Go back to The Need for Speed

Written by: Rik

Date posted: April 7, 2004

It goes without saying that any game in which you drive faster than you should on public roads should feature the fuzz at some stage or other. Whether they appear as an inevitable by-product of road-racing (The Need For Speed) or whether the whole game is based around activity of a more criminal nature (Driver, GTA), a good old police chase is always good fun.

How these chases start and finish is more problematic. The Need for Speed adopts quite a simple approach, borrowed from the Test Drive games: if you drive too fast near a police car, that car will chase you until it can get in front of you, at which point you have to slow down and accept your punishment, be it a ticket or the end of your race. Some may view this as a little bit unrealistic, but at least it’s consistent; don’t go over fifty-five and you won’t have any trouble.

Compare this with Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit. The cops are out to get you in this one, and it doesn’t matter whether you’re doing thirty-five or one thirty-five. Police cruisers come from all directions, and this means the old ‘get-in-front’ system is out of the window. The police just hammer you relentlessly until you’re hemmed in against a wall and can’t escape. Since the car manufacturers haven’t allowed EA to include car damage in the game, you only get arrested if you are trapped against the scenery.

In city-based driving games such as Driver, GTA and Midtown Madness, police behaviour is notoriously erratic. Moreover, their concern for the ordinary citizen of the imaginary cities in which you drive is always secondary to their desire to put your ass in jail. In Driver, a minor speeding offence can be the trigger for several police cruisers to career across several lanes of traffic and smash into your car repeatedly. And in the aforementioned NFS 3, a favoured trick of the police coming in the opposite direction is to pull an immediate handbrake turn and slam you into the nearest wall. This kind of reckless driving puts other road users’ lives at risk, as Alistair Stewart might say.

At least in NFS and GTA you can be arrested; in Driver and Midtown Madness, the police just ram your car until you can’t continue. Still, I suppose it’s asking a lot to implement complex police AI; and if there were some kind of civilian protection intelligence included, the police would probably never catch you. Just like real life, then.