Need For Speed Most Wanted Review
Dead or alive.
I can still remember playing Need For Speed Most Wanted, way back in 2006, because it was one of the games that really got me back into the series. I wasn’t a big fan of the old, first generation, titles like Hot Pursuit but the second generation really grabbed me. Fast forward to 2012, and it seems like the series may have finally run out of names because I just finished playing a game called Need For Speed Most Wanted, but this one was made by Criterion whom you may know from the Burnout series. Most Wanted isn’t Burnout, but it spits hot fire from time to time.
One thing that’s always bugged me a little about the Need For Speed series, is their need to set things up with an elaborate back story. One that always ended up taking you out of the action by being cheesy, and being full of characters were always obvious stereotypes straight out of a Fast and Furious movie. Criterion’s Most Wanted, however, ditches all of this for a very simple setup; they drop you in the middle of a fictitious city, filled with street racers whom the police have ranked on a ‘most wanted’ list, and tasks you with reaching the number one spot.
If you want to move up the list, you have to earn speed points by competing in events against other street racers that rule the city. These events, which are scattered around the open world of Most Wanted, can be conveniently accessed via the Easy Drive system. Easy Drive is always sitting in the upper left of your screen and can be accessed using the D-pad. Here you can set waypoints to new races, upgrade your car and check your standings all without leaving the game.
If you were looking for a tight, realistic, racing simulation you aren’t going to find it here. Most Wanted delivers an old-school, arcade racing experience where crashing head-on into a brick wall, or oncoming car, is only a minor setback and causing your opponents to crash earns you points. If your car gets banged up, you can instantly repair it by dashing through one of the many gas stations that are scattered throughout each race course. None of these are elements you’ll find in Forza, or even most other Need for Speed games, but they work very well with what Criterion are trying to accomplish.
This focus on fun, rather than realism, goes one step too far, if you ask me, leading to my biggest disappointment with Most Wanted; there is no option to switch your car to Manual Transmission. I know there are some of you who won’t really be that hurt by the fact that they have to drive an automatic the whole time, but I can’t help but feel like this was a huge oversight. Serious racing game fans, even when they want to play a more casual game, still want to drive a stick and are going to have a very hard time getting into Most Wanted because of this.
Of course, I can’t forget the police chases. As you roam the city streets, and during races, the police are always waiting for you to make a mistake. When you do, and the chase is on, they’ll quickly escalate their tactics to try and bring you down. It isn’t easy to win a race while dodging roadblocks made out of police SUV’s, but it will get your blood pumping.
Criterion are looking to mix up the standard racing game multiplayer offering with something they call Speed Lists. When you head online, you can jump into a Speed List and compete in a series of events that mix pure races with strange objective games that will really test your knowledge of the game’s engine. Events like being the first person to jump to, and park on, a particular roof, or to smash the most opponents cars.
Once you complete all of the events in your particular Speed List, just drive through the open world to the next meet-up spot, and jump into another. I think this format is a perfect fit for Most Wanted, and a multiplayer platform that was more traditional and competitive wouldn’t have won many fans away from games like Forza or Gran Turismo.
Criterion manage to deliver a racing game that captures the pure fun of a game like Burnout, while dressing it up in a package that will draw in some more serious racing fans. They might not stick around for that long, but they’ll have a lot of fun before they put Need For Speed Most Wanted back on the shelf. Where previous Need for Speed games tried to take themselves too seriously, Most Wanted isn’t ashamed of what it is and that’s why it succeeds.
Available On: Xbox 360 / PS3 / PC