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New South Wales, Australia
Game Developer, Composer & Gamer.

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Saturday, November 27, 2010

Review #5: Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit 2010


Platform: PC    
Type of controller: 360 Controller (Recommended)   

Install time: Approx 25mins  
Dependancies (Included in installation): DirectX9c,10,11, VCRedist 2008 

Notes about installation: Originally i thought i was having problems with the installation of this game however it turns out it was Win7 caching things it didn't need to. So aside from those problems on my end, installation went smooth.

Game website: http://hotpursuit.needforspeed.com    
Wiki: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Need_for_Speed:_Hot_Pursuit_(2010_video_game) ----------------------------------------------------------------

My thoughts about the game;
Arcade racing games are the hardest to review i find, because they generally don't have a central story or even characters, and all that is left is basically the gameplay and presentation, so this week i will be omitting the 'Story & Character development' part of my review.
The very first thing i found strange about this game was there is no intro movie (However it does feature a cinematic teaser for Shift 2 -- set to come out in Spring 2011). For a game of this calibre, especially since the last official Hot Pursuit game was more than 8 years ago, i found the lack of any cinematic "FMV" to be quite strange.
The game shares alot of similarities with Burnout 3 and was heavily inspired by the original 3DO version of "Need for Speed".
If you have ever played a Burnout game before, you should know what to expect, however being one of those people who has played (many) Burnout games in the past, i was actually expecting a little bit more than what is offered. This isn't a huge problem, however the lack of any sort of Boost Chaining made me a little disappointed and the fact that they removed the option to turn off Takedown mini ingame cutscenes (which was in Burnout Dominator) was also disappointing and can make the game frustrating at times.
The range of cars in this game is also a bit what the fuck, because there are 51 "racer" cars, which are your typical run from the cops type of supercars and muscle cars, however the police car lineup is what surprised me, there are 49 total police cars to unlock in the game, which puts to shame any other game featuring playable police vehicles in the past...
This is bitter-sweet however, because the actual range of cars, while the selection is massive, the diversity of cars is lacking somewhat, and you can only use certain cars in certain 'event types'. This also bugged me a fair bit, while it makes sense to have the cars in some sort of category, you don't get much diversity in specs when you have to choose a car, for both racer and police career modes.. That basically means you can pick any car, and if you have enough skill, you will win the race regardless of what car you choose. I found this to be a too balanced portion of gameplay, where inbalance makes things more interesting.

Developer standpoint;

The difficulty in this game is (pardon the pun) difficult to judge. There is no difficulty options before events, and it seems that the grid of cars is split into different difficulty groups, which is randomised at the start of every race. As mentioned beforehand, you can basically choose any car and win the race if you have enough skill and it especially helps if you know the tracks and how the AI acts.
Some events are alot more difficult than others, for example in the Interceptor events (you as cop verse 1 racer) the time limits vary but are usually Gold: around 3mins Silver: Around 4 mins and Bronze: around 5mins, now with enough skill and decent timing, these Interceptor missions can be over in less than 1 min, however in the events called 'Preview' events, where you test-drive a car you don't own yet, you have to reach the finish line before the time runs out, and there are penalties for hitting anything... They can be the most difficult events, and the first time i played one it took at least 4 retries to nail the event and barely get a silver... It took another 4 different Preview events for me to actually get Gold... Like i said, some events are much easier than others, so expect to be restarting a few events simply because you were 0.75s behind in the time trails...

Animations and visual effects
The visual effects of this game are quite impressive, however the first thing i noticed was while driving a police car, and you have the emergency lights flashing, they will only light the world around you while at night, or if you are inside a tunnel, this causes some weird lighting effects when it's daytime, and you come out of a tunnel with almost blinding flashing red and blue lights into nothing, its like they are triggered to go from actual lights into just sprites as you exit the tunnel, which i found quite annoying (but you do get used it eventually).
The other visual effect i thought was impressive was if you scrape a car or a wall at night (or in tunnels -- see above), is there are orange (invisible) lights that strobe on the side of car where you are scraping a wall or something, i thought that was a good looking effect.
The one thing i don't like about this game that i thought could of been much better is the damage, its the one thing i liked about Burnout: Paradise, however they seem to have backtracked to an earlier technology because i've seen better damage on PS2 versions of Burnout (or even Flatout).
The other visual effect i thought was quite tacky but looks good at night, is the actual smoke from a burnout, you can tell they have gotten the idea straight out of GTA4 because you can even hold Brake + Accelerate to do the same wheel spin type thing, however the actual sprites of the smoke are good but the look of it seems cheap and tacky.

Level design
The level design in HP2010 is very impressive, however an old foe of mine is back again, clipping. Before i praise this game for how impressive the levels look i have to talk about how bad fucking clipping is getting in games. I have probably mentioned this in nearly every review i've done so far, but come on seriously i shouldn't have to mention clipping because as a hobbyist developer myself, clipping is the one thing that i would want to get done right, not just done. I wouldn't care about it so much if they had a better way of hiding the invisible walls, but nearly every developer these days don't bother with something to actually hide the fact there is an invisible wall there. For example i was taking a shortcut through this hotel thing i don't know, anyway there was a small gutter on the left, and i thought i would cut across it to save time but also because it appeared that the racing line went that way anyway, but no clipping had other plans for me, i slammed into the invisible wall right above the gutter, and proceeded to lose control and crashed, i also lost that race, so i went back to that spot, and what a surprise, the gutter would of only been about 3 inches high if that, and the bumper of my car was at least another 2 or 3 inches higher than the gutter, so basically they couldn't even be bothered to either put a higher wall or actually let me drive across the small piece of sidewall.

Now onto my praise of these levels, wow just wow, these are some very good looking maps, well to be more precise, it is just 1 big map, actually reminded me of the Just Cause 2 map, crossed with Burnout Paradise, and basically all other Hot Pursuit games aswell. There is something familiar about all the landscapes yet fresh and very good looking. I want to make a special mention of the waterfalls here, because they are some of the best distant waterfalls i've ever seen in a game, for a few moments when i first came around a long sweeping corner and saw that beautiful backdrop landscape, i thought it was a video texture for a moment, but it wasn't until i started getting closer that i realised it was some sort of particle emitter, i was actually able to get close enough to see what it was made of, and believe me it looked 50 times better from a distance than up close.

Sound design
Haha well the sound design in this game is quite over the top, i mean everything sounds great, however i suggest you turn down the volume in options before playing, at least to about 80-85, because if left default they are somehow louder than any other sound on your computer...
The amusing part about the sound design of this game seems to be almost a tongue in cheek response to something the community may have said to Criterion about their previous games, or more simply Criterion just have a fetish for 'whoosh' sounds for every single moving thing in the game and menus lol.
I am not exaggerating here, i suspect this game has at least 10,000 sound files if not more, because everything has a sound effect, and while that might have been what they were aiming for, it gets a bit old fast.
The music of this game is something that disappointed me aswell, while it was good to see local lads Pendulum get a couple of tracks on there, that's basically all i can remember, and the other tracks just scream of generic rock/metal.. I mean even Burnout Dominator on PSP had a much bigger and better selection of music than this game does, and Burnout Dominator is 15 times smaller than this game in MB size.
Also, where is the custom tracks feature? I don't get why something like this was removed, because it was a faily big feature of both previous Hot Pursuit games and Burnout games. Music is essential to the atmosphere of a video game, regardless of the genre, and it's something i feel Criterion have overlooked.

Misc stuff
Because there is no point in including a 'Story & Character development' section for this review, i thought i would put a 'Misc stuff' section because i still have some more miscellaneous things to say about the technical stuff in this game.

I hate being forced to watch every screen.. and this game excels at that and then some. Yes you can skip the opening cutscene from every event thank god, however what you can't skip is things like unlocking new content, which you will do alot of, and you also can't skip or disable the takedown cameras (as mentioned previously). If i was able to skip these screens and forced cutscenes it would shorten the time i play this game in a session, and personally i would feel more immersed in the game if all i had to wait for was loading screens.

Another thing that really bothered me considering this is a AAA video game title made in 2010, is that there are only 3 views for racing, bumper-cam, hood-cam or rearview-cam. The lack of a cockpit cam seems to be almost a deliberate move, i suspect because it would of been too difficult to design interirors for the police vehicles, so to only have cockpit view on racer vehicles would of seemed bias and unfair, so it was most likely removed for those reasons, because i know from experience that coding additional views for a racing game is quite easy if you know what Vectors are.

I should also mention that i played this in offline mode, because my internet was disabled for undisclosed reasons. This meant that i couldn't check out the Autolog feature, which is a big part of the game, and also that Free race mode is completely pointless in offline mode. This bugged me alot, because not everyone who buys this game is going to buy it exclusively for MP, personally i have always enjoyed the SP careers and free race events in racing games before, and MP is just a bonus to me, however this game is heavily centred around the Autolog feature and it's online modes, so excluding something like AI from free race is just silly, because i was really looking forward to just cruising around as a police car and arresting random racers, with no real objectives, however that's not possible in offline mode, and to make it worse, the game mentions nothing of this, so you might be cruising around for 45mins before you realise that you aren't going to get to chase anyone because it seems to be an MMO mode for online players.

The exclusion of any sort of vehicle upgrades or aesthetic addons (like vinyls, or body kits etc) was disappointing aswell, i was kind of expecting not to have any performance upgrades because they seem to have forgotten or stopped caring about that aspect of the Need For Speed series, which is also a big shame because that is an extensive and awesome feature of the NFS Underground games.
You can't even have custom colours on your car, you can only choose from the 6-10 presets they give you per car (which also change depending on the car).

The last beef i have with this game is the notable absence of any Ferrari's. For an EA published (and probablt funded) game, i don't see how they couldn't afford the license for the cars, so that's probably not it, maybe Ferrari didn't want their cars to be involved with a cops & robbers type game, who knows.

Last but certainly not least, i would like to give credit to Criterion for finally adding different lights & siren options that have been badly needed in Hot Pursuit games for a long time. Unfortunately i think they may have stolen this idea from a mod for GTA4 called "ELS", which enables similar siren options with police vehicles (actually ELS has alot more options to do with the lights aswell as the sirens).
There are basically 3 modes with an additional short burst siren. With the 360 controller you hold the Y button to disable/enable the lights & sirens, when they are active you can press the Y button again to cycle through the 3 different siren modes, additionally with them all off and disabled, you can tap the Y button and it will do the short burst siren which i thought was pretty neat. The other cool thing they added which also seems straight from GTA4 is the ability to turn your headlights on and off, it is nice to have a whole button dedicated to this (X on 360 controller), however it seems like a waste of a button, which could of been used for other things like i don't know, say holding it enables your emergency lights with no sirens or something, that would of been nice.

Closing statement
Well it's hard to really say much more about this game that i haven't said above, however i would like to commend Criterion for having the balls to go back to NFS's roots and create a very familiar yet somehow refreshingly new NFS expereince.
Lots of future games could learn alot from this game, however i think that Criterion should also learn that "going back to your roots" doesn't have to mean you somewhat limit the gameplay options you implement. I'm also struggling to think of a score for this because usually i rate it out of 100, with broken down sections out of 10 (as shown below). As i haven't fully finished the game yet (i've completed about 27% of the total game, played about 6 hours worth but that also includes driving around in free race for 50mins looking for any sort of opponents and realising that there weren't any).
The other thing i wanted to say was that for a gamer like myself, living in Australia definitely has alot of downfalls, because from what i can work out, the Online part of this game, which is a big chunk of the game, is hosted on 1 central server, or possibly 1 regional central server, meaning that even if there was an Oceania server, it would most likely be hosted in China or Japan, and for an Aussie like myself, that's not good for online. So even if i was able to test the online capabilities, i think it would be alot like NFS: World was online, laggy, unresponsive and almost impossible to actually enjoy a decent match even against local friends.

Story: NA/10 
Handling: 6/10
AI: 8/10
Sound: 6.5/10
Voice: 5/10    
Controls: 6/10    
Models: 8.5/10  
Level Design: 9/10  
Textures: 8/10  
Technical Complexity: 5/10    
Replayability: 6/10    

Total: 68/100

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