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Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit: Can Criterion cut it?

A series of highs and lows sees Criterion take the wheel

When it comes to high-speed super cars, whipping their way down long stretches of tarmac until they inevitably fall victim to one of the worst collisions ever seen on screen, Criterion do a pretty bang up job.

The studio proved they can do extreme racing with Burnout Paradise. For our money, there's not a racer out there that feels faster. You know a studio's got something terribly right when you start to actually feel nervous.

With Paradise, once you reached max speed, you knew that the slightest error would send your car to the scrap heap in a split second. Too scared to keep going but too frightened to find the brakes? That's living, friend.

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The phenomenal post-release support Paradise got further demonstrates why OTT race fans should feel in safe hands with the studio. With the dev team continuing to work on the title for free, well, we just all felt a little bit spoilt to be honest.

All this sycophantic preamble is for one simple point: If you were to put a name into the EA hat for the next Need For Speed developer it'd have to be Criterion.

Burnout fans will be pleased then that Criterion are in the driving seat for Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit and the essence of Burnout Paradise is riding shotgun.

That's Burnout in terms of slick, solid presentation and accessible, forgiving but fun handling: The Need For Speed cars feel weighty and responsive, and look every bit as solid as their Burnout buddies.

They look even shinier though and there's a good reason why they've been given a polish. Where Burnout offered some speedy but initially scratched up super cars, Need For Speed is all about the big, real-life brands that you'll never own yourself. Sorry.

Criterion's keen to give you the key to the cover car from the off as well, which is a Pagani Zonda, by the way. Partnering the Zonda are cars such as the Aston Martin V12 Vantage, the Bugatti Veyron 16.4, Lamborghini Reventón and the McLaren F1. This ain't no Sunday drive son.

Criterion really wants to give you the right kind of roads to play on as well, which means you're taken out of the cities and onto relatively secluded stretches of highway where the bends are gentle enough for you to pull off some satisfying power-slides.

There are opportunities to take some 90 degree turns at various cross-roads dotted along the line but to all intents and purposes you'll probably treat each "race" as a straight run towards the finish.

BLUES AND TWOS
It does mean that getting from A to B in one piece is easier than it is in Burnout Paradise, the roads aren't nearly as packed in Hot Pursuit and engineered to make hitting top speed easier.

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But the biggest difference between Burnout and Need For Speed is the source of the challenge. In Hot Pursuit, the conflict isn't supposed to come from civilians and severe bends, it's much worse than that.

While you're going about your drive you've got other drivers on your tail. AS you've probably heard, Hot Pursuit puts you in the sandals of either a Cop or a Racer.

The roles are self-explanatory and the classic Road Rash principled battles that ensue (Racers vs. Racers, Racers vs. Cops) culminate in that Criterion-esque takedown turmoil.

Like all carnage based competition this is best done with friends. Hot Pursuit's Autolog feature is like an in-game social networking system, which keeps track of all your mates and displays their times, attempts and general NFS careers in comparison to yours as they try challenges around the map.

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