This week, Paul visits Need for Speed Hot Pursuit.
… and so why did it take you this long to get round to playing it?
I liked the look of it from people playing the game a while back and I loved the idea of not just racing, but also playing the cop. I bought it on one of the steam sales a while back and installed it, but getting around to playing it was a problem – mostly because of other games I bought around the same time and also just a feeling of the lack of time.
You’ve been playing the game on PC – what have the controls been like?
The first thing I do when I boot up a game is look at the basic controls. I’ve played many a PC game using the WASD setup and was surprised to see that it used the cursor keys as default. Maybe remapping was a bit of a problem, as the WASD setup left me initially with really painful fingers, especially when the nitro button was mapped to the shift key. I later set it to the P key and it seemed to get a little better.
Would you have preferred to have used a gamepad or steering wheel set to play it?
In a way I think it would’ve given me a better edge (although I think steam only had partial support for a gamepad), as it would have allowed me to do analogue controls rather than digital (i.e. a little bit to the left rather than turn left until I release the key). I would like to try it out with the steering wheel, although I’m not sure how well that would go…
How does it compare to Mario Kart, the racing series you’ve spent the most time with?
It’s actually incomparable really. Mario Kart is a fun racer set with the themes of the Mario games. This one is trying to be more realistic, so no “power ups” in the sense of Mario Kart’s arsenal, and there’s obviously crashing and whatnot going on. Then there’s the police, which chase after you, or it’s who you are. It’s really very very different, but that’s something positive I think, because I wouldn’t want to just have “cartoony” games all the time. I like more realistic games as well, even if it’s more about style than mechanics.
Is realism something you look for in a racing game?
Not really. Realism can have its place, and I do prefer driving through cities and built up areas, but for me, it’s more about a different mechanic or objective. One of the reasons I love Road Rash is because it’s racing with something different – fighting dirty. Likewise Driver San Francisco was also really good because of the ability to change cars on the fly. I remember playing San Francisco Rush on the Nintendo 64, and I loved that game because of the lightness of the gravity and my fondness for finding keys and bursting into flames. Heck, even Forza 3 held a small interest for me because of it’s ability to rewind time. For Need for Speed Hot Pursuit, it’s about the variety of missions – both as the street racers and as the police.
What was it like driving around in luxury cars – any favourites?
Not really. I’m nowhere near a petrol-head in real life, so to me, while some cars may look nice, they don’t really hold that much attraction to me. In fact, I would go so far to say that the looks of the cars didn’t affect me at all. What matters to me is the responsiveness of the cars themselves – and it’s one thing that actually annoyed me slightly about the game – I didn’t realise until there was a mission with a specific car that most of the cars deliberately handle badly in order to make you progress. Once I played that mission, it was like “oh, so the bad handling on the other cars was deliberate…?”. In my opinion, the difficulty of a game shouldn’t have controls as a factor.
We’re the graphics stunning or too uncanny?
Because you’re not dealing with many actual human characters, the game can concentrate on the easier task of shiny boxes racing. There’s a lot of good looking racing games out there, complete with shiny sheens and weather effects, so it’s not exactly uncommon for a racing game to have a certain sense of realism. I think the problem actually stems from the tracks itself – in which I would say it’s about average. Though to be fair, you’re bolting down the tracks as fast as you can, so maybe that’s an inherent problem with racing games maybe?
Which did you prefer playing as: as a racer or as a cop?
Cop. I’ve played a lot of straight forward “get to the finish line first” type matches, even with police chasing involved, but when your objective is to cause crashes, there’s something far more fresh about the tactics you use. And the toys you get to play with are realistic (at least to an extent).
Forza or Need for Speed?
I don’t have that much experience in either to be fair. So it’s more down to playing as a cop or reversing time. I would have to go with playing as a cop – just because it fundamentally changes the mission. Now if it were a choice between Road Rash and Need for Speed…
Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit was one of the most lauded racing games of 2010: is it really that good?
I think it is a good game, although I felt the presentation was very much over the top. And the rate at which you unlocked cars was actually not that rewarding. A more rewarding way of unlocking would be more unlocking upgrades to your car. Overall, it’s not a bad game, but it’s not San Francisco Driver. And it didn’t really feel like it had much a story – just a series of missions.
If anything, I would’ve like to have seen movie cars in there – Ghostbusters Station Wagon, the Batmobile, etc… I know it wouldn’t quite have worked, but it would’ve been a nice touch.
Do you think you’ll be going back to the game after this?
I think I will. It’s a good game, it’s just not quite my favourite game either. I’m looking forward to Road Redemption, and I still haven’t unlocked everything in Mario Kart 8. I’m also likely at some point to go back to Driver San Francisco. So it’s a possibility, but not necessarily any time soon.