Criterion takes the wheel is exhilarating sequel
Super-quick cars speeding down slick stretches of tarmac, clipping competitors' back bumpers until they spin into spectacular write-offs. Sliding around corners and slaloming between oncoming traffic before missing a split-second opportunity to avoid a head-on collision.
That's the essence of Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit - where Fast and Furious-inspired races take place in exotic cars, while the Police give chase in some pretty pimped out rides of their own. After a few years of inconsistency, Need For Speed is back in business.
It would be daft to think that Criterion wouldn't pinch bits of Burnout Paradise for Hot Pursuit - but it's good to see that the studio's stuck to the best bits.
The solid, sleek presentation of the vehicles and the beautifully lush environments are all present. Yet as always seems to be the case in luxurious racers, the visuals are at their prettiest in the weather is at its ugliest.
The feel behind the wheel has Burnout traits as well. It's weighty and responsive - if a little sensitive - but ultimately easy to get to grips with and geared towards fun. Drifting, for example is easily accomplished with a dab of the brakes and a sharp turn on the analogue stick just before a bend sending you skidding around a corner.
Boost is given and activated on a Burnout basis as well. Drive on the wrong side of the highway, within inches of oncoming traffic or stay within an opponents slip-stream and you'll be rewarded with nitrous.
Release it with X/A on the straights to get the most out of it, or use it to blast your way back onto the best racing line after a misjudged corner.
As always, racing is as much about combat as it is sprinting to first place. Takedowns get the usual slow-mo cinematic in an almost Road Rash style competition of Racer vs. Racer and Racer vs. Cop.
Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit Weapons
This time, however, Criterion's introduced a small but significant set of weapons. You won't find your car equipped with homing missiles and bombs but both cops and racers get spike strips and EMPs to put opponents out of commission.
Exclusive to the Police is helicopter support, which is almost like a blue shell equivalent, pestering whoever's in first place with more spike-strips, and road blocks.
Racers' unique weapons include a Jammer (the only way to confuse that pesky air support) and a turbo, which sends your car shooting off for a short period in a boost that exceeds the usual nitrous.
The weapons add an extra tactical layer to the races that would usually just consist of smashing into each other and some increased moments of tension.
Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit Roads
Criterion wants to make sure there's enough space and opportunity to open up the fully-licensed super cars and have a really good drive. For that reason, roads are wide, corners are relatively gentle and other road users are few and far between.
In terms of keeping your wheels in one piece Need For Speed's AI isn't always tough enough. Because of that, the single-player can at times feel a bit repetitive, especially without an equivalent to Burnout Paradise's open-word to get lost in.
Instead you'll repeat variations of a few different race types across both Cop and Racer progressions, unlocking new cars and locations frequently.
Having said that, the single-player campaign does have an incredibly addictive quality that will pull you back into the same race again and again trying to better your time if you didn't get gold on the first outing.
Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit Multiplayer
Criterion's nurtured the multiplayer experience with Autolog. This competitive social network - the Facebook of Hot Pursuit if you will - is the feature the studio is most proud of.
Rather than sticking you in an online leader board of thousands, Autolog records your times as you go around the single-player events and compares them to your friends' performances, egging the two of you into competition whenever one gets the upper hand.
It also suggests events for you that your friends are ruling and, if you don't have any friends actually suggests mates based on your playing style. It's Match.com for video games.
Eight players can step up online in direct competition racing with any weighting between Cops and Racers they desire for different kinds of challenges.
Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit Conclusion
At its root Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit is about an exotic sense of speed, glamour and action, which it accomplishes on a level we've come to expect from Criterion racers. It's fast, luxurious and recreates that big budget Hollywood chase sequence perfectly.
If the single-player campaign feels a little bit too easy, the roads a little bit empty and the events a bit repetitive you'll still find yourself going back for more.
Even so, the online features will do more than enough to make up for any lack of challenge you find elsewhere. We expect a large and passionate community to take to Hot Pursuit, and make it a great place to be.
Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit launch date: Out now
Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit price: Around £35