The Need for Speed series has taken some crazy turns in the past few years, but it's trying to get back on course with Burnout developer Criterion at the helm. Which side of the law are you on?

Fans have been screaming for more cop chases in Need for Speed, and EA and Criterion are giving them what they want. Hot Pursuit isn't about live-action cutscenes or street cred. It's simply about high-speed chases between the cops and the bad guys in a big open world. That's not to say that there isn't a lot of depth to the experience, of course. Hot Pursuit has two full progression tracks for both the Cops or the Racers, and both sides have tools at their disposal. If you play as a Cop, you'll chase down your target and endeavor to damage them out by ramming them or otherwise incurring damage via "weapons" like putting up a roadblock. If you're the Racer your only goal is to shake the fuzz anyway you can.

As you race, weapons start to come online for you to deploy with the d-pad. The Cops can call up a police roadblock, send out a blast EMP that disables the Racer's weapons and makes their car hard to control, call in aerial support via a cop chopper, or throw down some road spikes. Alternately, Racers can jam police signals, send out a decoy to confuse them, kick their car into overdrive, and more. All of these weapons have a cool down period, so you'll have to watch when you use them.

Similar to Burnout Paradise, Criterion has built a seamless experience between offline and online, and you'll gain bounty points for everything you do in either play mode. Bounty points are how you level up in the game, but Hot Pursuit tracks your progress in many ways, and your overall progression is a big part of what the company is calling the Autolog. This feature not only monitors all the things you do in the game and the accomplishments you earn, but it links them all to your friends playing the game. You'll see what they've done and vice-versa, and you can also message with them and upload real photos of your self (and anything else...) to post. The Autolog will also throw you challenges based on what your friends are doing. So, if your friend has bested your time at a particular task, you'll get an Autolog prompt allowing you to go and play that mission or whatever to try and reclaim your crown. The info in the Autolog will also be manageable via your computer as well.

I played a brief demo of the game on the show floor, and one thing surprised me about the game. While it was cool to chase some law-breaking *** through the windy streets and hills of Hot Pursuit's open world, the game didn't have the great sense of speed that Criterion did so well in Burnout Paradise. Furthermore, the cop car I had was kind of awkward to control. Taking turns in the thing could be a handful. Now, maybe I'm doing shame to the boys in blue by getting behind the wheel of a cruiser, but I hope this was just a symptom of the fact this was an early build. The game comes out November, and Criterion is plenty talented enough to have this thing really cooking when it ships.