They say if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it – and 2010’s Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit definitely ain’t broke. On the one hand, Need for Speed Hot Pursuit Remastered is about as barebones as remasters come: other than sprucing up the visuals, adding a few more decorative objects around the tracks, and introducing a garage for showing off cars between events, there isn’t much surprising or new here. But on the other hand, that’s a big part of why this is a straightforward remaster done right, giving a much needed tune up and a fresh coat of paint to an already awesome arcade racer.
Criterion Games came out swinging when EA first handed it the reigns to the Need for Speed franchise a decade ago. As its first outing, Hot Pursuit brought the sense of reckless speed and excitement that Criterion was known for from its Burnout games, revitalizing the Need for Speed series and still standing as one of its best games. It says a lot about just how great it is that, with minimal changes, Hot Pursuit feels and plays just as good today as it did back then.
Part of what keeps it so great is how it excels so well at the very specific thing it sets out to do: romanticize fantastical and over-the-top car chases. There’s an overworld map with various locations that have you control either street racers or cops, acting as either the chased or the chaser, respectively, during any given event. As you complete challenges and increase your bounty, you slowly unlock new cars and new regions. That’s it – there are no upgrades to worry about or complex customization features. Pick a color and hit the road. It’s that simple.
It also nails that delicate balance between looking incredibly gorgeous and realistic (even at blistering 200 MPH+ speeds) while also being easy to control with its arcade-style physics. Yes, you need to brake around corners and feather the gas a little bit to catch the right drift on turns, but it requires far less precision than something like Project CARS or Gran Turismo. Drifting around bends effortlessly, weaving in between opponents during a race, and just barely overtaking a cop car before the next curve is a special brand of intensity that’s unmatched elsewhere. There’s something about Hot Pursuit’s style and presentation that hearkens back to a simpler time when racing games were just about racing with no frills or filler – and without feeling like it’s missing features.
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Most events can be completed in under five minutes, and some far quicker than that. Those include straight up races, intercept events to chase down rogue vehicles, car chases, and more. I’m not a huge fan of the race “Preview” events, which generally boil down to having to do time trial runs through a course before you unlock its actual events, but it does help you get acclimated to that level’s turns. I particularly enjoyed stages near the coast with nice vistas or anything wet from rain since the lighting and reflections are great eye candy. And if you just want to cruise around without stressing about the competition, every region includes a Freeride option as well.
One of the best parts of Hot Pursuit is all the little gadgets you get access to during events, like spike strips you can drop behind you to try and take out opponents or the road blocks you can call in as a cop to slow down your target. Growing up on games like the original 1998 Hot Pursuit on the first PlayStation and the slew of racers it influenced, such as Burnout, trained me to enjoy recklessly ramming into cars in all racing games. So it’s nice to have another that encourages and rewards that behavior here.
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This is a remaster though, not just an uprezzed port. Several of the courses have new cosmetic objects like road signs, dividers, and background details with trees and foliage. The actual roads themselves follow the same paths as before, but every area looks and feels more alive now. Not to mention the sleek vehicles themselves that look nice and sharp without the fuzzy jagged lines you’d see in games last generation.
On PS4 Pro and Xbox One X, Hot Pursuit hits either 60FPS at 1080p in Performance Mode or 30FPS at 4K in Quality Mode. The PC version can hit 4K and 60FPS if your system can handle it, while the Nintendo Switch and standard PS4 and Xbox One are limited to 30FPS at 1080p. After trying out both modes on a PS4 Pro, I found myself preferring the higher framerate of Performance Mode because everything is moving so quickly you don’t really have time to appreciate the 4K rendering as much, but the more fluid animations at 60FPS really help smooth out the speed.
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And while there isn’t much in the way of brand new content, the main menu does have a nifty garage now where you can check out all the cars you’ve collected so far – and there are some absolute gems, including my personal favorite the BMW Z4, which looks like the kind of car you’d like to just go for a drive in on a lazy weekend (and crashing it is oddly therapeutic). All of the original’s DLC is included in this single package, which is a nice bonus if not strictly new. You can now also take full advantage of all these shiny cars by pausing any race to access a robust photo mode (available in the garage as well), which even has an excellent feature that lets you toggle on or off mid-race damage.
The paint options for every car in the roster have impressively expanded as well, even if other customization features aren’t available. In the original game you could pick from just a few pre-selected colors before starting a match, but now there is a custom color palette wheel that lets you pick pretty much any color you could ever want. I usually went with a gaudy neon blue, which is a very intimidating color as everyone knows. It’s not very deep customization, but the increased option is still a welcome tweak.
The Autolog feature also returns here with its ‘Wall’ concept that shows a collection of times and accomplishments from all of your friends as a real-time representation of how much better (or worse) you are than everyone within your skill range. Nowadays racing games thread a lot of this data into races themselves, but Autolog still helps round things out here by funneling you towards activities your friends are also doing.
There’s proper online multiplayer for up to 8-players too (which works with cross-play), but I didn’t have a chance to try that prior to this review. Based on my experience with the original in 2010, my favorite online mode was Most Wanted, which has one player trying to escape with a small team of other racers helping them – kind of like a VIP escort mission in other multiplayer games – while a team of cops try to take them out. There’s also all of the same formats from the Career mode like the titular Hot Pursuit, in which you must take out street racers, but we won’t know how well any of them function before playing on live servers.