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Need for Speed: Most Wanted Review

Posted November 6, 2012 by Esteban Cuevas in Reviews

Need for Speed: Most Wanted is an open world racing title from developer Criterion Games, best known for the Burnout series. As such, it’s easy to call this new game Burnout Paradise 2 and in a lot of ways, it plays like a sequel to that game. However, while it manages to capture the intensity of that title’s gameplay, a few glaring issues keep Most Wanted from being a true spiritual successor. Nevertheless, Need for Speed: Most Wanted still manages to be an enjoyable racing game on its own merit.

Most Wanted takes place in the city of Fairhaven. Your goal in the single player portion of the game is to become the Most Wanted and defeat 10 of the best racers in the city. In this way, the new Most Wanted game has this aspect and this aspect alone in common with the original Need for Speed Most Wanted title that was released in 2005.

The presentation in Most Wanted is most impressive. Fairhaven is a lively if somewhat small city filled with vast mountains, various freeways and industrial buildings. The soundtrack consists of licensed Alternative and Electronica music that fits the tone of the game really well. The introduction scenes before events are these abstract sequences that are always a treat to see. Graphics are highly detailed with impressive textures and realistic yet creative art design. It’s especially impressive on the PC which looks better than the console versions. However, the frame rate suffers as a result. Not so much to adversely affect gameplay but you will notice it.

Racing in Most Wanted is fast paced and adrenaline filled. The game is very reminiscent of Burnout in this way as the game gives you a great sense of speed as you zip past buildings and smash into your opponents. Cars control easily in an arcade like fashion and you’ll be drifting around corners by just tapping the brake trigger. Unfortunately, as all the cars are licensed, the crashes aren’t glorified or very impressive. Sure, it’s loud and there’s shattered glass everywhere but it’s just cosmetic damage, as the cars don’t get dents or smashed in.

Every car you drive has five events attached to it for you to compete in with varying difficulties. These events include various race types, keeping an average top speed, and evading a police pursuit. Completing events earns you Speed Points as well as upgrades to your car such as re-inflating tires and nitrous. These can then be further upgraded to a pro version with use. These events are usually varied enough to keep things interesting but some of them do repeat with other cars, which causes the game to get a bit repetitive at times, and some are more fun than others.

Competing against the Most Wanted cars are not as strict. You can choose any car to race against them once you’ve earned enough Speed Points and the races consist of one-on-one competitions with the cops interfering. However, after beating the Most Wanted car, you then will have to go after them and take them out to get their car. This is problematic because if you lose the car, you just have to drive around until you find it and try again. This can get frustrating as where the car will appear is at random.

Speaking of frustrating, the biggest problem with Need for Speed Most Wanted is the police. The cops in this game are psychotic in their pursuit of you. Do something wrong in front of them (which you usually are) and they will smash into your car head on, knock pedestrian cars into you, lay down dozens of spike strips, and basically make your life a living hell. What’s more is you can’t enter an event if the cops are after you, so most of the time you’ll just let them catch you which just sends you back to your car’s starting point. Simply put, the cops are way too hard and completely unfair.

In Most Wanted, you don’t earn cars but instead find them in what are called “Jack Spots” and this has pluses and minuses. On the plus side, you can find most of the cars (the exception is the 10 Most Wanted cars) just exploring Fairhaven and finding them is as easy as driving by it and pressing a button to drive it. On the negative side, you can only drive that car from the position you found it at. The same car can be found in other locations around the city but if you find a billboard you haven’t smashed and you need a faster car, you can’t select a new car and remain in the same position.

Events, upgrades, cars and more can all be accessed via a new Easydrive menu that can be opened during gameplay. This allows you to switch upgrades during races, mark events to go to, access multiplayer and jump to cars you’ve already found quickly. This is a nice feature that streamlines many of the game’s management and only towards the end of the game did I actually use the pause menu. However, it’s not very practical during races as you’re more likely to crash while messing with the menu.

Scattered all over Fairhaven are billboards to smash and speed camera to speed by. This is one of the most addicting parts of the game as your records are compared to those on your friends list. Whoever has the better record will have their avatar picture displayed on the billboard or pop up beside the speed camera. This encourages competition among your friends seamlessly in the single player and is much better done than the game’s actual online multiplayer.

Online multiplayer has you compete in various events such as reaching the rooftop of a building, gaining the most airtime off of a jump and conventional races listed in a playlist of sorts, earning Speed Points that go towards an online rank. Speed Points earned in both single and multiplayer count for both, as well as for other versions of Most Wanted, which is a nice feature. Also, cars can be changed in the same spot you’re in, unlike the single player, which is extremely convenient.

However, multiplayer is extremely dirty as there’s no real rules for when events start. As soon as the all the cars are in the starting area, there’s a countdown for when to begin but there’s nothing to stop other racers from beginning early or taking another car out. There isn’t even anything telling you which direction races start. The lack of structure in the multiplayer makes it irritating and it’s better to ignore the direct multiplayer in favor of the integrated leaderboards in the single player.

Need for Speed Most Wanted is a great game with various problems stemming from questionable design choices on the part of the developer. At the same time, it fails to be the much desired successor to Burnout Paradise while also being too different to resemble any Need for Speed title prior. Nothing is particularly broken in this game; there are just many disappointing aspects in it. Still, the fast paced and addictive gameplay alone guarantees a fun time and there’s plenty of ways to experience it. All things considered, you can do a lot worse than Need for Speed Most Wanted.

Want to see more of the game? Check out this video here!

About the Author

Esteban Cuevas

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