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Published: Wednesday, 12/29/2010

New racing games put players' driving skills to the test

Hot Pursuit is the first Need for Speed game developed by Criterion Games, the studio behind the Burnout series, and while this game isn't quite as over-the-top as that series, the influence is plain.

Players can drive as street racers tearing through coastal Seacrest County, or as the souped-up cops chasing them down. The police have always been a presence in Need for Speed, and it's nice to play from their side for a change. Street race events cover standard races and time trials, as well as one-on-one Duel races and the Gauntlet, a timed race with cops on the chase.

Both sides can participate in Hot Pursuit events, with the police trying to stop races in progress. Cop players can also take part in Interceptor challenges, chasing down and disabling speeders, and Rapid Response, where the player races to a target location.

Completing events garners bounty points. As a player's street racer and cop bounty level increases, he will gain pieces of equipment such as spike strips, roadblocks, and EMPs.

Players may also choose to drive freely around Seacrest County, without cops or street racers to get in the way. Online options include races, Hot Pursuit and Interceptor matches for up to eight players.

Gran Turismo 5 doesn't have bounty, police, or EMPs. Instead, it focuses on realistic handling, fine tuning, and careful racing; try some of the wacky drift-and-boost tricks Hot Pursuit encourages and see how well they work out. It's also the first game in the Gran Turismo series to offer online play, for up to 16 racers.

The game features dozens of real-life and fictional tracks, and more than 1,000 cars to buy, tune up, and customize. Many vehicles have been given a thorough “Premium” treatment, including high-detail exterior and interior renderings.

GT5 is divided into a few blocks of events. A-Spec mode is the typical career mode, in which players can compete in dozens of races spread over several tiers. Many events require particular auto types, player ranks, and licenses, the latter of which can be earned by taking driving tests. B-Spec mode has players directing AI-controlled drivers during their races. There are only a few commands to issue a driver in a race, so this mode mostly feels like watching a race happen on its own.

Special race events fall outside the normal scope of things, with kart races and training sessions with famous race-car drivers among the offerings. These are unlocked when conditions are met — winning races awards not only cash and cars, but points toward higher experience levels.



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