Outrunning the Law!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The crashes are another lowlight. For starters, it’s hard to tell when they’ll occur; you can hit cars head-on without crashing sometimes, but other times, a glancing blow off a wall will trigger one. Also, the crashes are visually unimpressive, (with) just some minor crumpling before you’re set back on the road. When you hit a car but don’t quite crash, it often stays stuck to the front of your vehicle, awkwardly slowing you down.
On the bright side, there’s a good amount of content here. Local multiplayer is definitely a strong suit. Who can resist the opportunity to face off against a friend (or two or three) in a cops-and-robbers scenario? Multiplayer also moots the AI issues and draws attention to the various power-ups (a rather basic collection of speed boosts, ways to hurt your opponents, etc.).
(For) Single-player, there are four different cities, each of which has cups to win on a total of twenty tracks; you can easily work through the game in a weekend rental (if you’re masochistic enough to keep playing past the first hour or so), but it won’t give you the sense of “that’s it?” In addition to Rush Hour, there are standard races (with cops along the sidelines every once in a while), time trials (which are surprisingly tough), elimination races, and bosses.
As you unlock extras and earn cash, you can purchase new cars and deck them out with new wheels and body kits. True gearheads might be disappointed that the customization isn’t as elaborate as it has been in other Need for Speed games, but those who just want a nice-looking car will find what they’re looking for. The music, meanwhile, is exactly what you’d expect from an EA racing title, with modern rock and R&B tracks and car sounds.
One has to wonder: If all EA wanted from the Wii version of Hot Pursuit was a cartoonish arcade racer, why didn’t they give it to EA Montreal, which handled the decent Need for Speed Nitro? Instead, Wii owners are left with a truly unacceptable game. Not only does it fail to capture the magic of the next-generation version of Hot Pursuit, it fails to offer enough value to be worth so much as a rental.
It’s clear that EA was hoping to sell this game on the strength of its better counterparts, and judging by the customer reviews online, it seems that at least some people already bought it thinking it would look and play like the next-gen version. It doesn’t. Run from this game like the cops are in hot pursuit.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 2.1 Graphics
We weren’t expecting it to look like the PlayStation 3 version, but the visuals are a little bare-bones even for the Wii. 2.8 Control
Of the three control schemes, only the Gamecube controller really works well. 3.4 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Basically what you’d expect: car sounds and modern pop songs. 2.2
This game feels like an afterthought to the next-gen versions.
2.5 Overall Rating – Average
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.
|Review Rating Legend
|0.1 – 1.9 = Avoid
|2.5 – 2.9 = Average
|3.5 – 3.9 = Good
|4.5 – 4.9 = Must Buy
|2.0 – 2.4 = Poor
|3.0 – 3.4 = Fair
|4.0 – 4.4 = Great
|5.0 = The Best