Need for Speed III: Hot Pursuit, released in Japan as Over Drivin' III: Hot Pursuit, is a racing video game released in 1998. It is the third major title in the Need for Speed series, significantly incorporating 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 1998 and later received an enhanced port for Microsoft Windows in September 1998. A PlayStation 2 version was developed, but later cancelled. The game title's suffix, "Hot Pursuit", is a term for a police pursuit. The game had a sequel that was released in 2002 as Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit 2.
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, The 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. The PC version also contains a role reversal variation in which players select a police version 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. The "Knockout" mode consists of 7 races with 8 racers on randomly chosen tracks, in which conditions such as selected difficulty, weather, and so on that the player has chosen before starting the race-series will apply. Each race consists of two laps where the driver who finishes last will be eliminated from the race lineup. All other drivers advance 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, and online 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 boasted some fairly impressive graphics support for its time, allowing up to 1152 by 864 pixel, 16-bit in-game resolution; widescreen support, car chrome effects, and slider settings for car detail and view distance. Motion-sensing controllers received support as well, granting the players a more thorough gameplay experience by actually allowing them to "drive" the cars.
Car tuning was also introduced, which allowed 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 could 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.