UPDATE since the time of the original writing: EA has released a huge (and free) update to NFS Hot Pursuit that now allows you to play as the Racer in all new Career and Quick Play modes. The update features new cars to unlock, some colour customizations for the Racers, and some new variations on the insanely high-speed race and chase levels that might leave your face stuck in a permanent grin. if you thought Need for Speed Hot Pursuit was cool before, it is now positively NOs-burning, tire-melting hot. Get it! Also, NFS: HP is on sale for iPhone for only 99¢!
When playing a street racing game like Need for Speed, you probably don't spent a lot of time thinking "Gee, I really wish I could play the cop." Oh, I know, you're a cop in NFS Undercover, but that's different -- you're still a rebel, and still playing the part of the bad-ass racer. Well, let me tell you: all that is about to change. Once you get your hands on Need for Speed Hot Pursuit, you might just be excited enough to put in an application to the academy. Hot Pursuit is the fastest, most fun to play racer on the iOS platform today, and if you don't pick it up, it just might be criminal.
Need for Speed Hot Pursuit puts you into one of 15 suped up police cars varying from the Nissan 370Z Coupe, to the Bugatti Veyron 16.4, and the Lamborghini Reventon. It then throws you full-throttle onto the roads, chasing down street racers or going head to head against other cops. And when I say full-throttle, I mean that the default setting is automatically pedal to the floor -- though you can turn that off in the settings if you like. I can't think for the life of me why you would, though.
If you get tired of playing the cop and absolutely must put on your bad-ass street-racer hat, you can connect with a friend via wifi or Bluetooth and go head to head for a little cops and robbers action. Local multiplayer gives you each five cars to choose from, and you can spend hours smashing into each other at breakneck speeds. You can even play iPad vs iPhone. The only problem with local multiplayer is that it can lead to multiple pauses while the race re-syncs, at least between iPad and iPhone races -- it's possible that iPhone to iPhone doesn't have that problem.
Gameplay in Need for Speed Hot Pursuit is on the simple side compared to other NFS games like Shift and Undercover. Once you decide how you want to deal with acceleration, the rest of the game is handled like other iOS Need for Speed titles: a few simple gestures on specific parts of the screen, and a few transparent buttons. Hot Pursuit cuts things down to three gestures only -- touch to brake, swipe down for E-brake, swipe up for boost -- and about three buttons, aside from pause and camera (which are in the top left and right corners, respectively). The swipe controls combine with sharp or gentle turns of the device to steer the vehicle.
The three buttons, which are located in a stack down the right side of the screen on the iPad, and on the bottom of the screen on the iPhone/iPod Touch, are used for weapons. As a cop, you can call in a road block, use an EMP weapon to short out the racer's electrical system, and can drop a spike strip to take out the perp's tires. Buttons charge as time goes by, and not all are available in every race. The only weapon that is a near-guaranteed hit on your opponent is a roadblock. For EMP, distance and line of sight are important, and for spike strips, you have to do some steady driving until the indicator turns green.
When playing in multiplayer mode, all attacks are open to you, and the person playing the racer has access to racers' weapons, which are handled by the AI during solo races. Racers' weapons are mostly defensive: overdrive to break roadblocks, jamming to block EMP, and oil slick to slow down the speeding cop.
NFS Hot Pursuit has both Quick Play and Career modes. Quick Play allows you to choose either a chase or a straight up race, pick from a few scenarios (desert, beach, and mountain in the day, night, or a storm). Picking scenarios is a nice option, but you probably won't notice any real difference in the way your cars handle. In Career mode, car and race selection menus are pretty much the same as in every other NFS game on iOS, using a touch map with highlighted points to indicate races, easy swipes to switch between vehicles, as well as some various viewing options.
There's nothing in the way of car customization in Hot Pursuit, which will be disappointing to some, but the game is so fun without it, it's hard to notice that it's missing at all. There is a money system in the game, called Bounty (I guess the cops are hired guns or reaping a bonus for collars or something), and that is used to purchase new cars. Bounty is won when you win races, and, of course, you win more by acquiring achievements for racing with style. If you are in a hurry to unlock all of the cars, you can always use one of the buttons for in-app Bounty purchases, I wouldn’t recommend that, though, as it will vastly decrease the replay value of Hot Pursuit. With nothing to work toward, you will only pull it out just to run the occasional super-fast race while you are waiting for something, or to play a multiplayer game now and again.
Graphics and Audio
I've recently seen better looking iOS games start to appear outside of the racing genre, so it's possible that future NFS games will look even better than they do now, but it can't be denied that NFS Hot Pursuit is one beautiful racing game. Graphics look even better on the iPad and iPhone 4, but the difference compared to a 3GS isn't astounding, by any means.
Need for Speed Hot Pursuit feels like one of the fastest games I've ever had the pleasure to play on the iOS platform, and audio plays a big factor in the game's intensity. The roar of the engine, screech of the tires, wail of the sirens, and crunching of the cars as they slam into things and each other is well balanced with the typical NFS rockin' soundtrack to generate excitement and an overall feeling of speed. I really wouldn't want a Need for Speed soundtrack in my car... I would almost definitely end up with a ticket or worse. As an added bonus, if the music is either too much or not enough for you, you can always put on your own via iTunes or another music application.
I loved playing Need for Speed Hot Pursuit on the iPad (which generally costs $9.99), as the increased screen size makes for a beautiful game -- but playing on the iPhone ($4.99) was somehow more fun. Something about the iPhone's smaller screen size made this blazingly fast racing game seem to run even faster; even more intense. Also, the iPad is a bit heavy, which made me wish for a virtual joystick after extended play. Either way, for its raw speed and simple, fun controls, Hot Pursuit is, in my opinion, one of the best racing game out on iOS to date.