Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit Review
Xbox 360 | PS3 | PC | Wii
Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit box art
System: X360, PS3, PC
Dev: Exient Games
Pub: Electronic Arts
Release: November 16, 2010
Players: 1-4
Screen Resolution: 480p Violence
Outrunning the Law!
by Robert VerBruggen

By all accounts, the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and PC versions of Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit are incredible. Developed by Burnout gurus Criterion Games and inspired by the 1998 classic Need for Speed III, the title takes the cops-and-robbers concept to the next level, and fans of arcade racers are almost guaranteed to love it.

Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit screenshot

Ready for a shocker? The Wii version of Hot Pursuit, separately developed by Exient, can't hold a candle to its next-generation counterparts. Go ahead; take a few minutes to recover. We'll be right here, (no comma) waiting.

To be fair, many of Hot Pursuit's deficiencies are the kind of thing you should expect when you buy a Wii game. There's no online multiplayer, for one. For another, the graphics aren't nearly as good as the ones you see in online videos, which are drawn from the higher-tech versions of the game. Given that some other Wii games look much better than this one, there's no excuse for the lack of detail and the cartoonish style, but it's not as though anyone could reasonably have expected this to look just as good as Criterion's handiwork. If these graphics had been paired with great gameplay, we wouldn't have complained too much.

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But the Wii's limitations don't explain most of the game's problems, giving us reason to suspect that this version of Hot Pursuit was little more than an afterthought. For example, the controls are a disaster. There are three different setups to choose from, and only the Gamecube controller is a reasonable option.

Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit screenshot

The Wii Wheel setup works fairly well, but only until you engage the drift, at which point there's absolutely no telling what your car is going to do. It might turn in a way that feels perfectly natural. Then again, it might skid and keep going straight. Or, it might lurch in one direction or the other, or pause for a split second before turning. These problems become more manageable with practice, but it never feels as natural as, say, Mario Kart Wii. And awkwardness aside, it's quite clear that this setup wasn't a priority for the developers. When you go through the menus, you still have to use the A button to select options, even though, with the Wii-mote on its side, the 2 button feels far more natural. (Seriously, did the developers even try playing Mario Kart Wii, the gold standard for Wii Wheel racing controls?)

You can also use the Wii-mote and Nunchuk together, and this makes drifting considerably easier, but then you have to use the B button (the trigger) to accelerate, which makes your wrist hurt after a few races. There's no option to change it to the A button, and you have to shake the Wii-mote to engage boost. So, assuming you want to control your drifts and don't want carpal tunnel, plan on taking a trip in time back to the last generation (if the graphics didn't already put you in a 2001 frame of mind) and hooking up a Gamecube controller.

Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit screenshot

The other game-breaking problem is that in the single-player modes, the enemy AI is atrocious. The rubber-banding is so dramatic and blatant that it insults one's intelligence. Sometimes, the game will let you gain ridiculous amounts of ground quickly; other times, it will simply throw another racer in front of you right before a checkpoint or checkered flag. "Rush Hour" mode, in which you have to pass ninety-nine cars (with certain goals along the way -- you'll have forty seconds to climb twenty or so places, for example), is the worst offender. The cars often clump together, meaning that a split second can mean a difference of five or more places. Also, the speed of the other cars seems to change at random; you can pass ten cars at once, and then watch your last twenty seconds tick away while you fail to gain any ground.

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