Coming from developer Criterion Games, it’s easy to see the shared DNA between Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit and the Burnout series. Cars have a great sense of speed, drifting is fun and forgiving, and taking down vehicles can still be a blast. The huge variety of events and cars, split into a parallel career mode for both cops and racers, provides a simple but back-to-basics approach that Need for Speed has been sorely missing for a while now. Combine this with weapons and the Autolog system, and it’s clear why Hot Pursuit was considered to be among the better games in the series. Yet, revamped on Nintendo Switch, Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit Remastered doesn’t do much to reinvent the wheel.
The need for speed
Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit Remastered focuses on getting you into a range of exotic cars before letting you throw them around corners at 150 MPH. The career mode is split into events for cops and racers respectively. As a racer you’ll be juggling trying to win races whilst also fighting off the cops in your rear-view mirror. On the other hand, as a cop, you’ll be tasked with taking down escaping racers through tried-and-true Burnout-style takedowns or through a set of weapons with limited uses. No matter how you play, there’s a great variety of events and cars to toy with, and the weapon system is the cherry on top.
Weapons like deployable spike strips or an EMP attack that requires a lengthy lock-on add an appreciable layer of strategy to driving. Do you intentionally hang behind an opponent for an EMP blast, or perhaps line up your mirror to nail a trailing cop with a spike strip? Cars themselves can initially feel on the heavy side. They’ll take some effort to swing around corners, but as you get used to the handling and weight, it makes each successful drift a lot more rewarding. There’s a great sense of speed as you careen these supercars through each course, and braking tends to be on the forgiving side so there’s little reason to not go all out.
There’s a fantastic variety of cars spanning all types. From classic muscle cars like the Ford GT500 Shelby, to hyper cars like the Lamborghini Reventon, there’s something for everyone. Though, apart from color options, the lack of car customization really stings.
Driving dangerously fills a nitrous meter, which can then be used for a burst of speed to help with an overtake, speed up out of a corner, or even correct your car mid-drift. It’s balanced well enough to make it a powerful tool with limited uses. Whether you’re aiming to bust racers under a given time to earn the best medal or outrace cops to get more bounty, there’s a fun time to be had in Hot Pursuit Remastered. Though, aside from the extra cars and challenges provided by the included DLC content, there are few significant additions to the gameplay experience.
What’s under the hood?
While the gameplay is solid and familiar, the design of Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit Remastered still carries over some niggling issues from the original. The much lauded Autolog system returns and works well to provide updates on friends that have beaten your records. Knowing that a friend has beaten your time and having the option try and take the score back from them is still fun and adds some great replay value depending on how competitive you are. That said, Autolog isn’t as unique a feature as it used to be.
Outside of Autolog, the game also retains plenty of “carrot on the stick” mechanics to keep you engaged. As you race you’ll earn bounty to level up and consistently unlock cars, events, and weapons, so there’s always the fun sense that you’ll be unlocking something new at every turn.
Event variety stands out with modes like races, duels, hot pursuits, and time attacks to name a few. However, as both cops and racers have largely the same types of events and weapons available, you might wish for just a little more differentiation between them. For example, both sides have preview events that are little more than time attack races on tracks you’ll repeat later on. Although, it’s nice that these events let you try out cars you wouldn’t unlock until much further down the road.
While driving, the racer AI can put up a fair challenge. They’ll use off-road shortcuts and be aggressive without being overly annoying. On the other hand, the police AI is a far cry from the intensity of Need for Speed: Most Wanted, but they aren’t exactly pushovers either.
The fictional map of Seacreast has a nice variety of road layouts and scenery, but as an open world it offers nothing to interact with and ends up feeling empty and underutilized compared to those in modern open-world racers. However, online functionality fares better thanks to some new improvements. Cross-platform play means that you won’t have to wait long to find a match, and the included mixture of modes is small but enjoyable. Although, it’s best to spend time unlocking high-end cars from single-player modes before you try the online suite, as the game offers no handicaps for players with weaker cars.
Sights and sounds
As a remaster on Nintendo Switch, Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit Remastered does the job it sets out to accomplish. Booting up the game, it’s great to hear Thirty Seconds to Mars’ “Edge of the Earth” and know that the original soundtrack is back, even if it doesn’t stand out as much as it used to. In terms of frame rate, it may not be the smooth 60 FPS you’ll see on other platforms, but the 30 FPS frame rate on Switch holds steady no matter which mode you play in. 1080p in docked mode and 720p in handheld mode have been the standard for many recent Switch ports, and it is the case here too. Aside from some rare issues I came across, the game is also generally free of glitches to boot. Yet, while the Switch remaster nails these aspects, it rarely goes the extra mile.
Rain-slicked roads and reflections in tunnels look beautiful and show off some improved lighting, but pre-race videos can sometimes be jarringly low-resolution, and environmental textures can still look a little flat or pop in as you approach them. Cars sound distinct while being appropriately loud and punchy, though they’ll never take on as much damage as cars from a Burnout game would. The lack of consistency in its presentation means that the game can sometimes feel like it isn’t much of an upgrade over the original. New display options like adjustable motion blur and depth of field, or an added photo mode, are nice additions but don’t add much to the overall package.
While it may not be the Need for Speed title that fans most wanted, Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit Remastered does enough to satisfy series veterans. It works as a brilliant reminder that without the various gimmicks that the franchise has tacked on over the years, the simple premise of street racing and police chases is where the series shines best. A variety of cop and racer events, fun weapons, and the Autolog system set it apart from its NFS siblings, but on Nintendo Switch, the game doesn’t go beyond being a more feature-complete and graphically improved version of the original. Newcomers may not find as much to be excited about in it when compared to more contemporary racing games, but for fans of the series, Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit Remastered is a welcome return to form.