What a difference a few days makes… Having written up a generally positive preview about Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit a few weeks ago (because I felt generally positive about the game at that point) I got the chance to play a whole lot more of the game at Gamescom with the Behind Closed Doors preview. Oh boy is it a different game now.
At the previous preview event I was told about the “Autolog recommends” feature, but didn’t write about it because I didn’t see it. This is a suite of features designed to link your gameplay with the rest of the world through your friends list. The main part we were shown looked kind of like the cross media bar from PSN or Xbox live, profile pictures of your friends flew up on screen with different accomplishments they have achieved recently.
These updates happen Asynchronously, that means your stats will update and load onto the internet, whereby your friends will be able to see your accomplishments whenever they happen to next fire up the game. With the click of a few buttons you can be on the track, taking on the very same challenge to gain bragging rights.
This new feature seems more engaging than simple leaderboards you see in games like Trials HD because rather than actively clicking through menus to see the scores, they’re brought to you directly without being too intrusive.
There didn’t seem to be much in the way of interacting with people that aren’t on your friends list. So if it’s world bragging rights you’re after, I’m afraid I can’t tell you much about what they’re offering you.
My main gripe with the preview code a few weeks ago was the handling. I thought it was sluggish and took some getting used to. I’m not saying they listened to me and fixed it (no-one really cares what I think), but it is infinitely better now. The exotic cars now feel light and agile, with cornering precision achievable with relative ease.
Last preview, I asked a question about day and night mechanics and weather. The answer I got was a typically cagey “we can’t talk about that now”. This was another feature they showed off in the booth. One race took us along a winding mountainside road as the time shifted into the evening and rain streaked across the track.
The water physics really are astounding. I can’t pretend to be hardcore enough to talk about how they do it or verbose enough to fully describe the rain, but needless to say that the cars slide along the wet track in a quantifiably different manner and raindrops batter off the bonnet of your car of choice in a realistic and satisfying way.
The difference between the previous preview and the Gamescom demo is truly incredible. If the curve continues and the game improves this much again in the five months before release, we’re really going to have something special here.