(CNN) -- "Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit" takes cops and robbers to a whole new level with realistic controls, exotic cars and chase scenes to rival a Hollywood blockbuster.
The game, from Criterion and Electronic Arts, is the latest in the "Need For Speed" series and features many of the world's foremost performance machines. It garnered early praise by receiving the "Best Racing Game" award at this year's E3 convention in Los Angeles.
Play is split into two sides: racers and police. Each side has a wide variety of automobiles at its disposal, and objectives are vastly different, depending on which side of the law you want to play.
Racer missions consist of getting from point A to point B as fast as you can. Sometimes, you'll be pitted in a straight race against other drivers, but police chase vehicles join in the action to provide further inspiration in your run to victory.
Police missions are exactly what you'd expect: chase down and bust (i.e., wreck) the dangerous speeders in your territory. Often, you'll be expected to shut down an entire pack of daredevil drivers by picking them off one at a time.
The automobiles are the real stars of the game.
From car makers such as Alfa Romeo and Aston Martin to Porsche and Subaru, the cars represent the best in speed and performance on the road.
Many of the models can be played by either side, but some are limited either to racing or police. Wait until you see a Lamborghini Gallardo LP570-4 Superleggera dressed up in black and white.
The driving is fantastic and, while they don't handle exactly like they would in real life, each car responds differently under a variety of driving conditions. Heavier cars don't corner as well as lighter cars, but do perform better in off-road situations than their less weighty brothers.
The controls make a nice blend of precision driving skill and arcade-style driving, so the game can be picked up easily. There are also plenty of tips to help you out in case you want to hone your skills even further.
And just in case you were wondering, it will take more than speed to complete your missions.
Police have a variety of weapons at their disposal to bring racers to a halt. Stop sticks, electromagnetic pulse (EMP) charges, roadblocks and helicopter support are all available to stop the race and nab the bad guys.
Racers are not without their own weapons. They also have stop sticks and EMP, but their arsenal also includes a jamming device to block police signals and a turbo boost that should be used only on straightaways for maximum effect.
More cars, stronger weapons and faster challenges get unlocked as the player progresses. Those advancements also transfer for use in online multiplayer action.
The online action really wants you to involve your friends. You can post "photos" and best times or directly challenge your buds.
But what if none of your friends has the game yet?
Don't despair, for the game will set you up against opponents from around the world to show off your abilities in straight racing or chase modes.
Those who want to play demolition derby with their cars will find themselves in the back of the pack.
This is a racing game for cars designed to highlight performance and speed -- no NASCAR drivers needed. The tracks are varied, with shortcuts sprinkled throughout to gain a racing advantage or cut off a bad guy.
Weather changes, daylight, darkness and road conditions all play a part in each contest.
There is some variety to the environments, but as you speed past, don't get distracted. At one point, I was busy admiring a breathtaking waterfall and neglected to notice the hairpin turn that was fast approaching.
Overall, the game is slick and well-polished. The action is immersive; the cars are intense, and the thrill is edge-of-your-seat good.
While playing the game, I "accidentally" stayed up until 4:30 a.m. trying to unlock new cars (specifically the Ford Shelby GT500 Super Snake), find new races and beat more opponents.
It deserves the award it got in June at E3 and probably has more honors in its future.
If you enjoy driving cars that probably most of us will never even get to touch, "Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit" delivers in spades. Now excuse me while I drive past this doughnut shop.