The words "hot pursuit" as they pertain to the Need for Speed franchise are something like holy ground to those who played HP1 (PS1) and even more so HP2 (PS2). They turned the genre on its ear with their level of polish and commitment to what they were trying to do—create exciting and brutal police chases with excellent vehicle handling and an awesome soundtrack. They were a sizable step forward in a genre that had gotten all too comfortable with rote driving in circles or otherwise non-interactive environments and track elements. Criterion had a tall task before them to live up to the legacy, but with several strong entries in their Burnout franchise under their belt, and an apparent sense that turning a new HP into something too akin to Burnout wouldn't be doing the series justice, I was confident they could handle the responsibility.
But something went wrong.
I remember after logging dozens of hours into Burnout Paradise and admiring the level of polish evident in every aspect of that title — though it wasn't quite perfect, mind you — I remembered another NFS game had come out: Undercover. I was none-too-thrilled with the over-emphasis on story in Most Wanted and Carbon, but if there's well executed, engaging gameplay and striking visuals, I'm inclined to give it the benefit of the doubt. While Most Wanted was decent enough, I got tired of Carbon's irritating challenges and linearity well before the finish. And I think we'd all like to forget about ProStreet.
So I rented Undercover and put up with the tedious acting long enough to get my hands on the steering wheel. That's where it all came apart. The game felt like a late PS2 budget title rather than a proper PS3 game. Jaggies, boring textures, uninspired visuals, tame city design, narcoleptic street layout, dull missions...the whole thing was an insufferable bore. And what with the minimal load times and embracing of the open-world design in Burnout Paradise, Undercover felt like a soulless, half-cooked turd. I played it for about an hour, realized there was nothing there I couldn't find better of someplace else, and shut it down.
I mention all this because I got a terribly strong sense of deja vu when I fired up the new Hot Pursuit.
The interface tries to be slick, tries to mimic the map layout from Burnout Revenge, which I guess shouldn't be unexpected given who the developer was. The title song rocked through the speakers and got me in the mood to give the game a fair shake after an underwhelming demo. I dove into the gameplay and it was nothing but disappointment from there. I honestly don't understand how the game's Metascore is 90 right now; it pales hard in comparison to so many other titles like it.