Do I have tomatoes on my eyes, or why don’t I see the improvements that are supposed to set Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit Remastered apart from the ten-year-old original? I think I should unpack a magnifying glass.
Deep down in the basement of EA’s American headquarters there is likely a room that only the company’s top fifty may enter. Behind a lock with a twenty-four-digit numerical password and twelve genetically mutated crocodiles equipped with laser helmets, swimming in six acid ditches, stands the sacred Trip Hawkins shrine, consisting of a faded Need-for-Speed poster and a defective 3DO console .
Below you can read in golden letters: The wise designers of electronic art are instructed to publish a Need for Speed every year shortly before Christmas, no matter what the cost. This is the way.
There is no other way to explain to me why EA is sticking to this now almost eerie tradition. After all the mediocre releases of the last few years, the heyday of the series between 1997 and 2004 only appears as a distant glimmer on the horizon.
The name may still appeal to casual players, but at some point they must have realized how much the series has suffered. Even the halfway useful approach from 2019 was nothing more than a very nice clone of Forza Horizon, enriched with a few hot pursuit nuances. Still, I’m sitting here again, writing about Need for Speed. Same procedure as every year?
Better something good old than something mediocre new
EA is playing it safe this year. But something of. Hot Pursuit was not only a hit on the first Playstation (and PC) in 1997, it was also a pretty nicely designed remake in 2010. Looked good on the Xbox 360 and PS3, conveyed a great rush of speed and guaranteed thanks breakneck races between illegal racing drivers and highway cops with powerful adrenaline rushes. To honor this remake after ten years with a remaster may make you yawn on the creative side, but financially and in terms of fan service it is an understandable move. What can go wrong?
In terms of play, nothing at all. Hot Pursuit is still a blast in 2020. Not particularly modern and certainly not as sophisticated as other racing games from the open world segment, but still so solid that the ravages of time only superficially gnaw at the fun. And I say that as someone who tries almost every decent racing game that comes out. Straightforward and straightforward, it goes from one race to the next, located on a different section of an open road system, which you can drive freely if you wish, even for fun. For trips, so to speak.
Certainly not for everyone because not much happens on the streets. Little traffic, no cities, hardly any excitement and a day-night change that adapts the lighting, but does not conjure up any dynamic objects on the screen. Even the moon seems glued to the firmament. Only a few side paths off the “official” motorway spur the research drive, unless you are sitting in a car that is so deep that the sandy soil slows it down.
In the end, it’s sausage, because fame and honor are only achieved by the breakneck events against competitors, each of which is subject to a class of lightning-fast street cars. Which one is coming up next can be freely chosen on an overview map, with each mastered event unlocking new goals.
Step on the gas, ride in front, ignite nitrous oxide, drift. Yes, high fun in the realm of racing games can look that simple if the controls and presentations keep the right focus. As old and classic as Hot Pursuit may be, I think it has its heart in the right place and still does a lot better than the NFS variants of recent years. A sure horse for EA.
The extra salt in the soup comes from police officers who resent you for exceeding the speed limit. If you cross their light barrier, you have them on your heel until the finish line of the race. I never had any problems withstanding their hesitant attempts to pull away, but when I lost speed due to a driving error and threatened to be surrounded by the cops, I definitely got my pump. Even when there are roadblocks, I prefer to look twice so that I can find the gap to break through, otherwise there is a risk of shameful handcuffing of the race. Well, this is where street science makes itself felt. Knowing the most useful side trails will get away from the cops faster.
Police prosecution is much more exciting from the opposite perspective. In the missions that I was allowed to do myself as a law enforcement officer, I recognized again where the similarities with burnout lie – both playfully and graphically. Bumping into speeders, pushing them out, blocking and knocking over is still a beastly mood. Hot, hotter, hot pursuit.
So this classic is still really playful. My introduction, however, has already revealed that the technical aspect of this remake does not go deep enough for me. To be precise, it is not visible at all in normal gaming. The game looks the same as it did 10 years ago. Even UHD resolution hardly brings any advantage apart from slightly calmer edges. Okay, the reflections on the cars look slightly more detailed, but that is not visible while driving. The switchable anti-aliasing also works cleaner, but it costs significantly more computing power.
On closer inspection, there are even elements that look worse than the original. For example the damage model for crashes. Even ten years ago it was not possible to completely demolish the cart used, but more and deeper detailed damage could be seen than today, both on the windshield and on the paintwork. How it comes to the slightly coarser road textures, and why the frame rate drops regularly for several seconds, even though no graphical elements are visible, I can’t explain.
How about a few modernizations? More traffic on the streets? Nicer car models with higher polygons? New branches in the road network? Sophisticated weather effects? New pieces of music in the soundtrack? HDR? Nope, this remaster has none of that up its sleeve.