The Good: Great new feeling for NFS, fast paced, hectic online play, looks and sounds great, Autolog is a neat feature
The Bad: Single player can drag after awhile, feels too much like Burnout, not enough like NFS, weird car handling, gets repetitive early
The Need for Speed series has been seriously confused and hurting since Most Wanted. While Shift was a simulator, the other ones in between have been either sub-par or bad. Hot Pursuit revives the classic entry with the Burnout team behind the wheels, and this feels more like Burnout than Need for Speed however. Using the Paradise engine Criterion did a good job making the game both look pretty, and giving us a Burnout feel with real world cars. These are slick cars ranging from Mustangs to Maseratis.
As the name would suggest it's about cops versus racers, and each opponent gets a set of four weapons. Cops get EMP, Helicopter, Spike Strip, and Road Block. Each is pretty self explanatory, but this feels like a glorified version of Burnout's Road Rage mode. Racers get the same, but instead of a helicopter, and road block they get a Jammer, and Turbo which is an extra boost of NOS. Now you can earn turbo by doing crazy stuff as well.
The world map is also classic Burnout style with each icon labeled for racer or cop and there are previews, time trials, and special events for each side. There is also the Autolog which is a social networking type setup. Your friend's best scores will be posted, and you can post screenshots and videos of your races. If a friend beats your score you can jump right into that race and try to beat it. While the single player is fun it's the online stuff that makes the game shine with all the weapons. The single player feels predictable and stale compared to multiplayer because it feels like this game was made with multiplayer in mind. You earn bounty and have to hit certain goals in single player, but its nothing we haven't seen in racing games already.
Once you race everything feels fine, but the steering tends to suffer drastically depending on road conditions and the car. Despite awesome damage modeling the cars all feel pretty much the same, and the sense of speed is so fast that you don't notice speed differences. This also concludes the reptitition because once you unlock all weapons its just the same events over and over again, and some people may never even finish the single player due to this. The game can also look pretty good at times, but in other ways it doesn't.
The chaos comes from the fact that in multiplayer you never known what anyone is going to do. You can see a road block ahead and get your shot lined up to dodge it, but just then someone deploys a spike strip right in your face and you hit both losing a crap ton of health. You can take off again and try to shake off a helicopter, but then get hit by an EMP. It's the same with racers, but this can also feel a bit unbalanced since racers biggest weapon is the jammer so cops can't use their weapons for a few seconds. It all depends on the players' skills and how they race really.
Despite the repetition and lack of weapons, the game works, but also notice all the Burnout references? There's hardly any Need for Speed in this game despite the real world cards, and the Hot Pursuit title. This is just a weird mix up of game identity, but it's probably better a Burnout feeling than an old crappy NFS game rehashed. Criterion already had the engine built for something like this, so I expect to see a sequel in the near future. I do recommend this is Burnout fans more than NFS however, but old school Hot Pursuit fans will dig this completely.