Arguably, the most successful and long-lasting game franchises are those that allow the player to engage in wish fulfillment. Consider Madden NFL: how many millions of us dream of being on the sidelines, calling plays for a top-tier NFL team? How many of us would love the opportunity to have a perfectly thrown pass dropped by Braylon Edwards? But even those dreams are tempered by our innate understanding that it is only a chosen few that can ever have the physical and mental attributes required to play the game at anywhere near that level.
But we all drive cars, don't we? And based on the international success of the BBC's blockbuster show Top Gear
and the massive industry that has developed around what can only be called car porn, a whole lot of us drive for reasons over and above getting to work or to the local Taco Bell. For a large percentage of the population, a car is much more than a conveyance. A car can be a statement of our personality, a car can be an object of deep affection upon which to lavish attention, and a car can be the means by which we experience a visceral love for speed.
Speed is the one thing that separates modern society from the eons of civilizations that came before, and in relative terms, speed as measured in rates faster than those achievable by a four-legged mammal is an extremely recent development. Speed in transportation, starting with steam engines, began the amazing transformation of global civilization that has occurred over the last two centuries. Speed increases in communications have had an equally startling effect. If there is one thing that our entire way of life is utterly dependent on, it is speed. In other words, it is an undeniable fact that we need speed.
Which, of course, brings us to the topic of a game franchise that is every bit as venerable as the aforementioned Madden football. Since 1994, we have pursued our love for beautiful, fast, and often exotic cars through the vicarious thrill of the Need for Speed games. Through their various iterations, the focus of any given entry in the series has shifted from wish fulfillment in the form of acquiring those cars in a way only Jay Leno can do in real life, driving them in a way that only someone with diplomatic immunity could get away with, and tuning them in ways reserved to Hollywood movie budgets. The one constant through all of this was that we got to "drive" these cars as fast as we were able to on open road races from point A to point B in a nearly consequence-free manner.
Nearly consequence free? Well, yes. Another long-standing trait of the Need for Speed games is the presence of cops. And not the normal "pull you over and write you a ticket" variety of cops, either. No, the Need for Speed cops seemingly have no boundaries of behavior, almost as if they were an eerily prescient view of things to come with the "anything goes" attitude of today's TSA agents. Pull you over for speeding? Not these guys! They would run you into guard rails, trees, barriers, or any other firm, immovable object they could find. It wasn't enough to catch up to you; no, they had to destroy you!
So, here we are in late 2010. A new Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit is ready and waiting to be gift wrapped and placed under the Christmas tree. The Hot Pursuit sub-genre has been around for awhile. These variants typically focus much more heavily on the interaction between the speeder and the police force than on tuning or customization of the cars. In this most recent Hot Pursuit, the focus is a pure 50-50 split between civilian scofflaw and hyper-dedicated officer of the law. The player can decide to have a full career in either mode, and both offer the opportunity to sample various exotic (read: incredibly expensive) and relatively attainable cars from a collection of over 60 different makes and models. The customization of the cars is limited to choosing the color, and even that choice is severely curtailed when playing on the side of the law. In that mode, you can have whatever color you want, as long as you want black and white.
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