Origin.
Why am I so happy about being able to play online again? Well, aside from the obvious advantages that come from playing with or against friends, there’s also the reality that the AI in both the original game and the remaster tends to rubber band a lot, something that I don’t particularly enjoy. It makes for neck and neck competition, true, but I’d rather have more realistic opponents that make use of all the tools available to them, than an enemy that can catch up after I’ve taken a seemingly unsurmountable lead. Playing online provides exactly that, and I’m happy to take a loss if the winner is a better player than I am. It leads to a desire for improvement that’s not exactly present when I get beaten by a rubber banding AI at the last second of the race.
Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit Remastered includes all the DLC released for the original game, plus a few cosmetic upgrades (all the video sequences look a lot cleaner than they do on the original release) and the much welcome addition of being able to skip said videos (every time you rank up there’s a video that can now be skipped).
Moving on to tech upgrades, the remaster features a far more comprehensive graphics settings menu, and it includes support for borderless fullscreen. There’s a 60fps cap, sadly. Stability-wise, this is pretty much a rock solid title, and I only experienced one crash (which was easy to repeat) when enabling cross-play from the initial prompt. Once I chose to disable it there and re-enable it in the options menu, the crash went away, and I never experienced a single crash during gameplay, or any other stability issue.
Graphically, Hot Pursuit Remastered looks very close to the original game, and the only thing that immediately stands out is the lighting engine upgrade, which results on more realistic looking scenes (though everything looks brighter now, including night time scenes, something that I’d say feels worse than the original). There are more destructible objects than before, but nothing has been changed when it comes to maps or similar, and the texture work is in a weird spot where certain areas are a definite improvement where others can eventually look worse. The models seem to be the original ones (which is not an issue, since they still look great) and overall, this remaster looks very close to the original on a high end PC.
Of course, that brings us to a very important question: Is this remaster worth the 30 dollars EA is asking for it? I feel that yes, it’s worth the cash, if only because it has reignited the spark of life in the online mode, and Autolog is still as addictive as it was back in 2010. If you have friends who enjoy racing games and don’t own the original, Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit Remastered should be on their radar, and I can guarantee that you will get dozens (if not hundreds) of hours of enjoyment from it.