Need for Speed III: Hot Pursuit is a 1998 racing video game, developed by Electronic Arts Canada and published by Electronic Arts. It is the third major title in the Need for Speed franchise, significantly returning police pursuits as a major part of gameplay. Hot Pursuit remains focused in racing using exotic sports cars, but features races that primarily take place in locations within North America, including varied settings and climates. In addition, police AI is significantly improved over its predecessor, utilizing several tactics to stop both the player and opponent, the game was released for PlayStation in March of 1998 and later received a Enhanced port for Microsoft Windows in September of 1998.
With police pursuits reintegrated into the game, Hot Pursuit's gameplay now consists of two categories. The first encompasses standard racing, as it has been in its predecessors, Need for Speed and Need for Speed II, in which the player is allowed to race against one (including split-screen races) or seven other racers in normal circuit racers, knockouts, or tournaments (which allow the player to unlock bonus vehicles and a bonus track). The second category is dubbed "Hot Pursuit," where police pursuits are included in races; the mode allows the player to select a standard sports car to race against a single opponent in a police-scattered track, and in the PC version only select a police variation of a sports car to pursue and stop all six racers before they complete their race. Completing both Hot Pursuit challenges in the PC version on every track of the game unlocks additional police sports cars.
Two modes were introduced in the game. The two-player split-screen mode allows two players to race using the same computer, while the "knockout" mode consists of 7 races with 8 racers on randomly chosen tracks, and conditions by the game, according to the selected difficulty, the player have chosen before starting the race-series. (Beginner or Expert) Each race consists of two laps, where the driver, who finish racing on the last place will be eliminated from the knockout. All other drivers are advanced to the next round, and carry on with the battle, until there is only one player left, who technically wins the knockout competition. The game also supports network play through a serial port, modem or IPX,TCP protocols, and internet gaming through TCP/IP protocol.It also allowed spawn installations of itself to be installed on other machines.
Racing tracks are greatly varied, with settings ranging from wide desert canyons to homely countryside villages, as well as snow-capped mountain ranges. A particular track in the game is even host to a modern and intricate structure identified as the Electronic Arts development office. Most tracks contain one or more secret shortcuts which can dramatically alter the outcome of a race.
The game also boasts some fairly impressive graphics support for its time, allowing up to 1152 x 864 pixel x 16bit in-game resolution, wide screen support, car chrome effects, and slider settings for car detail and view distance. Motion-sensored controllers receive support as well, granting the players a more thorough gameplay experience by actually allowing them to "drive" the cars.
Car tuning is also introduced, allowing any car's handling to be customized by adjusting low or high end properties for Engine Tuning and Gear Ratios, front or back Brake Balance, slow or fast Braking Speed, soft or stiff Suspension, low or high Aerodynamics as well as Rain or Racing tires. Any of these options can be modified via sliders to offer a digit-sensitive, percentage-based effect to the selected car's overall performance. Higher-end engine and gear tuning, for example, will compromise acceleration for better tops speeds. Rear-based brake balance and slow braking speeds make for wider, drifting turns, and aerodynamics provide even higher speeds at the loss of handling.
Hot Pursuit's pursuit system has been significantly improved in terms of AI and police tactics over the first Need for Speed. The game now requires that the racer only stop near a pursuing police car to be ticketed or arrested by the police, as opposed to being overtaken by a police car, forcing the racer to pull over for the same punishments. Accordingly, police cars are now programmed with the ability to block a racer's car in an attempt to halt them. In addition, whereas the original Need for Speed would only have a single police car chasing a racer in each pursuit, Hot Pursuit allows more police cars to pursue a racer, opening up the opportunity for them to collectively ambush the racer's car. The police are only playable in the PC version. However, the police cars can be played in the PS1 version, through hacking with a GameShark. The player must select a car in Hot Pursuit mode, which will then be replaced by a police car when the race starts. CLK-GTR, and El Niño cannot be replaced. Even when driving as a police car, the cops can still arrest the player.The player as a police unit, attempting to arrest the remaining two racers.
Tactical aspects of the police pursuits have also been improved. The police have the ability to deploy roadblocks which has computer-controlled cop cars form a wall across the road, and spike strips which puncture the tires of a racer's car, bringing it to a halt. Both tactics present weaknesses, specifically gaps in the blockade that can be used by a racer to avoid collisions with police cars, or tire punctures from a spike strip which is only deployed on one side of the road. The player may also listen to police radio chatter on the pursuits' statuses, revealing to them the current locations of racers, police cars, as well as roadblocks and spike strips. The radio chatter also reveals reactions to specific events, such as a racer's collision with a parked police car, as well as referencing the racer's passing speed and the occurrence of the race itself ("It looks like the cars are racing!"). Furthermore, if a computer-controlled racer's driving conduct proves to be more dangerous than that of the racer's, the cops may relent their pursuit of the player and chase the AI instead.
Each track setting features unique police cars, including three sedan-based squad cars, a hatchback and two SUVs. The Chevrolet Caprice Classic (for Hometown and Country Woods and sometimes also appears on the Redrock Ridge and Lost Canyons tracks in the PS1 version only) Ford Crown Victoria (for Hometown, Country Woods, and Empire City in PC version and Atlantica and Aquatica and sometimes also appears on the Rocky Pass and Summit Tracks for the PS1 version), Eagle Talon (for Lost Canyons and Redrock Ridge for the PC version and Empire City in the PS1 version), Ford Falcon (for Atlantica and Aquatica in the PC version only), Lamborghini LM002 (For Rocky Pass and Summit in the PS1 version only) and Land Rover Discovery (for Rocky Pass and Summit in the PC version and Lost Canyons and Redrock Ridge in the PS1 version). In addition to standard police cars, a handful of Chevrolet Corvette C5 police cars are also included in each track, more equipped to engage in high-speed pursuits and capable of outperforming normal police cars. In the PS1 version, Lamborghini Diablo pursuit vehicles replace the Corvettes if Expert difficulty is selected.
The Need For Speed enthusiast community has created add-on cars and modified tracks for Need For Speed III: Hot Pursuit, as well as other installments of the Need For Speed series.
This title received great reviews across the board. It was heralded for its intense action and beautiful graphics. John Misak, of PC Gameworld wrote in his review: This latest incarnation uses a radically enhanced graphics engine which reproduces the cars to the tiniest detail.