Need for Speed Hot Pursuit is, in my opinion, the best modern NFS game on record. In the last 10 years, nothing has come close to recapturing the formula that made the pre-Underground games so charming, playful and challenging. With Need for Speed Hot Pursuit Remastered now out in the world, and my having had a chance for a lengthy play-through, I've found this polished game really unfolds as two tales.
I'll be blunt about those two tales: NFS Hot Pursuit Remastered is as good as ever. It's a wonderful arcade racer with the best of the NFS franchise on display. It's also disappointing because of the word in its official title: "Remastered." After 10 years, graphics and technology have come a long way, but NFS HP Remastered doesn't move the needle like it should to wear that title.
True, the ambient lighting is gorgeous and some of the textures pop a lot more than they did in the past with 4K support and 60 frames per second, but the final product looks shockingly similar to the original game. The car models are nearly identical, and some improvements to sharpen them led to more washed-out touches, like the taillights illuminating in a foggy fashion. It's sort of odd, frankly. This isn't all a dig because NFS HP still looks pretty decent by today's standards. Yet, for a remastered game, it's a letdown because it feels like the developers left a lot on the table.
Now, let's talk about the other tale that unfolded during my time with the game: the gameplay itself. If you never picked up the original (not remastered) version, you're in for a grand NFS experience. Players flip between events as either a racer or part of the Seacrest County police department. Naturally, with so many fast cars zipping around, SCPD looks a lot like a young car enthusiast's dreamiest police squad. Not only are early 2010 staple police cars available to play with (Ford's Crown Victoria and Taurus Police Interceptors) but anything from a Mazda RX-8 to an Aston Martin One-77 police vehicle is at your disposal. With time, of course. You'll have to prove yourself and unlock the best machines racers and cops have at their disposal. Plus, the remastered version includes all past DLC for an even wider variety of cars. If you played the series, a lot of the progression and UI will feel very familiar. It's because Criterion originally took the helm for this entry into the series, and I thank it for its contribution.
Just like the original game, each side has weapons to gain an upper hand. Racers and cops have EMP blasts to damage opponents and shut down communications, and both share spike strips. Racers can jam an EMP blast and unlock a powerful turbo boost as cops unleash road blocks and police helicopters as the chase goes on. It's top-notch NFS fun to race around a seriously diverse map with what feels like a greatest-hits of nostalgic NFS tracks. A little bit of coastal love, some deserts, deeply wooded areas and some snow are all part of the fictional area that is Seacrest County.
And Autolog is back. The feature, which tracks your friends every step of the way to fuel competition, was pretty groundbreaking back in 2010, and in 2020 it supports cross-platform play. Now you can compete with anyone, not just friends who share a copy of the PC, Xbox or PlayStation version.
I wish these tales had found a place to intersect because a real sense of conflict opened up as I enjoyed the game once more. NFS HP Remastered is a great game and it was one when it originally arrived a decade ago. On the one hand, the game does look better. On the other, it definitely doesn't go far enough as a remastered title. For those who already experienced Seacrest County in the past, it's probably safe to pass on the remastered version. If you never picked it up before, it's a great chance to experience an incredible game. If I had my pick, I'd opt for the Nintendo Switch version to take all the thrills on the go, which wasn't possible 10 years ago.