Developer: Criterion Games
Publisher: Electronic Arts
ESRB Rating: Teen
Do you have the need? The need for speed? Well, good news, racing fans; the latest installment of the Need For Speed franchise looks to satisfy that need with the release of Need For Speed: Most Wanted. Rather than implementing a story like last year’s game, NFS: MW uses an open world this time around. Does Need For Speed: Most Wanted carry the lineage of the franchise proudly, or is this a Burnout: Paradise knockoff? Get your lead foot (or lead fingers, in this case) ready, here’s the review.
Nobody’s Gonna Take My Car, I’m Gonna Race It To the Ground
At first glance, the combination of a fast-paced street racing game with an open world means that comparisons to Burnout: Paradise pop up. Criterion Games developed both games, but Need For Speed: Most Wanted differs from both other NFS games and Burnout: Paradise in different ways. One thing that immediately stands out is the fact that over 50 official vehicles from automakers such as Chevy, Ford, Lamborghini, and Ferrari are in the game. Also, a vast majority of those cars are available to drive – all the player has to do is find them throughout the city of Fairhaven, in areas called Jack Spots, some of which are out in the open while others are tucked away off the roads.
Using these cars allows the player to cruise through Fairhaven or race to build up the car through the use of upgrades, and this can be done on the fly thanks to the Easy Drive feature. With Easy Drive, players can bring up a menu on-screen while driving and choose from upgrading the car, racing, or even switching to a car they’ve already found.
Need For Speed: Most Wanted uses the incentive of shutting down the top ten “Most Wanted” drivers in their cars, and these Most Wanted drivers are kind of the equivalent of boss battles. The biggest problem that takes away the feeling of satisfaction of beating a “Most Wanted” driver is that winning the race doesn’t give the player the car – to obtain the car, the player must shut it down by making it crash after the race.
Race, Chase, and Explore
The developers of Need For Speed: Most Wanted put a good amount of detail into each car and the city of Fairhaven itself. Players go from the urban jungle of a downtown section to more secluded areas such as forests and construction sites. For those who do like exploring a video game world, most of the map is available to drive through, but getting to some areas is a different matter. One of the things that will be familiar to Burnout: Paradise players is the role that gates and billboards play.
Crashing through gates and billboards gives the player speed points, and this is used as a way of keeping a high score. Speed points are given for escaping the police, speeding past traffic cameras, and winning races. Also, the NFS: MW auto-log tracks the player’s progress and compares it to your online friends. If you win a specific race, you can always go back and race it again to beat a friend’s time for some bragging rights.
Do You Have Any Idea How Fast You Were Going?
Alhough the control scheme is simple and responsive, it also starts off as very loose. Some of these cars act as though they don’t like the player – it’s common to veer off a little too far in turns or to not have as much control as you feel you should. Players must upgrade the car in order to overcome this. However, they must run the perfect race to win.
The soundtrack to Need For Speed: Most Wanted mixes rock music and techno (sometimes both) to drive home the point that this is a street racing game at its core. With tires screeching while drifting tight corners and sirens going off as the police pursue you, not only does the action give the player an adrenaline rush, but the sound does as well. Just avoid turning up the volume too loud – the neighbors might get a little worried.
You’ll Never Catch Me, Coppers!
With the exciting gameplay elements Need For Speed: Most Wanted brings together, it really only falls short in a couple of areas; mainly in the crashes. Maybe it’s because there’s an actual person driving the car, but crashes in this game just don’t have the same feeling of awe. Sure, the game shows the crash and the camera goes into slow-motion, but the level of detail just isn’t there. At times, hitting something at the right angle will cause the car to flip over a few times, but the damage isn’t as prevalent as in other games (such as Burnout: Paradise). This is greatly missed, especially at such high speeds.
Need For Speed: Most Wanted also doesn’t have the same feeling of satisfaction offered by other games when winning races, nor does it inspire a feeling of defeat when you are busted by the police. Winning races allows the player to upgrade the car they’re driving but not much more, while getting busted only makes the player go back to a designated area on the map. But these aren’t entirely bad things if the player is a big multiplayer-type gamer.
Need For Speed: Most Wanted gives the feeling that it’s more about the bragging rights than the rewards of being a street racer. NFS: MW is for those gamers who love high-speed racing with a shot of adrenaline and a side of exploration. At the end of the day, it’s still very fun and can become quite addictive.
Final Verdict: Need For Speed: Most Wanted gets 8 Billboard Crashes out of 10
This review is based on a retail copy of the Playstation 3 version of Need For Speed: Most Wanted by Criterion Games distributed by Electronic Arts.