Burnout developer Criterion Games took its first step into the world of Need for Speed in 2010 by partnering with DICE to create Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit. The arcade racer was a throwback to Need for Speed III: Hot Pursuit and drew praise from critics for its physics and over-the-top action featuring police chases from multiple perspectives. 10 years later, Criterion partnered with Stellar Entertainment for a remastered edition with crossplay multiplayer, all the previous DLC cars, and updated visuals. The result is more akin to a fresh coat of paint on a Toyota Supra rather than a frame-off restoration, however.
The campaign of Need for Speed Hot Pursuit Remastered consists of two main paths — outlaw and law enforcement. You can choose to either run from the authorities while driving a motorhead's dream list of cars or chase down street racers in outrageous specialty patrol vehicles while helicopters and roadblocks provide assistance. There is no story or overarching plot, just a simple overhead map showing the available events. You start at Level 1 of each path with the goal of maxing out at Level 20, which you do by finishing in the top three of each event, completing challenges, and accruing bounty points.
Criterion impressed in 2010 with its perfect balance of arcade and simulation racing, and these physics still impress a decade later. Driving the massive assortment of vehicles — ranging from a Subaru WRX to the Koenigsegg Agera — is endlessly enjoyable, whether you are trying to top 250 MPH on a straightaway or feathering the brakes around a corner to avoid a collision with another vehicle.
Criterion's mastery of physics also translates into drifting. There are several franchises that boast about having the ability to channel a drift master in every race but Need for Speed Hot Pursuit Remastered follows through with the claims. Nailing a perfect drift boils down to tapping the brake and then flicking the analog stick in one direction with the gas pedal held down. Longer drifts may require moving to the left and right in order to remain in the center of the road, but there is nothing as satisfying as perfectly pulling off a 15-second drift before hitting a straightaway and using up your accrued nitro.
All events — whether they are simple time trials, races, or hot pursuits — take place in the fictional Seacrest County, recreating portions of California, Oregon, and Washington to provide a healthy mix of scenery. One race features high-powered supercars drifting up the side of a massive mountain while another pits the 2010 Bugatti Veyron against law enforcement in an oceanside chase. Criterion and Stellar deliver these events with a steady 30 frames per second on base consoles such as the PS4 and Xbox One and 60 on their more-powerful counterparts.
Racing through these locations at breakneck speed becomes very enjoyable due to spike strips and other tools at your disposal, as well as the updated visuals. Need for Speed Hot Pursuit Remastered does not look as impressive as Dirt 5 or games designed from the ground up for modern and next-gen consoles, but it is still eye-catching at times. The sun glistens across the ocean waves while the Redwood trees provide a cover of shade.
It can be difficult to keep track of the action on the road, as well as oncoming traffic, while driving 200 MPH and staring at the surrounding environments. Fortunately, Criterion and Stellar added the ability to take in the scenery through the new photo mode and capture multiple screenshots showing the cars in action. There is also the option to enter a free drive mode as an outlaw or police officer. You can pick from the unlocked assortment of vehicles and then drive around listening to hits from 2010, such as Weezer's "Ruling Me," Lazee's "Stronger (feat. Dead by April)," and M.I.A.'s "Born Free."
While the driving feels just as good in 2020 as it did in 2010, especially while exploring the beautiful areas, there are certain aspects that create frustration. Need for Speed Hot Pursuit Remastered has very noticeable rubber banding, meaning that the AI drivers are constantly around you regardless of car choices. Criterion implemented this system in 2010 to make every race more intense, but it creates issues on events pushing 25 miles in length. You can pick the fastest production car in the game and head to the starting line, but cars with much lower top speeds will remain uncatchable for much of the race, forcing multiple tries to achieve bronze, silver, or gold.
The rubber banding also becomes more noticeable when there are massive wrecks. All too frequently, another car will slam into a wall and wreck in glorious fashion with two miles remaining in the race. It will be nowhere in sight but will magically spawn and easily race to the front of the line with seconds remaining.
This sort of thing is a common issue in racing games, but other franchises have taken a different approach. Forza Horizon 3, for example, had the ability to lower and raise the difficulty of opponents before each event. This option made it possible to learn the tracks and get used to the cars before increasing the competition level. In Need for Speed Hot Pursuit Remastered, you either must race perfectly every single time or risk wasting 5 to 20 minutes for a meaningless finish.
Fortunately, the multiplayer modes provide the opportunity to race against opponents with similar skill levels while simultaneously accruing bounty points and leveling up. There are several highly enjoyable modes, including Hot Pursuit, Arms Race, and Interceptor among others. Arms Race takes the standard racing formula and adds both police officers and an assortment of offensive and defensive weapons to create utter havoc in the best possible way. Interceptor, on the other hand, features two players in a chase across an entirely open world. These modes provide constant entertainment while mostly removing the AI issues from single player.
Need for Speed Hot Pursuit Remastered is a true blast from the past, for better or worse. The driving feels sublime, and the updated visuals look fantastic at 30 fps. The added crossplay provides even more opportunities to partner with online racers for high-speed hijinks regardless of platform. However, the lack of any difficulty settings and the rubber banding serve as a stark reminder of how far the racing genre has come in 10 years.
Rating: 4 out of 5
Need for Speed Hot Pursuit Remastered is currently available for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and PC. A PlayStation 4 code was provided by Criterion for the purpose of this review, and it was reviewed on a base model PS4.