One of the common complaints in modern Britain is the misuse of taxpayers' money, as our noble politicians sneak into your house at night, pilfer a tenner from your wallet and then lob it at the nearest oily investment banker. Well spare a thought for the residents of Seacrest County - whoever's in charge of their public spending has decided to blow it on the most opulent selection of hypercars imaginable and paint them in police colours. Woe betide anyone who tries to run from the law in a Ford Fiesta when there's a phalanx of 200mph cruise missiles patrolling the highways.
Yes, Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit is ridiculous, but it's also ridiculously good fun. This is a Burnout game in all but name, with the frightening sensation of speed that you'd expect from Criterion meeting the world's fastest supercars. There's also an accessible but rewarding handling model - drifts are easy to instigate, but require constant adjustment as the cars twitch and writhe at the limits of grip. There are also massive accidents, hundreds of miles of sweeping roads and jaw-droppingly beautiful visuals.
In reality, it feels like two Burnout games, because the cop and racer careers play significantly differently from each other. Playing as a racer feels like Burnout 2: Point of Impact, testing your nerves against oncoming traffic and narrowly whistling through uncomfortably small gaps without ever flinching from full throttle. As a cop it's Burnout 3: Takedown, with you muscling other vehicles into the kinds of barrel rolls that would have a professional stunt pilot chucking his guts. Add to that a layer of power-ups which dance at the very limits of plausibility, and you end up with some of gaming's greatest car chases.
The Career mode is intelligently paced, offering a choice of events from both sides of the cop/racer divide but drip feeding new gear in the context of an escalating arms race between the police and the criminals. More importantly, the Need For Speed tradition of dropping you in a fantastic car for the first race before busting you down to a Micra has been binned.
Instead, you get to play with the more tempting motors in timed speed challenges that are scattered across the careers. The first time you get your hands on the warp-speed Bugatti Veyron it'll be all you can do to hang onto the controller as you're propelled at barely comprehensible velocity around corners that all of a sudden seem a lot sharper than they were before.
The only irksome element of the single-player is the lurking feeling that Criterion is taking an overly directorial approach to how the races play out. The rubber banding is riddled with quirks - perhaps because, in general, Hot Pursuit tries to keep the other cars around you. Sometimes, though, you can be going hell for leather in a race, surrounded by other cars right up until the last mile or so when they appear to switch off their engines.
Perhaps they've all suddenly realised just how little fun cuddling up with Barry in the state penitentiary will be. It's by no means scripted - just replaying one of the chases where the suspect makes handbrake turns proves that - but you can't help but feel the game is exerting a little too much control over the chase.
Still, there's always multiplayer, which offers both a fair fight and some of the most fun you'll have in online racing. Pitting four racers against four cops makes for a thrilling automotive dogfight and the one-on-one chases, which open up the entire map for rash direction changes or hide and seek, are rarely less than classic cat-and-mouse struggles. Best of all, the Autolog system keeps you abreast of any changes in your friend leaderboard in every single-player event. Even if your mates aren't online, you can still stick it to them.