Coming off the heels of the widely loved Need For Speed Hot Pursuit from 2010. Need for Speed Most Wanted follows the same formula with a non-existent story.
No really I mean it. There is no story at all.
You may be wondering as much as I was how a game named after perhaps the best Need for Speed game of all time would not include a ridiculous and dramatized story like the original Most Wanted was known for. Perhaps the answer lies with the fact that Criterion is the developer of this game as opposed to beloved need for speed developer Blackbox. Criterion is well known for their award winning Burnout series and as such it isn’t that much of a stretch to assume they would do things differently and more in the vain of Burnout.
Just another Burnout game?
While it might be easy to just pass this off as Burnout Paradise 2 that would be doing it a great disservice. While it is apparent the developer borrowed a lot of concepts from the burnout series this is definitely its own game and an excellent addition to the Need for Speed franchise.
So what has changed with this Need for Speed Most Wanted? Gone is the robust customization options available in many of the previous Need for Speed games. This is a real shame and a huge mistake on the developers part in my opinion. Having that extra level of customization as opposed to the dumbed down Easy Drive would have made this game a masterpiece.
It’s even in the name of the feature that they dramatically stripped it down to its spare parts. “Easy” drive allows you to swap to any of the cars you have acquired through what I can only describe as the car enthusiast’s dream of the perfect scavenger hunt. There are also 5 types of modifications that can made to your vehicle “on the fly.” provided you have your car under enough control to press the buttons without veering into oncoming traffic. :p These modifications are Tires, Nitrous, Chassis, Transmission and Body. Each of these also has a far superior pro version that is usually obtained by completing an amazing feet such as drifting a certain amount of miles. Easy Drive also functions as your GPS locator and fast travel system. If you have driven to the starting line of an event you can at any time warp to that location. If you have not already found a race location you will see how many miles away it is and can simply start your GPS to initiate your guided directions.
The system works really well and it is a breeze to get around the city of Fairhaven. Speaking of the city it is as gorgeous and diverse as the many cars in this game. You have your downtown that will remind you of any of the big cities you have driven through. Whether that be Miami, San Diego, Chicago or Toronto. There is something for everyone in Fairhaven. Once you head out onto one of the many highways scattered across the city you can explore the shipyards, caves, country railroad tracks, coastal views, Canyons and everything that the city of Fairhaven has to offer. You will probably feel like you can drive forever. The city is huge. Much larger than the original Most Wanted but the overall goal of the game which is to defeat all the top ten most wanted racers is very short and leaves much to be desired. Each most wanted racer has 5 events you must win in order to challenge them. These are almost all extremely entertaining.
The ones that I loved the most and believe deserve the most mention are the police chases. Where the game drops you in a high speed chase and you have to lose the cops within a very short amount of time. These are frantic chases that usually involve the full police force on your tail and once you lose them don’t celebrate just yet as they may be sneaking around the corner. You don’t win until you have lost them and your heat level is gone. Driving through a gas station will insta-fix your car and you are going to need it. Here’s a hint for these police chases. Once you have actually lost the police driving through any of the gas stations will not only fix your car but also drop your heat by an entire level.
I completed all of the most wanted races within the first 10-12 hours. By this time I also had found about 60% of the cars in the game but I must say that I enjoyed every adrenaline-filled second of it!
Once you have completed the main campaign there is so much still to see and do. This is a living, breathing city after all. The initial game has 55 cars in total to find. These are from a large range of different manufacturers. From common and well known. To obscure and largely unknown. BMW, NISSAN, Koenigsegg, Marrussia, and BAC Mono to name a few. Some of the cars are old classics. Others shiny new supercars but they all handle like a dream. One note I need to mention about the handling in this game is that you either Love it or hate it. If you scour the forums you will find many people expressing vehemently their distaste with the handling of the cars. Personally I love the handling even though I also play simulation racers like Forza and Gran Turismo. The one thing you should take away about the handling if nothing else, is that all the cars feel different.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder
The visuals in this game just completely blew me away. I don’t think I have ever seen better visuals in a racer before. They completely nailed the light and atmosphere. When it starts to pour down rain you truly feel like you are in the storm. The road becomes wet and harder to drive on. The sun shines and reflects realistically off the water. At times this game is mesmerizing. I had the pleasure of playing this on a pretty beefy computer and was able to turn all the bells and whistles on, but even at the lowest settings this game is pretty. It definitely needs that graphical treatment though to really shine like the diamond it is. The city is beautifully detailed as is every street and highway in the game. If you have seen my GTA 4 Mods video where I use the greatest graphical mods from Vucko to show how pretty and realistic GTA4 can look then you haven’t seen anything until you have played this game. It blows the doors off almost all the visual competition out there.
Be the Most Wanted Driver in Fairhaven
Perhaps the most anticipated and greatest thing about this game is the police chases. These chases can consist of anything from 1 police car chasing you for spinning your tires too long to 20+ police cars, corvettes, SUV’s, using roadblocks and spikestrips looking for every opportunity to ruin your day. This aspect of the single player was prevalent in the first game and while I think it is far easier in this game it is also in many ways more fun. You can jump off ramps 100+ feet high then hide in an abandoned train car and shut off your engine. Then watch as the police frantically drive around looking for you. That is an incredible feeling and not one that goes away too soon. After an hour long pursuit to finally escape and get your hard earned speedpoints is so refreshing. Then you jump in a new car ram the first cop you see and do it all over again. Ah the thrills of a hit and run!
This game has tremendous replay value with the single player alone, but much like burnout the multiplayer is where you will get the most out of the game. Personally while I enjoyed it. The online portion of this game is where I find the most glaring faults. There is a free roam option that allows you to explore the city with your friends at your leisure, but in what I must say is the most disappointing problem in this game they blew it with the execution. Two words, “No cops.” What is the point of making game called most wanted and not including the incredible police chases into the online modes. That really would have set the bar higher for Criterion and I really have no idea why they miss stepped so much by not including it. Did they run out of time? Whatever the reason without it multiplayer feels like a wasted opportunity. There isn’t even a cops vs robbers mode. Nothing like that. What you get is some clever challenges that consist of races, obstacle courses, follow the leader, etc. These are all well and good but I grew tired of them quickly.
The Verdict! Should you buy it?
Yes I think you definitely should. It isn’t perfect but it is still an excellent racing game and a wonderful showcase of the graphical technology that is sure to come. If I had to compare this to the original Most Wanted it would score much lower. The above review is looking at this as an entirely new game.