At a recent EA event, I got a chance to check out the same Hot Pursuit demo I briefly messed around with at E3. For those unaware, the demo consists of one player being the cop and the other being the runner. You are either trying to get away or arrest the other driver who, in this case, was another user playing on a neighboring TV. You win the round by either creating enough distance between the runner and cop or by being taken to 100 percent damage by the cop. My opponents during these quick one-on-one sessions were Chris Gunter (Millennium) and Destructoid's Samit Sarkar.
While I do not have any new details about features, weapons or anything else of that ilk, I wanted to write this hands-on to talk more about the one-on-one experience and the actual driving in the game. Since the game is being developed by the folks at Criterion (famous for Burnout) -- still seems odd to write that -- it is easy to want to compare the driving models in each game. You do get rewarded with extra boost by taking risks like you do in Burnout, but the driving model in Hot Pursuit is a bit more realistic than the one in Burnout. That does not mean this game is a simulation experience, but it does mean that you at least have to lay off the throttle a pinch when going through turns. The cars in Hot Pursuit also seem to have a bit more weight to them, which adds to the slightly more realistic feel.
Beyond that, there's a classic element to Burnout where you reach a top speed and are just reacting to the cars and world around you. On the track in the Hot Pursuit demo, that feeling never came over me. Again, this is not a bad thing, it's just a difference between the two games -- I would actually be more concerned if the games felt totally similar. The roads on this course were also not very crowded, so that element of the chaos was somewhat removed.
It also feels like there is a bit more strategy to Hot Pursuit, and even some space to pull off some cunning moves. The only two "weapons" available to use in the demo were a radar-jamming device for the runner and a road block for the pursuer. Now, using the road block seems to be straight forward -- use it when there is only one road the criminal can use for a bit. On the other hand, the radar-jamming device has been fun to use in some different ways. Since the device removes the cop's map from the screen, the cop becomes "blind" for a short while during these sequences. So if the cop loses visual contact with you, you can more easily make your getaway. In other words, it is best to use the jamming device when the cop can't see you without using the map. As an example, I was most effective with the device when there was two ways to turn on an upcoming road. However, another interesting use of it ties into a one-on-one match explained below.
While most of these one-on-one sessions were bite-sized interactions that ended quickly, I had one particularly fun match against Samit Sarkar. As the runner during this match, it was a very action-packed affair filled with counter punches by both drivers. I almost got away early on, but a well-timed road block forced me to turn back towards my pursuer because I did not want to take damage to my car while trying to blast through the road block. We battled through a wooded area before returning back to a more traditional road. During this time, he was able to ram me a few times, and I was getting perilously close to 100 percent damage. As a final act of desperation, I went around a turn and used the jamming device, knowing full well that there was a little off-shoot road that would keep me out of sight. Samit drove by me while I sat there parked on the side road, so the plan did work. I immediately went the other direction and thought I might be able to finally get away, but he recovered quickly enough to track me down and finish me off.
I hope that brief little story shows what Hot Pursuit seems to be all about. Yes, you can do more than one-on-one matches (eight-on-eight is apparently the max at this point). Yes, there will be an insane amount of online integration. Yes, there will be more weapons and cars to use. But there is clearly a reason why this demo is so bare-bones. Much like Burnout, I believe the great part about the game will be making your own unique experiences. Burnout was never a great game because it was loaded with tons of features, items and add-ons. It excelled because it gave you the opportunity to create truly unique and ever-changing experiences while going really fast. Even in a brief demo, Hot Pursuit gives off that vibe. As a raw one-one simplified version of Hot Pursuit, the cop-versus-criminal duel is a classic that is easy to buy into and love. But within that classic framework is an experience that will hopefully be different enough on a game-to-game basis to create tons of unique stories like the one above. Since Criterion has pulled this off before, I have no reason to believe the entirety of the gameplay experience won't match up with what I have messed around with to this point.