This week, EA Games released the latest version of their long lived saga Need for Speed into the app store. Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit follows in the footsteps of NFS: Shift, which took the game back to its roots and was a welcome return to form with both the console version and the iPhone version being well received. The question is have they managed to maintain the momentum with this latest version?
Well, one thing that is apparent from the start, in this iPhone version you only get to play as the hunter, unlike the console counterpart which offers you the choice. This means that the 15 high performance real world cars that you get to unlock will only ever sport the rather sober black and white livery of the police. Don’t despair too much though, this doesn’t mean the vehicles on offer aren’t spectacular, from the Nissan 370Z Coupe that you start with all the way up to the Porsche’s, Corvette’s and even the mighty Bugatti Veyron make an appearance for your crime busting pleasure.
On first launch you are taken straight to the tutorial where you are guided through the simple controls of the game and from there you are straight into your first pursuit.
There are 24 pursuits to the career mode and each event falls into one of four categories: Tough Justice, Rapid Response, Interceptor and Power Struggle.
In both tough Justice and Interceptor you are tasked with taking down one or more criminal opponents by ramming them off the road, or by use of various police tools available to you, these include EMP’s and Road Blocks. Rapid Response and Power Struggle are more straight forward checkpoint and straight line racing that anyone who’s ever played a racing game will understand.
Focusing back on Tough Justice and Interceptor these both sound fantastic when you first think about the tools available to you. However, all is not well here, both the EMP and Road block are nowhere near as satisfying or effective to use, in the time I spent with it the EMP device, which should cause your opponents to lose control and fly off the road does next to nothing to slow them down and the roadblocks are less than effective. In addition, the nitro boost is poorly implemented- I’ve lost count of the number of times I hit the boost button when close to the car in front only to have them mysteriously match my speed, thus making any advantage I may have gained useless.
That all being said, providing you don’t rely exclusively on the above to take down your opponents the game can be rather satisfying just don’t expect the same level of immersion that you got from NFS:Shift.
The game auto accelerates by default and so the entire game can be played by just tilting your device to steer and the occasional up swipe of the screen to enable nitro (I’d highly recommend adjusting the sensitivity before starting as the default is not sensitive enough). The game does allow you to switch to manual acceleration, but there are no additional control methods available, it’s accelerometer only.
Despite this lack of customization the game still dishes up some great moments, helped out by the blisteringly beautiful graphics. The entire game is optimized for the iPhone 4’s retina display and the scenery is wonderfully rendered as you drive through coastal, desert and mountain environments in day, night and dusk scenarios. I had no issues with the visuals of the game on my own iPhone 4 and the frame rate was as smooth as silk.
The game ships with multiplayer only being available over wifi and bluetooth meaning there is no online components to the game, which is a shame as it would add some additional replay value to the game.
Providing you’re not looking for an in depth realistic racing experience and accept that this is more of an arcade racer then you should be able to get a decent amount of enjoyment out of it. It’s certainly something that the more casual gamer should get plenty of enjoyment out of and there’s sufficient content to make it worth the asking price.