Here’s a fun fact for you: there isn’t a single person on this planet who can recite the titles of all 24 Need for Speed games in order. It’s actually physically impossible, like licking your own back or hearing the words “Hi, I’m Daisy” without getting irritated. While this ‘fact’ is open for debate, here’s one thing that isn’t: there hasn’t been a Need for Speed game on a Nintendo console since 2013 (Most Wanted U) and it’s about time that changed.
Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit Remastered, as the name suggests, is a modern upgrade of the 2010 instalment of the series (the 16th one, if you were keeping count, which you weren’t). While Hot Pursuit was given the Nintendo treatment back in the day in the shape of a Wii ‘port’, it was actually a completely different game that had nothing to do with the Xbox 360 and PS3 versions. As such, title aside, this is the first time the ‘proper’ Hot Pursuit has been playable on a Nintendo system.
For those not familiar with it, Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit is set in Seacrest County, a fictional region of the United States that’s based on the states located on the country’s west coast. Turns out Seacrest County is ideal for illegal street races, the sort of ones where there’s some sort of… desire for velocity, for want of a better phrase. As such, there’s a constant battle going on between the racers looking for their next fix of hi-octane hijinks, and the SCPD officers trying to get these speed freaks off the roads before they do themselves a mischief.
The twist here is that Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit lets you see what life is like on both sides of the fast/fuzz divide. Some missions obviously have you taking part in races, hurtling through country and city roads at obscene speeds while trying to avoid being taken down by the cops. Other missions, however, hand you a badge and a gun (okay, maybe not the gun) and put you in the law-loving boots of an SCPD cop, with your aim now being to break up any races you see and take down as many punks as you can.
You’ll encounter different types of events during both campaigns. Sometimes you’ll be doing a standard street race, sometimes it’ll just be a time trial. Sometimes you’ll be going head-to-head with one other car while the cops are chasing you, sometimes you’re the cop trying to take down one racer (or even every competitor in a race). Sometimes you’ll go it with just your car as your only equipment other times you’ll be armed with gadgets like spike strips, EMPs and jammers.
As you perform well in each event you’ll earn bounty points, which eventually increase your Wanted Level as a racer or your Cop Rank as… well, a cop, up to level 20. Earning bounty points also unlocks a series of cars which are regularly thrown at you like confetti, until it gets to the point where you almost have more cars than you can keep track of. There are 78 racer events and 63 cop events, and you can get a gold medal/distinction if you exceed a certain performance milestone (usually finishing in a certain position or time).
If this all feels like we’re just going through the basics here, that’s because this is literally all there is to the game. You pick the next event, clear it then move onto the next one, unlocking a bunch of new cars along the way. There’s a free-roam mode too but it’s completely pointless because the roads are too linear and you’re just following the normal racing route for the most part, albeit without any actual purpose. This isn’t a Forza Horizon situation where you can go off-road (except in specific shortcuts) and roam wherever you like; you’ve got a set path and that’s that. Even the flimsy wooden fences at some roadsides might as well be made of diamond because when you drive into them it’s always you who ends up worse off.
It’s essentially just race after race, then. That’s a bad thing, isn’t it? Actually, no: we’re delighted with it. It’s crazy to think that just 10 years ago this passed for a perfectly acceptable level of depth for a triple-A release, but that nowadays if this was a new game rather than a remaster it would be getting criticised for a lack of variety or long-tail content. These days the idea of a game that just offers you a series of events is considered unambitious, when sometimes that sort of simplicity is what people crave.
At the risk of sounding like an old person, these days you have to put up with timed seasons, season passes (which are different things, obviously), customisation loot boxes, weekend XP boosts, pre-order DLC and 60-hour story modes where you have to explore every inch of a comically enormous world map in search of arbitrary collectables. Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit does away with all that (or, rather, didn’t have it in the first place). You don’t even have to drive from event to event; you pick from a list and are instantly taken there. It’s bliss. Granted, the original did have some DLC packs, but they’re all in here too so even that hassle is gone.
Everything runs well enough, too. It renders at 1080p in docked and 720p in handheld, and runs at a solid 30 frames per second 99% of the time. We did notice some stuttering when things were at their most extreme – at night in the rain with a bunch of cops around, for example – but these were ‘perfect storm’ situations that were extremely rare and we only encountered them once or twice during our entire review period.
When you’re done with the single-player content – which we calculate would take around 25-30 hours to 100% – you’ve also got online multiplayer there, which is cross-platform to boot. We had a bunch of races against players on PC and other consoles, and everything ran perfectly smoothly without any issues. Well, one issue, but it’s not a performance one: most of the time you’ll get dropped into a race where players can choose any of the cars they’ve unlocked. As such, it doesn’t matter how good you are if you’ve only got the basic starter vehicles, because you’ll be eating dust. Our advice is to leave the online alone until you’ve unlocked all the good cars in Career mode, because there’s no real handicap system in place here.
That’s pretty much it, then. It’s safe to say that this is one of the more straightforward big-name racing games out there (mainly because it’s a decade old), certainly compared to something like Burnout Paradise Remastered, also by the same publisher and developer. Its simplicity won’t be to everyone’s tastes; some will be more used to current-gen expectations and would have preferred some more depth to the game than simply ‘do this race, then do this one, then do this one’. But for people who just want to turn their Switch on, get thrown into some fast-paced and exciting racing right away, then turn the thing off after a while and get on with their lives, this is one of the better options on the console.
Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit Remastered teleports players back to more innocent times a decade ago, when simply taking on a series of races was considered enough to keep players entertained. Many would argue its simplicity is a strength, however, and the reality is that despite the lack of depth it's still a hugely entertaining time whether you're playing as a racer or a cop. If you struggle to stay afloat with all the faffing around in modern games, this old-school dose of straightforward racing goodness is your life jacket.