Archive for the ‘Review’ Category

Review: Need for Speed – Hot Pursuit

December 19, 2010

At the end of November, racing game fans faced a difficult choice. Both the latest instalments of the NFS and Gran Turismo games were released within a few days of eachother. Normally this would be a no brainer, NFS games have been a bit crap in recent years right? Yes, but not so with this one. Ignoring Hot Pursuit for a moment, I was tempted by GT5, I really was but after sinking hundreds of hours in to Forza 3, I honestly didn’t fancy another deep experience like that. I wanted something that was pure driving escapism.

It's not very realistic and it's all the better for it.


HP looks an absolute treat. It might not run at a silky smooth 60fps but when you’re barrelling along at 250mph, you’re far more concerned with on coming traffic than absolute graphical fidelity. Wet tarmac is particularly well realised and when it’s lit up by lightning flashes, it evokes real atmosphere. The car models look gorgeous, there aren’t 100s of cars in this, a select 60 or so (plus police versions) but they’ve chosen well.

Yeah, it's quite pretty in paces.


This is an arcade racer through and through, so the handling isn’t what you’d call ‘authentic’. The guys behind the game, Criterion made the excellent Burnout games, so if you’ve ever played one of them, you know what to expect. 200mph+ straights in to hairpins can be negotiated with a small lift and a touch of handbrake, with the speed never dropping below 120mph. It’s silly, of course it is, but it’s also challenging and satisfying, there’s enough subtlety in the controls for you to be able to alter the angle and direction of you drift with the throttle, key to maintaining the highest speed possible.


The crux of Burnout, sorry, Hot Pursuit is an underlying risk/reward system. Driving towards oncoming traffic and having near misses with other happless motorists builds up a nitrous system, use this to boost engine performance when required. However, the fact you have to drive more dangerously to get this boost can make for some very tense moments when you want to eke it out for as long as possible but you know that there’s going to be a camper van in your path at some point, that you’re going to have to avoid.

The game is split in two, Cops and Racers (you get to be both). Both have events such as time trials, but the main events are always the Hot Pursuit races. These are 4 Cops v 4 Racers, the cops have to wreck all the racers to win, the racers have to escape to win. This is achieved by ramming each other off the road or using the power ups that are available. These weapons range from spike strips and turbo boosts to calling in road blocks and helicopters. You only get so many of these per race, which makes using them a tactical decision, do you keep a turbo boost in reserve for near the end of the race or use it early to grab a lead at the start? It’s these decisions that makes the gameplay so compelling

Yes, there's a Police Veyron


The engine sounds are authentic and throaty. Each race is preceded by a short clip, as the race loads of the cars blasting through the countryside, being hounded by the cops, it sounds frankly awesome. The music is varied and comes from licensed bands and DJs, but I turned it off quite quickly, I’d rather pure engine sounds, but that’s a personal preference, not a comment on the quality of the tracks.


Even with a brilliant Online multiplayer and ‘Autolog’ results posting system, this isn’t going to last like a Forza or Gran Turismo. It’s fantastic fun but, as with all arcade racers is pretty shallow. That said, you can pick this up, only 3 weeks after release for £24 online, so you can’t really argue with that.

I whole hartedly recommend it.




Faster – DVD Review/Retrospective

August 1, 2010

I recently bought the MotoGP documentary ‘Faster’ from, for a fiver it would have been rude not to. I first saw this in University soon after it had been released (2004 ish). I remember being impressed but not bowled over. This feeling has changed in the intervening six years, considerably. This is a difficult film to look at objectively for me thanks to my love for the subject matter, and due to the fact that there aren’t many films like this, on this subject matter around. However I think it’s a great display of what MotoGP was and can be.

The DVD was filmed in 2001/2002, the two pivotal seasons in MotoGP of the last few decades;  the last hurrah and then death of the 500cc 2-stroke. The archive film included is particularly relevant to someone of my age (26). When I was very young I had posters on Kevin Schwantz on the bedroom wall, these then became Valentino Rossi as I grew in to me teens, this is ‘my era’.

The due to the timescale involved, this film focuses on Valentino Rossi and Max Biaggi, frankly it had to. At the time these two were the top dogs in motorcycle racing. The clips of these two knocking lumps out of each other are simply thrilling, especially given the incredible tension between them both on and off track. Bar the Rossi/Biaggi battles, the other main interest is the Red Bull Yamaha with star riders Gary McCoy and John Hopkins, showing the pain and elation of going from being a top 500cc team in 2001 to merely giving the odd 990cc 4-stroke a bloody nose in 2002.

The film is augmented with several smaller sections. Lots of little asides like features on, Dr Costa – the genius who fixes up mangled riders, the 500cc bike – a simply evil machine with a wafer thin powerband and bad temper, Rossi’s celebrations – displaying the sharp wit of the man, even at a tender age, the animosity fuelled rivalries – Rainey vs Schwantz (early 1990s), Rossi vs Biaggi, as well as many more delightful clips. It’s a very easy film to watch, as it doesn’t get bogged down in the technicalities; you don’t need to be a bike nut to enjoy this.

The film is above all a celebration of the sport but is also unflinching in its portrayal of the damage the riders can do to themselves. While this might be sobering in isolation, it underlines the skills and risks involved in racing these machines.

Nostalgia is an odd thing, I blown away when it first came out, as I said earlier.  I put this down to those memories being too fresh in the memory, they lacked context. Seeing this footage, 8 or 9 years later and when put side by side with the current MotoGP format, makes me feel like the wide-eyed teenager again, sitting there in awe of what these guys got up to. Regardless of whether you’re a ‘bike person’ or not, I would implore you too seek out this DVD. Racing is racing and this displays that in its absolute purest form.