A year ago today I reviewed the 2020 remaster of Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit. From the jump in 2010, this was a fan favorite Need for Speed installment. It drew upon a rich history of racing and police chases to give us a game that is approachable with its arcade style, but as you reach higher levels the game expects you to do more with more. I have always been known to have a tough time with change, yet I find a high octane joy ride where things are always changing, big and small, gives me comfort to press on with whatever is making me uncomfortable.
The fact that change has always upset me makes me think it is just part of who I am. Anxiety is strong in my family. It is also a negative symptom of schizophrenia. From an early age, it seemed anything new upset me. Things that should’ve been enjoyable, even. I do not play video games nearly as much as I want to, often because of some negative feeling attached to them. Most games I enjoy alleviate this free-floating nervousness for me somehow.
Change is a natural part of life. All of life brings experience, which heralds evolution. Learning is a form of transformation. Sometimes, it is tempting for me to remain stagnant and do nothing. These are the moments we need to find the motivation to get through as much as possible. Catatonia does nothing for anyone least of all myself. I accept that to a degree it is also natural to be afraid of change. As long as you are afraid because you know the importance of doing the right thing, you are unlikely to make a truly unwise choice.
I also am experiencing change through this game due to changing consoles. When I originally reviewed this remaster in 2021, it was on Xbox One. I since bought it on my Nintendo Switch and have been playing it there. Xbox is the clear victor of the two when it comes to this game. The visuals are better, and most importantly, the controls are superior. Precision joysticks and triggers with less dropped inputs. Nothing is worse than being in the heat of a race and the controller forgets you’re pressing the gas. I am still having loads of fun on the Switch, the heavy arcade style does hold its own on the platform.
In NFS: Hot Pursuit, there are parallel careers: Racer and Cop. Each has a number of event types, from standard races, to Hot Pursuits for each side where you are equipped with pursuit equipment such as spike strips, EMPs and more. Sure, it is disappointing when you spend the last quarter of a Hot Pursuit chasing one racer, only for them to get away. Yet, the several busts before the final were immensely gratifying, the entire chase was pulse-pounding, and now I have a solid amount more experience that could grant stronger equipment.
These positives encourage me to want to work toward a gold in as many events as possible. I can overcome my reservations because I know I will be rewarded, even if only with the simple pleasures of the driving fantasy and mechanics. Each attempt is unique. You never know when the enemy will cleverly place a spike strip or how well you will slip roadblocks, for example. Every event is different in terms of how it goes down. This diminishes the fear that the failure I just experienced may not be how my next try goes.
In many games, anxiety is part of the draw. From horror games, to games like Dark Souls, and even racing games. Getting your blood moving is why you pay the price for admission. It is a thrill ride. There is an element of fantasy, because you’re doing things in car you would never do, and the gameplay reflects this element. The overall experience is designed to be the most fun, not the most realistic. I don’t think a half hour of the game counts as cardio, but you know you’ve played as you try to manage stress within the race, and when your heart rate continues to soar after the end.
The pressure associated with playing a lot of games can keep me away from them at times, it can also draw me to them. The shifting dunes of life may start to mount, and the game may start to seem insignificant. You then turn to it for joy and release, knowing that if you put forth the effort everything will be okay. The time investment into an event is typically not too grand of an ask. Drifting through turns, evading cops, dodging about traffic, there are powerful feelings of control. Feelings that manifest truth in the form of medals in the game, and experience in both the game and life.
Even good things cause apprehension for many. I still get it before every swim practice, even though it is something I absolutely love doing. Not only that, all the effects from doing it are positive. Still, general anxiety attaches to everything and poisons it. This drowning feeling can make me catatonic. In the end, swimming helps my mental health. I can tell I am happier for going through with it. The same is generally true for NFS: Hot Pursuit sessions. Even if I lose, it is an entertaining game to play.
As I transition from college into a real job, I lean on games to keep me sane. It will be simple treasures like Need for Speed that bring me the most peace. I normally play a diverse array of games, and I’m sure that will be true, though I am more inclined to want to bash some cars around at high speed. No plot, the most basic of contexts, the focus is all on fun. Right now, I need to learn to accept defeat sometimes, knowing it will make me stronger for the next race. Work with the tools and abilities I have to get my life moving.
Credit: Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit Remastered. Screenshots by me.