Need for Speed Most Wanted Review

By: Jimmy Kovalski

Developer: Criterion Games

Publisher: EA Games

Platforms: Playstation 3, Xbox 360, PC, VITA and IOS

Players: 1 (2-8 Online)

Rating: E 10+ (Alcohol reference, Comic mischief, Violence)

Release Date: October 30th 2012

Identity Crisis

Need for Speed Most Wanted is Criterion Games second Need For Speed game (NFS: Hot Pursuit from 2010) and is in no way related to Need for Speed Most Wanted from 2005. The game has you set in the fictional open world city of Fairhaven. You are an up and coming racer and your goal is to become the cities “most wanted” racer. By completing races and accomplishing other small tasks you earn points. If you get to certain amount of points you will be able to challenge the drivers on the most wanted list. There are 10 drivers to take on and once you beat them you will move up on the list and also have a chance to take their car. This is the whole premise of Most Wanted and the game has no real storyline, characters or cutscenes. While I would have like to have seen more narrative in the game I definitely do not miss those cheesy storylines of past Need for Speed games. Most Wanted is simple, just race.

The first thing you will notice about Most Wanted is just how much it feels like Burnout Paradise. You can freely roam in the city and compete in races, discover more cars, trip speed cameras, go off massive jumps and crash gates and billboards. You can also take down opponents and cops in classic burnout fashion. This really is a spiritual successor to Burnout Paradise.

Most Wanted has an interesting approach to how you unlock and customize cars. There are no “purchasing” of vehicles just discovering vehicles hidden throughout the city and pressing a single button is enough to unlock them. Once unlocked, you can switch to them at any time in the game. Each vehicle has five races set to them and by winning these races you unlock part for the cars. These parts do not visually change the car but they do impact the cars performance such as speed, handling and toughness. The problem with this is that each car can be fully upgraded in about 45 minutes and there is really no point in driving that vehicle after its upgraded. This lack of depth makes the single player feel hollow. Once you switch to another vehicle you must start over as upgrades do not carry over. After you have become “Most Wanted” there is really very little incentive to return to the single player aside from smashing all the gates and billboards. This is very disappointing as the gameplay is so good that you will want to keep playing but you just have no incentive to.

The game controls brilliantly. The cars are a complete joy to drive and each car does feel vastly different from one another. Flying down narrow streets, drifting around turns, blasting through billboards and getting massive air off of huge jumps have never been more fun. The races are chaotic and fun however the A.I can be a pain. The infamous “rubber band” effect is in full swing here. You can be going full speed with boost down the final stretch only to be passed at the last second by a car that is not using boost. The rubber band effect is put into most arcade racers to make the races more intense but they really needed to tone it down a bit here as it just gets annoying and makes for a more frustrating experience.

There are indeed cops in the game and they will try everything they can to stop you. They will intercept you if you are traveling way to fast and they will interrupt races and cause problems for all racers. While running from the cops can at times be fun I found the inclusion of cops in this game to be a bit out of place. They are not as smart as the cops from Hot Pursuit and not as fun. When in the city if they are after you will need to escape a certain zone to activate the cool down period. Think escaping from the cops in Grand Theft Auto or Saints Row, it works just the same. The problem is that sometimes no matter what you do you just cannot shake them and taking them down only gets more of them after you. While in races they are not too much of a problem, they are a complete nuisance when in free roam. You will just be trying to get from race to race only then to engage in an annoying 30 minute police chase. On top of that there are no actual “pursuit” or cops and robbers type events in multilayer. This just adds to the fact that the cops in Most Wanted feel out of place.

Most Wanted, much like Burnout Paradise; has all real time menus and leaderboards for practically everything. You will sit through one load time when you boot up the game but all other menus are brought up by the push of the d-pad. You can select races, cars, customize you vehicles and view options all will still driving. This is very sleek and easy and adds a sense of immersion into the game world. Another thing Most Wanted promotes is constantly challenging and beating your friends. Nearly everything you do in the game from jump distance to speed traps are put on a leaderboard for you to compete with your friends. No matter what you’re doing in Most Wanted you are always competing.

The games presentation is a pretty mixed bag. The cars look really good and the attention to detail on them is quite impressive. The same cannot be said for the city itself. Fairhaven just feels empty and lacks any kind of personality. It just looks very bland. The crashes are also not very great. The game has licensed cars so it lacks the awesome crashes we are used to seeing out of a Criterion game. When you crash it is just not spectacular in any way nor are they exciting. The console versions of the game also have sub 30 frames per second. This is a disappointment considering Burnout Paradise ran at a blistering 60fps. It doesn’t kill the sense of speed but the frame drops are very noticeable. The PC version of the game is said to run at 60fps and have better textures however I have not tried that version. The soundtrack is fairly decent with some good hits from famous artists. However; the soundtrack is not very large so you will tire of the same songs after a couple of hours. Luckily the game does support custom soundtracks.

The main reason to play Most Wanted and keep playing it is its stellar multiplayer. When you activate multiplayer you are dropped into the open world with up to 7 other racers. You then have to meet up at a meeting point to start each event. Events range from standard races, miscellaneous events like having the longest jump off a certain object and even team events like drift a total of “X” amount of yards as a group. Once an event is complete you gain xp and drive right to the next event. No loading screens or lobbies. The great thing is not only the racing but just how dirty the multiplayer can be. During certain events (EX: longest jump) you can crash your opponent which locks their current score so they can no longer achieve a better score. If you are one of the unfortunate ones to be wrecked you’re not completely done. You can still drive around and try to ruin your opponent’s event by crashing them. You can switch to any car at any time and each can be upgraded as well. The only difference from single player is that you do have perks you can assign each vehicle. With quite a few events, thing to unlock and just how fun it can be to mess with other players this game is a sure fire candidate for multiplayer game of the year.

Overall, Need for Speed Most Wanted feels like two completely different games. The single player at times feels like a complete wash but the multiplayer is fantastic and extremely fun and is the sole reason to play and keep playing Most Wanted.

Pros:

+Cars are extremely well detailed

+Solid gameplay

+Fantastic Multiplayer with some crazy events

+No loading or obtrusive menus

+Feels a lot like Burnout Paradise

Cons:

-The single player turns very dull after a short time

-Crashes are less than exciting

-Cops are extremely under developed

-No cops and robbers type modes in multiplayer

-Console versions run at sub 30fps

Final Verdict: 7.5/10

Price at time of Review: $60

If you are in the market for a great multiplayer racing game than look no further. If not then I’d say wait for a price drop.

**This game was reviewed with the PS3 retail version of the game.**

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