I will not lie to you. My favorite racecar games are "vehicle combat" games named Burnout and Wipeout. Those games let you race super-duper fast while firing rockets at rival cars. Do you hear me? Rockets!
And so, this is why I am in-like with the brand-new Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit.
Hot Pursuit isn't the purest sort of vehicle-combat racer. There are no rockets. And only one-third of the game lets you destroy rival cars. But one-third of "vehicle combat" in a game is an exciting prospect.
When Hot Pursuit begins, it asks you to play either as a cop or as a speeder, and then you engage in a line of races as one or the other.
But smartly, the game lets you toggle back and forth between cop and speeder, from one race to the next. That way, the game unfolds in something that's twice as deep as you expect.
Then you drive like a maniac through different challenges - multi-car races, solo time trials and, best of all, those blow-up-other-car races.
Hot Pursuit isn't nearly as massively destructive as the Burnout and Wipeout series. Hot Pursuit's weapons range from mild (electromagnetic pulses that stun other cars' mechanics) to indignant (spikes you drop in front of another car's tires).
But this is just enough destruction to give you an edge in a race, or conversely to take away your edge when employed against you. Plus, it's fun to blow things up when they're in motion.
This is a big, pretty game with lovely vistas. It just doesn't have enough tracks.
But perfect roads hug snowy curves of mountains, sandy domains of beaches, sunny flats of deserts, and picturesque fluffs of farmland.
Cars are licensed lovelies that are ludicrously fast, and I can't even pronounce half their names. There are Lamborghini Gallardos, Lamborghini Murcielagos, Lamborghini Reventons, Koenigseggs, Dodges, Chevys, Fords, Astin Martins, Audis, a Pagani Zonda Cinque Roadster and a Bentley Continental Supersports. Whew!
To make your cars win, place or show, you must perfectly employ turbo gas. To earn turbo gas, you must drift around corners; slipstream and shunt behind competitors' cars; then find shortcuts that let you peel away from the main track.
What I'm most addicted to is the online multiplayer mode that pits speeders vs. cops. In the first week of the release (on PlayStation 3), I couldn't find a lot people to race online, barely enough to keep competing. That lack of an army of other gamers to confront is a negative.
This isn't an easy racer. It is simple for the first few hours. But then it becomes challenging. Driving 224 mph on a winding road, in the rainy dark, you can't foresee every 55 mph pedestrian car that you need to pass.
Every little fender bender will blow your chances to win the gold. But it's okay to win silver and bronze. Those are nice medals, too.