Regular readers will notice that the following article is a slight departure from our usual preview style. For gamescom 2010 we've adopted a streamlined structure, allowing us to cover as many games as possible while giving you the important juice and info. In many cases we'll be running longer, more detailed previews upon our return to the UK.

What is it?

Need for Speed Hot Pursuit, from Burnout developer Criterion, brings the franchise back to its roots with cops vs racer chases - play through full careers as both a cop and a racer, solo or connected. All the action is connected via Need for Speed Autolog, a new online network that not only connects friends for head-to head pursuits and races, but also enables players to compare performances and stats.

What was shown?

The main focus of the gamescom 2010 demo was a single-player Time Trial taking place at Oakmont Valley. An extremely pretty Porsche Carrera GT was the motor vehicle of choice and we were off. Immediately obvious was some very impressive water effects on the surface, not only being disrupted by the cars passing through puddles, but also beautifully reflecting details from the environment. The new water effects were joined by a dynamic day-night cycle and weather effects - changing a twilight drive into a night race lit by bolts of lightning to the soundtrack of clapping thunder.

A Hot Pursuit Race (Cops vs Robbers) was also shown, in which four racers competed for first place while avoiding or taking out the ultra aggressive cops. The cops used all kinds of tactics to take racers out, including spike strips and calling in a helicopter for air support. The racers aren't without a few tricks of their own, able to fire up turbos, send out an electro magnetic pulse and drop a spike track of their own.

Finally came a hands-on session in a multiplayer Roadster Reborn race. I finished six places from first... in a six-person race.

Our Reaction

Built using an-all new engine NFS Hot Pursuit is looking great, though it's clear to see Criterion's Burnout Paradise tech poking its head through - not that this should be seen as a bad thing. The visuals are immediately more satisfying than those of Burnout: Paradise, with a broader colour pallets and diverse environments pleasing the eye. Racing is suitably arcade-like, with the action akin to how you imagine you could race the cars in real life, opposed to what would really happen should you find yourself sat behind the wheel of a Porche 911 GT3 RS.

Criterion's first stab at a NFS title is also one very much rooted in social gaming; every aspect of play is linked back to your friends and their achievements speeding around Seacrest County. At the core is Autolog, which brings together all your friends' latest lap times, race results and pretty much anything else they've done - including snaps of some of their best moments. What this means is that you've always got a multiplayer element, even when competing alone, providing a stream of challenges that will continue for as long as you have friends competing.

The game is still a few months away from hitting stores, but Criterion appears to be on track to delivering the first great traditional Need for Speed in quite some time.

NFS: Hot Pursuit is scheduled for release on November 19, 2010 for PS3, Xbox 360 and PC. A Wii version is also in development.