Many years ago, Criterion were the makers behind the Burnout series. They recently teamed up with EA to release Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit. The face of racing titles changed forever for the better as NFS: Hot Pursuit pushed the arcade racer to new heights and is renowned as one of the best NFS titles to date. Well Criterion is back again, and this time it’s all about being the Most Wanted racer in town. Strap yourself in, its race time!
Need for Speed Most Wanted, like other racers in the genre, paints the picture of a town that’s run by street racers. It’s a world where kids who barely have their probationary licence own exotic cars, imports and classic muscle cars and ride the town and city streets by day and night. Ahhh its heaven to a racing enthusiast like myself! Most Wanted is all about the journey from a regular “Jo” to the Most Wanted racer in all of town.
You commence as just that, a regular Jo who starts out with a ride and you must engage in races and events in order to build your notoriety. The more you win, the more you get to race which raises the chance to take on each of the 10 most wanted drivers in town. Knock each of them off and move to top spot. That’s the aim of the game, simple enough and it works exceedingly well.
Need for Speed Most Wanted plays as an open world style racer similar to that of games such as Forza Horizon. You can choose to free roam for as long as your heart desires, or, follow your GPS to your next objective and so forth. The choice is yours. Your d-pad will be your trusty companion as it’s used to navigate your mission, objectives and upgrades. With a quick flick on the d-pad, you can select your next event or even warp to it if you’ve discovered the area previously. The open world is filled with loads of side streets, secret areas, bridges and tunnels, dirt tracks, bitumen and even sandy beaches.
As you begin your journey to the number 1 spot on the most wanted list, each rival you face off against is met with an impressive cut scene about that rival. The cut scenes are done extremely well and add somewhat to the story. If anything, it just makes you more determined to take them down and take their car to boot. That’s something I love about racing titles such as Need for Speed, is that you build up your arsenal of cars quickly by winning more races and defeating your opponents.
And that’s certainly the next point that’s truly worth a mention and it’s of course, the cars. Unlike other games, you need to start with a Hyundai i30 that barely makes it up a hill and only after a huge game time investment do you finally earn that prized ride that you can now enjoy, but generally you don’t as you’ve by this stage completed the game. Well, not with NFS Most Wanted. Right from the start, you’ll have access to every one of its 41 vehicles! Expect to enjoy rides such as a Lamborghini Gallardo, to a Porsche Carrera, or perhaps an Aston Martin V12 Vantage instantly. All you have to do is find them as they are scattered across the map in various locations, some obvious, and some not so obvious. Simply drive up to the ride, press Y to switch cars and you’re off and racing.
As with any racing game, you want to have the ability to modify your ride. Whether it’s a bigger turbo for more Boost or an exhaust system to annoy your neighbours you have the ability to add these to your ride. However, to do this, you need to accumulate Speed Points. These Speed Points are earned by driving fast, dangerously, booming through speed cameras, smashing billboards and evading the police and, of course, by entering street races. Each car actually has 5 races that are available to it, and the more you win the more upgrades you’ll receive. It’s a good system that removes the need for cash and a storefront and it works well in the open world environment. It’s all accessible via the d-pad as well so that makes it easy to get to. Also, the races aren’t your traditional starting grid style of race; they’re all a rolling start style which always see’s you start in last place.
What would a Need for Speed game be without the cops? They are back, angrier than ever and your job is to evade the police at all costs. The more you annoy the police, the higher the Heat Level becomes and the harder you need to try to escape and loose the police. You can take shortcuts, hide in quiet areas, or even drive through repair shops to change the colour of your car all in a bid to evade the police. The more you build up that heat meter, the harder it will become to escape as the Police resort to all types of tactics and bigger and stronger SUV’s and Vans designed to bring you to a halt. And if you are brought to a halt by a big SUV or perhaps even a regular vehicle, the crash scenes are fantastic and definitely have that Burnout feel. No one crashes cars better than Criterion!
The multiplayer in NFS Most Wanted will see you competing online to race against your friends. Although personally with Auto-log and the way the game constantly pits your friend’s times against you, it feels as if you’re always racing against them anyway. It’s a great feeling to win a race and then have a message pop up saying you beat your friend’s best time. It’s a feeling of accomplishment and the Auto-log notifications are certainly not overpowering either. There’s definitely plenty of online modes to keep you busy.
One thing for certain is that Need for Speed Most Wanted is a graphical powerhouse. Environments are well detailed as too are the cars of course, not a hint of slowdown no matter how chaotic the events get on screen. There’s a host of little things you notice as well, for example when you enter a underground tunnel, when you emerge, the light is bright and blinds you for a split second as your eyes adjust. It’s a nice touch that makes me exit a tunnel with my throttle at half just in case. You also have the feeling of speed as well, you actually feel like you’re going 250Km/hr and it doesn’t feel like 60km/hr if you get my drift. Criterion has really captured the feeling of speed here.
From the sounds of your engine revving, to the Cops saying “pull over”, everything is very well created. Need for Speed Most Wanted certainly does a great job in creating an environment that is believable and feels real. The sounds of gates flinging open to the sound of timber crumbling as you plough through a billboard sound so real.
Certainly for the low price of admission, you’re going to get a lot of value here. Whether it’s just the single player mode that interests you, there are more than enough races and grinding required before you take the top spot on the notoriety list. You’ll be playing for many hours. Also, there’s the multiplayer mode as well to help extend your gameplay. Plus you can try for days and days to beat your friends best lap times on certain events thanks to the great Auto-log system.
Need for Speed Most Wanted is a fantastic title that you’ll enjoy from the moment you press the gas pedal. With plenty of events, huge selection of cars, plenty of game missions and things to do, see and explore there is plenty here in terms of value. For an arcade racer, NFS Most Wanted delivers in every way you’d expect. However, the only negative I can think of is that this has been done before, heck in the original NFS Most Wanted. As minor as that is, this game feels far more refined and balanced than it ever has and that in itself is more than enough for me to recommend Need For Speed Most Wanted to any racing fan. And even if you’re not a fan, you’ll have fun driving your ride on edge and evading the police. A must buy.
AAG SCORE: 9 / 10
+ Fast Racer
+ Gorgeous Visuals
+ Great Handling
– Story has been done before, and the name too
– Not enough Cars
– Not enough tuning options