Game Review

Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit Review

USA USA Version

Posted by Jon Wahlgren

Crash and burn

Until last year, the Need For Speed series on Wii was synonymous with crap from day one. And while Need For Speed: Nitro had its issues, it at least showed that EA’s heart was in the right place: instead of trying to shoehorn a game developed for HD platforms onto the Wii’s lesser hardware to the benefit of no one, it went out and created an arcade racer specifically for the console that played to its strengths.

Thanks to Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit, the series is back to its bad ol’ days. Not only does it have virtually nothing in common with the lauded Criterion-developed game on other platforms, it manages to be an absolutely terrible racer with few redeeming factors.

Instead of the open road approach Criterion took, developer Exient stuck with a no-frills, standard career progression of completing events in a very specific order to unlock more and more difficult events, of which there are five types: Hot Pursuit, Eliminator, Rush Hour, Interceptor and Time Trial.

Hot Pursuit is your standard lap race with some AI cops thrown into the mix when you crash into stuff. Eliminator has eight racers buzzing about trying to not be in last place every 30 seconds lest they be knocked out of the running – Rush Hour is the same but with one hundred cars eliminated by the tens. Time Trial is self-explanatory, and Interceptor puts you in the role of either cop or racer, trying to knock out specific racers by tapping them three times as the law or stay in the game as a competitor. This is the only particularly interesting addition to the otherwise standard fare and is a moderately okay time; Rush Hour sounds like it could be fun but in practice flooding the track with that many vehicles is a mess of dumb AI and traffic jams. Completing events and driving like a loon nabs you Bounty points, which can be used to fill out your garage with new vehicles or buy cosmetic upgrades for them. All but Time Trial are available to play in four-player splitscreen, with no online multiplayer (nor the touted Autolog from other versions) available.

Career mode spans four varyingly exotic cities (Chongqing, Dubai, Rio de Janeiro and Las Vegas) and a Grand Prix finale. Cities are broken into segments of three, each with four events that must be completed in order to unlock the boss battle for that city. The boss battles actually try to do something different by plopping checkpoints across the city map and allowing you to trawl for them however way you choose, with the winner nabbing the most. Since each event takes you through a somewhat different path it may seem like there are a lot of tracks to go through, but each one feels largely the same and are sometimes nigh-indistinguishable.

It’s a very meat-and-potatoes affair with little spice or garnish, which would have its place had the rest of the game been serviceable, but it’s almost shocking how Hot Pursuit manages to drop the ball on even that. Cars never quite handle with the precision you'd expect of them, with the lower class cars as manoeuvrable as lead bricks and higher-end vehicles too slippery. And don’t be fooled by these screenshots: Hot Pursuit on Wii looks worse than even the original Burnout on GameCube. Vehicles are about as basic as they can get away with, the environments all blend together and the draw distance leaves something to be desired. Despite retaining Burnout’s signature slow-mo crashing there is no visible car damage, so when it does cut to slow-mo you just see your car "dramatically" bob or hop a bit. Speaking of which, the crash physics are all over the place: sometimes the lightest touch will trigger a crash whereas hard hits may cause you to bounce all over the track until you straighten out and start driving in the wrong direction.

Not to kick a bad game while it's down, but there's more. The framerate drops significantly during split-screen multiplayer, the soundtrack is all over the place in consistency across menus and in races, and the lack of announcer means that events are a very quiet affair only interrupted by the bleeps that accompany the constant Bounty notifications. Car customisation is pitiful, relegated to changing tires or buying a generic body kit that adds spoilers, both seemingly impotent towards handling or strength. And while the game supports any kind of controller the console can handle, even here there are oddities: when we tried starting a race with a Classic Controller Pro the camera was stuck in front of us looking back, and the GameCube analogue stick couldn't be used to navigate menus. Bizarre.

Conclusion

Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit on Wii is a very poor excuse for a racer that feels like a slap in the face compared to its PS3/Xbox 360 cousin. Taking the game in a different direction is fine, but not a single thing here feels as if it was given the proper time and care needed to live up to its potential, let alone surpass last year's game. Instead, it's just a boxy, ugly car crash.

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User Comments (58)

accc

#3

accc said:

You really have to admire EA's effort here... it really takes a lot of hard work and dedication to make a game that looks and plays as horribly as this. Good show!

Chozo85

#4

Chozo85 said:

EA still peddling the same old rubbish. The depressing thing is people will buy it because of the name.

vbmetroid

#6

vbmetroid said:

i swear never to buy a EA game again and if i do it will be nba JAM .... for under £10 EA have done over wii gamers to many times from the my sims series going multi plat to dead space extraction ( a great game) being free download on the ps3 screw EA nba jam was the last thorne in my side its over EA

taffy

#7

taffy said:

I still couldn't understand why Nitro didn't have online, do EA expect Wii owners to buy something when it is missing such standard features of gaming in the 21st century. The thing is that Nitro is the second best racing game on the Wii in Europe, it would be third but excitebots never came to Europe :( and that had online too!!!!!

Metal_Slugger

#8

Metal_Slugger said:

Are there any good racing games for Nintendo Wii? Other than Mario Kart. I think they should bring back San Francisco Rush in a BIG WAY. Make it RAD!

TxRx

#9

TxRx said:

Again, I deeply agree with your review, almost. I'd be tempted to rate it even lower, there was ZERO redeeming features for me on this game whatsoever.

Avoid this like the plague. NFS Carbon on the other hand, that was actually quite good, so why the heck is this so bad?!

CanisWolfred

#11

CanisWolfred said:

I expected nothing less than this, unfortunately. I'll still be getting Hot Pursuit for the Xbox 360, of course.

@TxRx

New developer. NITRO was made by EA Canada, who actually make good Wii games, but unfortunately were busy making NBA Jam instead (not that I'm really complaining).

ReddLionz

#17

ReddLionz said:

Oh well, at least we still have our Need for Speed games on the Gamecube. (Underground 2 FTW!). But that was back when all of the hardware was almost the same, so, no lackluster ports.

Bankai

#20

Bankai said:

@ the "EA hates the Wii," "EA treats the Wii so unfairly" etc etc.

Not really. EA is a company (I seem to be saying this every other week, but people continue to confuse games industry with a school yard), and has made it quite clear in the past that it is not happy with how its games have sold on the Wii.

Can hardly expect the same level of resourses to go into Wii games then, can you?

Beyond that, EA is a company that is evolving into focusing, strongly, on the digital download space. It acquired Playfish for social games, and then recently iPhone (and other platforms, but mainly iPhone) publisher, Chillingo.

To me it looks like EA has thrown its lot in with digital downloadable games, and scaled back its retail efforts to major-list franchises and titles. A company with that strategy is never going to be happy with Nintendo.

CanisWolfred

#21

CanisWolfred said:

^Did they forget about NFS Nitro, NBA Jam, and the PGA Tour games? I Think EA has made plenty of good games for the Wii. Yes, they have some duds, but so do Ubisoft, Capcom, and Konami.

Bankai

#22

Bankai said:

My understanding is EA has one or two of its own studios left dedicated to Wii development, and those have been downscaled as it is. EA Canada, someone mentioned?

For the games that those handful of studios can't cover, the thought process would be this: "We have a major new Need for Speed game (for example) coming out on the PS3 and Xbox 360. We should use that hype to shift a few games to people that just own a Wii. Where's a cheap studio to outsource to?"

Enter the likes of Exient. Realistically, EA knows that anyone that has a PS3 or Xbox360 is going to go to that console for a racing game like Need for Speed. So investing an equal level of resources to the development of a Wii game that would probably underperform is pretty silly business logic.

I'm not saying its right or wrong (and certainly something can be said about losing the goodwill of those Wii-only owners), but I think people should at least try and understand why EA would make this kind of decision, rather than get all upset that "EA hates Nintendo," which really isn't the case at all.

  • Disclaimer - I am assuming Exient is an independant studio, and not one formed by EA. If the later is the case, then I would question EA's wisdom in keeping such an underperforming and clearly underresourced studio open.
LEGEND_MARIOID

#23

LEGEND_MARIOID said:

I have EA Grand Slam Tennis, EA Playground, both Boom Blox games etc etc. Used to have the great Nitro too. They are good games, so no excuses. Have a little pride in yout work. Sales or no sales.

Splat

#24

Splat said:

Why does EA even make Wii games any more? Outside of NBA Jam and Tiger Woods PGA Tour blah.

Gamesake

#25

Gamesake said:

Disappointing is an understatement. If EA wants to be lazy why not just Wiimake Burnout 3 Takedown and call it good. I wonder if I'll ever see a real Criterion Games racer on the Wii now? @WaltzElf EA doesn't love the Wii either though does it?

CanisWolfred

#26

CanisWolfred said:

@Gamesake

EA doesn't like that its games don't sell very well on the Wii. No need to make it personal, its mearly a business decision. Perhaps a poor one, but one that they've already made.

Ristar42

#27

Ristar42 said:

This game sounds awful, which is a real shame as the Wii is short on good arcade racers - Wii owning racing fans should stick to Burnout 2 on the Gamecube or TrackMania.

Kid_A

#28

Kid_A said:

Dang, this is a shame. It's things like this that make me glad I got a PS3 ;)

Bankai

#29

Bankai said:

@Gamesake:

I would bet good money that EA doesn't care about Nintendo, either way. EA looks out for EA, and if it sees value in producing a AAA-grade title for the Wii, it will do so.

I personally think, given the nature of EA's games, it's made a wise decision to reserve the bulk of its resources for the PS3 and Xbox360, while investing in small, download-only projects for creativity - that's where the money is for that company.

So yeah. As lovely as it would be for every release of every game to be AAA-class, most companies just can't afford it, and EA was probably right in guessing that this Need for Speed game would not sell that well, regardless of quality. It's an opportunistic release, but I wouldn't see it as "we hate Nintendo" campaign at all.

sillygostly

#31

sillygostly said:

Maybe EA would sell more Wii games if they weren't complete sh-t. If EA had the audacity to blame US for their crap sales to my face, I'd punch it... repeatedly.

The only NFS game that had ever interested me on Wii was, funnily enough, their first (i.e. Carbon). Heck, I'd buy had it not have been discontinued by the time I'd bought my Wii.

I was hoping that Hot Pursuit would mark a return to form for the franchise following the years of sub-par games that they've been churning out, but it seems that EA is yet to redeem themselves... especially since they relentlessly fail to acknowledge their own shortcomings.

FFS, EA. You're an entertainment company. Act like one!

Bankai

#32

Bankai said:

Um, what? EA released Dead Space: Extraction and Boom Blox on the Wii. Both got very positive user and critic reaction, and then both games bombed in sales.

So no, your entire argument is flawed.

And no. EA is an entertainment company, and it does act like one. In fact, you'll find its a very popular entertainment company with the people that actually buys EA games - PlayStation and Xbox owners. EA has a pretty good reputation there these days.

If you ever do a entertainment business course, you'll understand that in most cases, companies that rely on sales (Nintendo, for instance, won't count, because Nintendo has a income from licensing for the DS/ Wii), the company needs some high-margin, quick turn over games to suppliment the big ticket projects.

Games like this one reviewed here was relatively cheap to produce, relatively quick to get developed and into stores, and should sell well enough to net EA a small profit. That keeps the people at EA in a job while they work on a real, expansive project, like Medal of Honor.

Any big company needs both. That's why Activision milks Guitar Hero, and that's why Ubisoft threw Just Dance out there. Sometimes these games turn out well, but the quality is irrelevent. They just need to make enough money that Activision can continue to justify the investment in Call of Duty, and Ubisoft can justify the dollars spent on Assassin's Creed.

Think of it as a risk mitigator, if that's easier to stomach.

It's not just the games industry, either. Why do you think a book publisher publishes so many books from unknowns, who get paid minimal money for their work, while the publisher waits on the next Steven King novel?

Why do you think New Line paid for Lord of the Rings, but also produces films that cost 1/10th of the cost (and quality) of a Lord of the Rings?

Simple business - if you sit around doing nothing and waiting for that two or three A-list game each year, you're going to go bankrupt.

CanisWolfred

#33

CanisWolfred said:

^They need to make a video out of the video game industry. "Video Game Tycoon"...I can see it now!:D

Bankai

#36

Bankai said:

Segagogo, or whatever it's called. A Dreamcast game where you have to reverse the fortunes of a deeply troubled Sega.

Weird concept, but I reckon a game company management sim would honeslty be a great idea. Teach the kids out there that games development is not all flowers and sunshine etc etc. :P

thaantman

#37

thaantman said:

Man I'm still extra pissed about this game, I look forward to need for speed games every year, and while a the wii versions was somewhat flawed in one area or another, they was still fairly decent racing games. I really wish EA Montreal could just whip out a nitro sequel in like 3 month, with just more stages, cars, and customizations, pick ups and online. Even though nitro was a bit lacking, nitro was truly a great racer, from the sense of speed to the graphic style. I'm begging that wii gets a decent nfs exclusive by 2nd quarter next year because this crap should not be able to pass as a yearly entry in the nfs franchise.

Faron

#38

Faron said:

This kind of trash doesn't even sell. Useful thing to do , EA, you should as well just give your money to charity or something.

Streakk

#40

Streakk said:

I wonder what would happen if they gave the Need for Speed license to High Voltage Software? They would make a respectable game.

thanos316

#41

thanos316 said:

ea really has been stinking it up for the week this year. some developers get it, and ea sucks. no gamer wants a watered down game. if u can produce a good game for the gamecube then hell the wii shouldnt be that hard. well i wont be spending my money on this crap...

OldVikingSchool

#42

OldVikingSchool said:

PS2 had great games with good graphics and gameplay. Wii got a bit more horsepower, and for a reason... ports from 360/PS3 looks like an early PS2/Dreamcast game on the Wii.

LuWiiGi

#43

LuWiiGi said:

I'm completely disgusted in EA. Honestly, I find it despicable that developers just churn out crap shovelware on the Wii without an ounce of effort, just to make a bit more money from the poor saps who would actually buy this, poor saps that make up 90% of the Wii's audience. They didn't even try to make a good game, and that's just inexcusable. If If I met the guys who made this I would line them up and slap them in the face as hard as I could one-by-one.

Wait a second, how is WaltzElf defending EA when they're as money-driven as Gameloft?

OldBoy

#45

OldBoy said:

@Waltzelf Very well said and probably completly true.
I can understand the backlash from Wii only owners but you can understand EA's buisness plan.Sad but true :(

salty1264

#47

salty1264 said:

it was stating its not good for the wiis non hd well i have a special cord that makes it hd

Vinsanity

#48

Vinsanity said:

Y'know, I wonder why Extient couldn't be given one of Criterion's older game engines to work with as a starting point. These guys make DS games for EA - its odd that they'd be given the Wii version of NFS Hot Pursuit. But i'm guessing they started with the code base from one of their DS NFS games for this title. They SHOULD'VE been given the engine for Burnout Revenge (PS2 or Xbox version) and adapt it to work with Wii, than go from there. Both studios are owned by EA; why couldn't they do that?

Anyways, I'm gonna rent this. I'm very curious as to how horrible it is:) Those screens actually look pretty slick; I gotta find out how big the disparity between them and the actual game is.

Vinsanity

#49

Vinsanity said:

@Streakk: High Voltage has never made a racing game before - why would you think they could make a good racer?

Not to mention, it's not like their Conduit team is responsible for every one of their games. A lot of their stuff is just mercenary crap - a publisher hires them to do a quick and cheap port of a licensed game: Iron Man 2 Wii, Astro Boy, Dora the Exporer, Family Guy, etc. They have a team in place JUST to pump out a licensed game for cheap in 8-10 months for publishers, and that's who'd get to work on a Wii version of Need for Speed. It would still be bad.

But luckily, Exient's first DS games were relatively janky. But they got better and better with each iteration. If they're in charge of next year's Wii NFS, I'm sure it'll be an improvement.

MrB4

#50

MrB4 said:

Kind of disappointing to see after the success of Nitro, a sequel to that should have been made and released when Hot Pursuit came out on the other consoles. That would have much more sense IMO.

Tate24

#51

Tate24 said:

Awww i loved need speed nitro its a great game!!! Why couldnt of they made. Need 4 speed Nitro 2 with a online racing mode, a create car sharing online option!!!

instead of this rubbish....poor show!

Dr_Salvador

#53

Dr_Salvador said:

What a shame! I was really looking forward to play this in 4-player splitscreen with my friends, but after reading this, my expectations for some fun 4-player mayhem has been toned down to ground.
Why can´t they just make splitscreen in the PS3/360 versions? Because that´s the reason a lot of people, including myself, want´s to play racing games...

Lugero

#56

Lugero said:

Hi everybody! this guy (or whatever it is): "WaltzElf", I think is kind of employeer of EA cuz he defends EA company as the same owner!

This game is fraud! I'm not a Wii player but I have some cousins who are, and I think this game and this EA behavior are unacceptable!
I'm beginning a legal demand along with expert lawyers! But I will appreciate support from all of you guys who think like I do!
The bigger the support I get from unhappy and dissapointed people like y'all, the easier to make EA fix this unfair action or refund the already sold items cost!
Do not let unfair actions come this way to all of us!

rockmanexze

#57

rockmanexze said:

The only problem here, is that EA Montreal made this game, not EA USA. They were too "busy" scoring on Xbox & PS3, so they pushed the project over to EA Montreal. Low graphics, unrealistic gameplay,... I'd rather buy an ipad to play NFS:HP

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