Though we knew Burnout developer Criterion was working on a Need for Speed game, this E3 demo is the first time it's been seen. Creative director Craig Sullivan introduced it as a return to the roots of the series made by a team that grew up on the games. They want to get the focus back on the sheer excitement of ripping down the highway at top speed. Sullivan said that the title says it all; there will be "pretty good pursuits and they're going to be hot."
The chase demo I played backed up his claims. I tried both the racer and cop sides of a one-on-one chase down a winding road through the woods in a duel of two Lamborghinis. The objectives are straightforward: get far enough ahead to escape as the racer or bring the speeder to a stop as the cop. Along with driving skill each side gets a few powers to help them win. As the cop I could radio ahead for a road block while as the racer I could jam the cop's radar and communications gear. Dramatic driving like weaving through oncoming traffic and drifting around corners provided the charge to use these abilities.
It was brief, but felt a lot like the good times I remember from playing the old Need for Speeds. The sweeping bends on the open road that let me really let the car out and run came as a welcome change from the tight confines and 90 degree turns of urban environments. Like all their Burnout games, the controls immediately felt comfortable with the cars having a nice sense of heft and momentum and responding exactly as I expected without a lot of thought.
Sullivan also introduced a feature they're calling Autolog that melds together the typical menu system for the game with all its connected community elements. Arranged on a timeline-like strip across the screen are all the options for things like career, photos, and the like. The most interesting of these is their new "Autolog Recommends" entry. This culls through all the data of what you, your friends, and the rest of the world have been up to in the game and then generates suggested things for you to do when you sit down to play. If your friend just hit a new high score on a run it might challenge you to try and best it. It's a nice evolution of the create your own contests stuff they'd been working on in Burnout. Combine that with the competitive nature of the chases and I can see this being a game I lose a lot of time to this fall.