On the consoles, Need for Speed: Shift was seen as a return to form by the franchise after a series of bungled attempts to recapture the magic of NFS: Underground. This was true of the iPhone release too, which we thought captured some of that tuner magic through a host of customization options and a great emphasis on handling. Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit [App Store] throws that formula right out the window, reviving the hit cops and robbers racer of the last-gen console with the same name. And it seems to be a winner, the iPhone version having giant boots to fill already as its big-brother weighs in a critical success (90/100 on Metacritic).

So we'll get one thing out of the way early: unlike its console counterpart, in Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit you only get to play as the hunter, not the hunted. That's right-- the array of glitzy cars you get to unlock (15 in total) will only sport the black and white of the po-lice, though the range is hardly stunted. You'll get to drive Corvettes, Porsche's, Lamborghinis, Fords, and even a Veyron as this cashed up police force takes it out in kind on the host of tuned-up racers plaguing its streets.

There are no story sequences to worry about in NFS: Hot Pursuit either and nor are any warranted as the devs blessedly throw you into a live pursuit as soon as you fire the game up, bypassing the usual song and dance needed to get started. A quick tutorial showing off the NOS and 180 degree thumb-slide controls is all you need to know as you're thrown head-first into the first of 24 pursuits making up the career mode.

Each event in NFS: Hot Pursuit takes one of four models: Tough Justice, Intercepter, Rapid Response and Power Struggle. The first two are the bread and butter and the events you'll gravitate to most -- these are where you get to dish out serious police brutality. In these events you're tasked with taking out one or more opponents-- by either ramming them off the road or by using one of several tools at your disposal. These include deployable spike strips, police road blocks and EMPs, all of which can either slow down or disable the target vehicle temporarily. The rest is up to you, as your most effective weapon at stopping these cretins is vehicular battery.

The whole concept is great, but unfortunately doesn't live up to what's expected of it. Setting up an effective road block sounds cool, but in practice does about as much damage as mosquitos on the windshield as racers plough headlong through a barracade while barely pausing a beat. Even EMPs that send cars spinning out of control are rendered ineffective when the cars bounce of the invisible bumper bars around the track and teeter back on course with minimal stopping time. Simply put, the poor physics engine on the small screen does the game an injustice, with the expected high-impact crashes only occurring once the enemy life bar is whittled down to nought.

The other two race types - Rapid Response and Power Struggle - are straightforward checkpoint or straight-line races without the pursuit mechanic. The latter is the more interesting of the two, as it pits cops against cops as you thrash out your tweaked out squad cars (and eventually even getting to use your tech against each other) between doughnut breaks. These races are challenging and fun the first few times, but get boring very quickly and pale in comparison to the cops and robbers races.

This is mostly due to the overarching problem in NFS: Hot Pursuit that far too much emphasis has been taken off the driving to focus on the weapon mechanics. We enjoyed NFS: Shift because it put you back in the driving seat; with steering, braking and gears to worry about if you wanted to. In NFS: Hot Pursuit, there's not even a need for a brake or an accelerator (the default setting is auto-accelerate). The whole game can be played by just tilting your screen, and swiping occassionally when you want to hit the turbo. Gone are all the customization options too, the cash system replaced by a bounty system where gaining enough stars and subsequent bounty unlocks new cars and new events.

Fortunately everything in NFS: Hot Pursuit looks terrific, with a range of different environments to race through at varying times of the day. It looks great on a 3GS device, with only infrequent framerate hitches and bland off-road textures spoiling the visual treat; but really comes into its own on the ultra-sharp, high-res retina display of the 4th gen models. The only downside on the presentation front is that spending even half an hour with the game will reveal familiar track segments, with events eventually becoming predictable due to the high level of section recycling going on.

Despite these set-backs, NFS: Hot Pursuit dishes up some seriously high-octane moments, when you're toe-to-toe with an offender tilting your screen to-and-fro as you try to ram him off track, only to have the bugger jam your weapons as you get ahead of him to deploy a spike strip. This experience is heightened dramatically with local WiFi play (where you're finally able to play as the bad guys), but we're disappointed to see that there's no online race option to duke it out with friends across the globe.

All up, as far as the Burnout-meets-NFS vibe goes, NFS: Hot Pursuit on the iPhone misses the mark, its tuner-lite gameplay hard to recommend to driving enthusiasts. It does have more casual appeal however, and for those unphased by the lack of online racing or customization and the sometimes frustrating driving mechanics, NFS: Hot Pursuit will provide some thrilling moments and maybe a couple of hours of content to work through.

TouchArcade Rating

  • maxpancake

    Looks like it could be better, i'll wait for a price drop :)

    • James

      could me someone explain what "horizon tilt" means in the options?

      i have no idea???

      • curmudgeon

        Horizon tilt on (which is the default) means that the landscape will tilt with you when you tilt the device to steer. This just makes it easier to play; you don't get the urge to tilt your head as you steer. Some people don't like it though so you can turn it off if you like.

    • Decoy Octopus

      Thats why the game wont be any better.

  • realracer95

    Sorry that hot pursuit for the iphone wasn't gran turismo 5. Don't worry man, it's coming out next week.

  • Rudi

    can you play the game with touch control? i hate tilting.

  • Rudi

    can you play the game with touch control? i hate tilting.

  • Hotrodded

    Er, why s this guy talking about NFS Shift ? This is Hot Pursuit, dude! Got the game today, plays great

    • http://twitter.com/NoSuperMan ImNoSuperMan

      Can you play as a racer? Thats half the game missing right there.

  • Fret

    I think I'll pass then. Having lots of fun with Shift and Undercover on my new 4g IPod Touch, which are both very good.

    • http://twitter.com/Shamko Max Shamko

      Dude you're a retard if you're not getting THIS GAME for touch 4G
      No offense.

      This game is just meant for 4G!

  • Lt. sacks

    if u like the other need for speeds u should get it, feels like nfs+burnout+real racing

  • Lt. sacks

    if u like the other need for speeds u should get it, feels like nfs+burnout+real racing

  • QuéBecRage

    Played for 30 minutes and believe me...it's by far the best arcade racing available on the iDevices. The speed, graphics, controls, this game's got it all. At 4.99$ it's a real joke to have a game of this level of quality. My 2 cents: 9/10.

    Keep it up EA,

  • Wonderboy

    Well... Ain't a port of the original game = ain't good.

    When willthey stop making tees on rail racers and start porting old titles? It's totally possible on an iPhone...

    • Snarky

      It's not on rails. It's the first NFS on iPhone to use a true physics engine. Maybe play the game in question before commenting...

      • Wonderboy

        I'm not gonna buy a game to comment... but thanks for the info

      • Truth

        true but then you just look dumb

    • Anonymous

      On rails racer? Dude, this is Need for Speed not Time Crisis. Never played Need for Speed or do you even know what the term "on rails" means?

    • Anonymous

      On rails racer? Dude, this is Need for Speed not Time Crisis. Never played Need for Speed or do you even know what the term "on rails" means?

      • huh?

        Undercover and Shift are both on rails for iPhone. I understand there not completely on rails where you have no control, but attacking him with a stupid comment doesn't make you look any smarter. Have you not noticed how the games work on iPhone? The fake as turning in undercover is painful.

  • NFSFan

    Not in Germany???? WTF! Are there some N#a#z#i symbols or what??

  • Bjorn Keizers

    I bought it, and it's better then I expected. Good graphics, nice sense of speed, controls nice and there seems to be enough races and replayability to justify the price tag. All in all, not a bad game.

  • Rough Justice

    The negative space in this game is amazing!!!!111!!! but I wish the environments had more of a pink wasteland vibe....

  • Sticktron

    This game is beast. Unlike the last 2 wimpy NFS games which were great eye-candy, this game is ALL about the driving--contrary to the review.

    Finally a NFS where you get to stretch your legs on long open roads with some of the worlds fastest automobiles. You can stop, do 180s, things the on-rails predecessors couldn't. This is the first REAL NFS for iConsoles. If you enjoy racing you'll get your moneys worth and more.

    • iamamoron

      Yeah, it is so much like driving!!! When you hit obstacles, cars, rails, invisible walls, or just head-on collisions at 150 mph, you're just put back on your way with no damage to yourself or your car or other cars. This is just like driving folks.
      I wonder how many morons will not make the difference when they get to drive for real. Too many I am sure as we can witness in the news every day when young drivers under 25 wipe themselves off the gene pool taking out innocent people.
      As you said, this game IS about driving.............

  • Oldman Gamer

    Best. Update. Ever.

    EA have added the other half of the equation, so now you can play as the hunted and the hunter, as the pursued not just the pursuer, the robber not just the cops.

    I only picked up Hot Pursuit a couple of days ago on sale and had pretty well finished. Short but sweet, and fair enough for $1.19 Australian I thought, then BAM! So bored I checked the update details and there you go, instant doubling of gameplay. Sweet. I've only played a few races but it's pretty cool, and now twice the value at $(insert cheapest app price in your region here.)

  • Dredd

    Chase HQ anyone? That was a fun game back in the day