In the strange fantasy world of 2010's Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit, I still don't like that the cops somehow have Aston Martins and Lamborghinis, but I can live with it. Racing through Seacrest County, I can't help but be reminded of Montana's old "reasonable and prudent" highway speed limit law. Drivers used to speed as they pleased, but a cop could then ruin their day if they failed the officer's personal measure of "reasonable." Criterion's Hot Pursuit is what I imagine driving in Montana would've been like if the police had V12s.
Hot Pursuit, like Criterion's 2008 classic Burnout Paradise before it, is coming back. I recently revisited Seacrest's highways, mountain passes, and dirt roads by way of Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit Remastered, the new version from Criterion and Stellar Entertainment (also behind the Paradise remaster). Set to launch for PC, Xbox One, and PS4 on Nov. 6 followed by a Switch release on Nov. 13, Hot Pursuit: Remastered is the base game plus all the DLC cars and modes, bound together in a single package with some nice quality-of-life improvements and light graphical changes.
Ahead of the announcement, Electronic Arts gave press access to a "near-final" build of the game on PC, which I logged a few hours with. It was more than enough time to reacclimate to (and enjoy) Criterion's first take on Need For Speed from a decade ago.
This is not to say Hot Pursuit doesn't show its age. For starters, this is not a remaster on the level of Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 1 + 2 or its ilk—it's the same Hot Pursuit engine and world with small changes here and there, running on my PC at 4K and 60 frames per second. It looks nice and I think the weather effects have aged quite well, but that's decade-old artistry holding up, not any new technical wizardry at play. Hot Pursuit's remaster looks good because the original looked quite nice for its time.
The elements that date Hot Pursuit Remastered the most, for better and worse, are what exist beyond the still-excellent driving. For one, there's the soundtrack which returns in its entirety here. There's the somewhat tacky score that plays during cop takedown missions, but there are also 2010 jams like Chiddy Bang's "Opposite of Adults," which hit with an "oh, right" moment of recognition (as opposed to the "oh hell yeah" glee of hearing Avril Lavigne or Guns N' Roses in Burnout Paradise).
Then there's Autolog, the always-enabled social challenge feature that Criterion launched with Hot Pursuit. Later making its way into a few subsequent Need For Speed titles, Autolog ranks players' records for every activity on a "wall" populated with any other friends playing the game. From there, it actively recommends that players try to go beat their friends' best times. Unfortunately, if you're still on the same Gamertag or account you were a decade ago, you won't find your old time records here again, but the feature works just as it did in the original.
Autolog is solidly a nice-to-have feature that was billed as a big deal ten years ago because, at least by virtue of it working well, it sort of was one. This manner of asynchronous competition has been done in smarter and better ways since, but the saving grace for Hot Pursuit Remastered is that even though the Autolog stuff is frequently surfaced, it's never distracting. Where other games then scrambled to cram in unnecessary social features, Hot Pursuit was smart about it without being too in-your-face.
One of Hot Pursuit's real throwback strengths here relates to that same idea—Criterion put very little in the game to distract from the driving. You launch into cop or racer missions from a simple map menu, rack up bounty to unlock new cars, and never stop for a lengthy wannabe-Fast and Furious cutscene. The "story" of Hot Pursuit is as follows: you're here to drive fast, explore the open world, and increase your rank. That's all, and it's more than enough to entertain.
If you want, you can go deeper with Hot Pursuit Remastered by opening up photo mode or taking your races and chases to online multiplayer. I didn't get to try the latter, but I did fiddle with the photo mode, which features a few new improvements. Getting your depth of field and focus just right can highlight the ways in which Hot Pursuit looks old, but it can just as easily prove that the best in the biz have known how to make shiny cars look pretty damn great for a long time now.
Players will actually have good reason to start diving back into car photography with Hot Pursuit Remastered, though, as it will be getting brand new support for custom wraps. My gut tells me that Criterion and EA think a good chunk of Need For Speed fans may come back to Hot Pursuit as their go-to until Criterion's new title comes, hence the effort in adding such a substantial customization feature.
Mostly, though, the Hot Pursuit experience appears to be untouched, which is probably for the best. In the unfinished build I played, I did notice a bit of inconsistent screen tearing, but the frame rate never wavered and gameplay was a constant delight. On the Xbox One X and PlayStation 4 Pro, the game will target 30 frames per second at 4K and 60 at 1080p. Expect 30 frames per second at 1080p on the base consoles and Switch.
As for next-gen systems, Criterion and Stellar Entertainment are promising backward compatibility for the new Xboxes and PlayStation with no specifics beyond that. If you're intrigued at the thought of playing Hot Pursuit again, though, you're surely not in it for a next-gen driving showcase. The roads of Seacrest County are back, the spike-strips and other gadgets are still satisfying to use, and the cars max out at unreasonable, imprudent speeds. Sound the sirens and start the cat and mouse chases all over again—just remember, you may need to expand your friends list to really get the Autolog popping off like it's 2010 again.