I distinctly remember playing Need For Speed 2 SE on my uncle's 16 MB RAM toting PC.
I still remember the heady rush I got out of the interface, and the way I gawked at the graphics. Its cause was also helped by the fact that it was the first racing game I ever played.
The fact that NFS: Hot Pursuit evokes the SAME feeling in me, is no small feat. Till recently I was hooked to Codemasters' dream duo, Dirt 2 and Grid. Having played racing games for years, and having advanced in years myself, Dirt/Grid combo represented the easiest way into all sorts of racing, and it was helped by the fact that the games represent the epitomes of their respective genres.
Ah, but there IS a third niche, innit? The arcade racer. Burnout fizzled out for me, NFS lost its way with Underground, literally and figuratively, and PGR fell victim to the twin evils of Red Ring of death and the disc getting scratched after a few dozen runs. I don't get Blur or such.
Suddenly, this game, bearing the title of perhaps the best entries in the series bar Porsche Unleashed, comes and conquers all. The interface, even the title song, the vistas, the roads, the vehicles, the gameplay, everything is PERFECT. The races are sufficiently challenging yet never less than exhilirating. There are few better places to race than Seacrest County, with the best bits out of every NFS track ever. It is someplace ELSE, and it takes me back to the reason I picked up racing games as my genre of choice: the chance to go and explore someplace ELSE. The CMR games, Dirt, and lately, NFS Hot Pursuit, all accomplish this spectacularly.
There is one glitch though: the game doesnt seem to be optimized and runs stutteringly on my PC even after an irritating and painful processor upgrade. I already carried RAM and GPU which comfortably exceeded the 'recommended' specs, so I think a patch is in order.
Thank you, EA, thank you, Criterion, for giving me that priceless feeling back. Please try not to suck next year round.