Racing games and simulation have been part of the scene ever since video games became popular in the early 1980s. The evolution of the genre, however, is something that is a marvel in and of itself. From the top-down view of the “ancient” racing games to the ultra-modern racing simulations is a journey that every gaming… enthusiast can appreciate. To those who are familiar with racing games, Need for Speed needs no introduction. It has become one of the giants in the racing genre over the past decade akin to Gran Turismo. Although nobody in their sane state of mind would call Need for Speed a ‘simulation’, it is still evocative of the racing experience to some degree. Plus, who can argue against driving $1M+ cars at 200+ mph recklessly and not get pulled over? Racing games provide that outlet for us speed demons. Need for Speed Hot Pursuit was refashioned in 2010 by Criterion Games and published by Electronic Arts (EA). The developer, Criterion Games, is well known in the racing-game world. They also developed the Formula 1 games (F1 2010, F1 2011 etc.) and so have some experience with simulating supercars and hyper-fast machines! The game was released on Nov. 16, 2011 on the Xbox 360, PS3, and PC. Of course, the PC version is what we care about the most. Using the Chameleon engine, NFS Hot Pursuit is really a beautiful game. The graphics are so incredible that you really have to see it in full Surround glory to get the experience of driving a Pagani Zonda Cinque at over 210mph!
Need for Speed Hot Pursuit is primarily an arcade racer. In other words, it’s a game that you turn on for an hour or two with your friends and ‘race’ them online. Hence, the singleplayer campaign is more of a ‘career’ mode where the gamer has to win a series of races to unlock various cars and upgrades. You can be either a racer or a cop. If only that were true in real life! As a racer, your job is to not only win the race but to make sure you don’t get busted by the “punk police”. At your disposal, after some progress in the game, are various devices that can aid you in achieving your goal; spike strips, ECM jammer, Turbo mode, and EMP lock. Combine this with an assortment of some of the greatest cars in the world such as the Pagani Zonda, Lamborghinin Reventon, and the Bugatti Veyron Grandsport, it makes for some insanely exciting fun!
The progress through the career mode is somewhat tiresome due to the fact that most of the cooler cars are not available from the start; they have to be unlocked by earning points. This may sound ‘awesome’ to a 10-year old, but as adult gamers, we at Thirty Inch Reviews find that kind of linear progression tiresome and frankly boring. It is a wish for us, and we bet for thousands of other gamers like you out there, that these developers will just provide a ‘free drive’ mode with ALL the cars unlocked so that we can just jump into a supercar, tear up the highways at 200+ mph for about 30 minutes and get on with our lives. As adults, we simply don’t have the time to sit through hours of the same type of ‘escape the cop’ or ‘bust the racer’ modes to unlock the best cars in the game. Nonetheless, once you get past the drudgery of unlocking all the upgrades and cars, NFS Hot Pursuit is a fantastic game that is exhilarating. It is jaw-dropping to see a McLaren F1 being chased by a Bugatti Veyron police unit at around 240mph with sirens blaring and spike strips falling by the wayside. To see a Pagani Zonda Cinque Roadster cruise the desert at over 200mph is vicarious pleasure at its best. Unless you own a Zonda Cinque yourself (a car that is not street-legal in the US by the way), getting to rage in one with no risk is something that only NFS Hot Pursuit provides.
With brilliant graphics, car models, and sounds, the only gripe that we have for NFS Hot Pursuit is the handling. It is downright atrocious. For an arcade gamer, it is understandable that one would not want near 100% simulation of real-world handling, but come on! Yanking the E-brake at 200+mph to drift along a U-Turn is retarded any way you think about it. The cars feel ‘heavy’ and the response is just sluggish. It almost seems like the developers want you to crash! When driving along the scenic routes in the game, any traffic, either oncoming or otherwise, the car seems to pull towards it. Other than the handling, the game is superb on all fronts. If Criterion Games made the handling more fluid and somewhat more realistic, this game would have received the highest accolades from reviewers around the world.
The online multiplayer is where the game really comes alive. Competing with your friends in a heart-stopping race with hypercars is something made of magic. Particularly, the cursing that follows a deftly placed spike strip to take out your buddy trying to overtake you! The other awesome thing is that while you and your friends can be the racers, another group of online players can be the cops and try to hunt you down. With every car loaded with spike strips, ECM jammers, and EMP locks, and Turbo modes, and while the cops have road blocks, helicopter assists, EMP locks, and spike strips of their own, the actual racing becomes intense. Sometimes, the matches are uneven in the sense that the cops might use the Koenigsegg Agera, capable of 240mph, while the racers might stick with a Lamborghini Gallardo which can do just a touch over 200mph. Yet, the game when played online is still massively entertaining and brings out the best in the gaming experience; having fun! Some folks take gaming way too seriously and complain at every apparent defect but it helps once in a while to just sit back, turn your mind off, and just race with some buddies online.
On a single 30 inch monitor, at 2560x1600px, the game looks fantastic with all the settings maxed out. As usual, EA and/or Criterion refused to (or forgot to) put anti-aliasing (AA) settings in the game in addition to omitting anisotropic filtering (AF). However, at ThirtyIR, we are no chopped liver! We dived into nVidia Inspector and let the mad doctor go to work. The AA settings were tweaked to allow an obscene 32xCSAA setting with AF set to x16. Once we fired up the game, good Lord it looked stunning! [grab the wallpaper for your own desktop] The graphics without any bells and whistles already looked great but at ThirtyIR, we are never satisfied with the status quo. Therefore, we maxed out every setting under the sun to get the best out of the game. By trying several different AA combinations such as 16xQ CSAA, 8xMSAA and 8xSGSSAA (sparse-grid supersampling AA), 4xMSAA and 4xSGSSAA etc., we were able to settle on 32xCSAA as the best setting for single monitor resolutions for NFS Hot Pursuit. The Uber Rig was able to easily handle this setting and the game was pegged at a solid 60 FPS with around 2.4GB of VRAM being used! Of course, whenever its possible, at Thirty Inch Reviews, we like to think that one 30″ monitor is not enough! So what did we do? We turned the settings to a massive 12.96MP resolution of 8100×1600 to game in full nVidia Surround glory!
In Surround mode, the game is just out of this world; the graphics jump out at you and the real feeling of speed becomes apparent very quickly. Of course, at this large of a resolution (remember, 8100×1600 is pushing 12,960,000 pixels), we had to turn the anti-aliasing setting down. Using nVidia Inspector, we turned the AA setting to just 4xMSAA. We tried to be clever and turned on Sparse-Grid Supersampling AA (read more about SGSSAA here) and turned that up to 4xSGSSAA. I suppose even the EVGA GTX-580 Classified (3GB) in 4-Way SLI couldn’t take it; there was massive flickering on the screen with a rainbow-colored potpourri of artifacts! Once we turned the SGSSAA off, the game was back to its perfect state at 60 FPS.
One of the best things in Surround in this game is the road-level view when driving fast! It is somewhat disorienting at first but my goodness, it is such an exhilarating experience that it almost feels like a visual roller coaster. The sense of speed was beautifully captured by Criterion Games. Blasting at 250mph in a Koenigsegg CCXR dropped jaws here at Thirty Inch Reviews. It is an interesting tidbit to know that the CEO of nVidia, Jensen Huang, owns a Koenigsegg CCX (in reality, not in the game)! What a thrill that must be!
If you have nVidia Surround or AMD Eyefinity, you must get this game! It is a truly fabulous experience and the folks over at Criterion Games have really hit one out of the park. Too bad the more recent NFS: The Run didn’t live up to the hype.
Watch as we tear up the roads of Seacrest County in a Lamborghini LP-670SV!
Need for Speed Hot Pursuit is a game for anyone who likes cars and especially exotic cars. It isn’t too often you get to see $1M+ cars on the road (unless you live in Monaco). Even then, they are usually going at half the speed limit and the owners seem to pussyfoot (real word!) them afraid of letting their ‘babies’ get dusty! It is obvious an arcade racer like NFS Hot Pursuit won’t fill the gap, however, it is still a great experience to jump online with your buddies and race exotic cars without any (physical) risk. Yes, trying to use a spike strip on a police car if being pulled over is not recommended in reality. This is something that is recommended in NFS Hot Pursuit, however! Overall, the game is an exciting racer with great cars and substandard handling. If simulation is what you are after, do NOT get this game. If you just want to let loose and have some fun, pick it up and burn some rubber!
The game is highly recommended to be played in nVidia Surround or AMD Eyefinity if available. The experience becomes much more immersive and thrilling with multiple monitors. If you have just one monitor, it is still a great game and the added advantage to that is the ability to turn up all the bells and whistles in the settings to make the game really ‘pop’. Using nVidia Inspector to tweak your settings allows for even more fun and let the graphics do all the ‘showing’.