Criterion Games has been most recently known for their stellar work on Burnout Paradise, reinventing the franchise with an open world, top-notch racing, and unparalleled multiplayer racing action.
We got to go hands-on with Criterion's newest project: Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit.
What was presented to us was a live demonstration of the menus and social aspect as well as some cops vs. racers action, which was also available for hands-on. The systems were linked up with one player as a racer and one as a cop. The objective for a racer is to escape the cop and the cop is trying to take down the racer.
This isn't just about driving, however, as both players have several tools in their arsenal. Driving well builds up a "Hot Meter" which makes your weapons available. In the demo, the cop was armed with an EMP or calling in either a roadblock or a helicopter which lays down a spike strip. The racer gets a decoy which creates a false positive on the cop radar, jamming which blocks the radar, or "Overdrive" which produces nearly uncontrollable speed for a short duration.
The game handles much like Burnout Paradise, though the cars had a big more weight to them so the cars had more reactive control. It features the same easy-drift mechanic as Burnout Paradise except you use the regular brake instead of the handbrake to achieve it. The game is very fast. NFS: HP creative director, Craig Sullivan, told us he didn't see the point in including slow or low-end cars. This leads to a big collection of rare and very high-end machines.
The whole feel of the game is very intense and competitive. Going head-to-head with a friend at break-neck speed is exhilarating and everything Need for Speed has been missing for the past several iterations. Finally, a game that truly embodies the Top Gun quote for which the franchise is named.
While the gameplay was great, it wasn't even the best part. Criterion is hard at work building a type of social networking right into Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit. Sitting on the main menu (sorry, no pictures allowed), notifications come falling down the screen of what your friends have been doing in the game since last you logged on or even while you were in your last race. This new system is called "Autolog." You can easily see when a friend has broken your record time or high score and immediately choose to challenge it through an intuitive recommendation system. Best of all, all this sharing doesn't require you to log into Facebook or Twitter so you don't have to pester your non-gaming friends with all your newest Hot Pursuit accomplishments.
While career mode wasn't shown, it was discussed. The careers allow the game to practically be two separate games with experience being earned separately for both Cop and Racer career paths.