Jeeze Louise I had no idea how extreme the exposure on this video was! Sorry about that...
Need For Speed is a storied franchise that’s been around for as long as I, and many others, can remember. It’s gotten to the point where, instead of sequels, they’ve begun reinventing old releases to reintroduce vigour to racer. This time, just like 2010′s Most Wanted, EA have brought in beloved developer Criterion who are famous for their Burnout crash-happy racers. This time around they’ve been entrusted with re-imagining Need For Speed: Most Wanted, but this reboot bares almost no resemblance to the original. Can Criterion pull off another successful open road driving title, or has the gastank finally run dry on Need For Speed?
Need For Speed: Most Wanted is, to put it bluntly, an adrenaline fueled racer that looks to grab you by the scruff of your neck as you slink back into your seat with the onscreen action. Starting out with low level vehicle to learn the ropes via incremental pauses in the action, single player doesn’t offer a story mode – which is good considering no racing game has really managed that successfully. The basic gist of the ‘Most Wanted’ backstory is that you, a nameless racer who has driven to the fine city of Fairhaven, are looking to make a name for yourself. However the local police department has been cracking down on road related crime and has created a list of their top ten most wanted racers. Through various activities and races you’ll make a name for yourself and rise up the ranks while defeating each name on that list to become the most wanted racer in Fairhaven. It may sound pretty cheesy, but it works and is great fun doing it.
If you want to hit the top spot you’ll have to raise you ‘street cred’ and you do that by gaining Speed Points through various races and causing mayhem in Fairhaven. Smash into billboards, crash security gates to open up shortcuts or perhaps new cars for you to jack and you’ll gain these points. If you beat best times in races or smash through speed traps you’ll also snag a few of these precious points. If that doesn’t take your fancy then – maybe question why you’re playing Most Wanted – you can just drive around and gain points through drifting, ‘near misses’ and evade the cops.
In an interesting move that instantly opens the game to all levels of player, Criterion have unlocked everything from the start. Thats right, you’ll be able to race in any race and use any car you like doing so. The caveat? You have to find them out and about in the world first. It’s a small price to pay for a playground of fun. Their decision came around from a feeling that unlocking content placed too much of a burden unto players, after all you want them to play and enjoy the game your making – not get fed up and stop due to difficulty. Hidden throughout the city are a bevy of vehicles ranging from your everyday saloons up to your muscle, sports and SUV’s. Once unlocked you can switch vehicles using the EasyDrive menu so you don’t have to drive to wherever you found it/last had it.
This EasyDrive menu is your gateway to the online and offline world without ever touching the main menu itself. You can use it with Kinect too if you like, ordering it with simple voic commands to select the option you want. As each car you unlock has five activities exclusive to it, being able to switch between with EasyDrive makes these a breeze to begin – unlike Burnout Paradise‘ infuriating cross-town drive to another objective. You can also change car parts that you’ve earned through the EasyDrive menu, and it’s all done on the fly. This means you can change your car setup to perform better depending on terrain and situation – you may well want racing slicks to get away from the cops faster, but have tyres with better handling for out and out races. It is a pretty neat feature and makes the game entirely accessible and everything at your fingertips at all times. Autolog also returns through the EasyDrive menu showing you competing times and statistics that are always accessible, and if you’ve not got any friends with the game, the handy ‘friend suggestion’ feature throws some your way if you need them.
Most Wanted‘s online component is drop in, drop out, as well as asynchronous play, and you can create a party just like in Burnout Paradise. A neat feature lets you create playlists of your favourite single-player races and some online only ones too. The more online Speed Points you collect the more customisation options as online vehicles differ slightly from their offline counterparts. Essentially playing online is really a different beast from the single-player journey through Fairhaven. Thanks to the EA Origin system, if you decide to purchase multiple versions of Most Wanted - PS Vita included – you’re rewarded with all your SP carrying over so when you start again on a new platform you can advance up the Most Wanted list faster. The online component can give you and some friends hours upon hours of fun, and that is something that is very welcomed.
Most Wanted harks back to Burnout Paradise in many ways, but that was inevitable with Criterion at the helm. If you’ve played the spiritual predecessor then you’ll be very happy to dive right into the events of Fairhaven, but a word of warning: do not expect the destruction that’s found within the Burnout franchise. As they’re all licensed vehicles you can’t completely total them, nor do much more than skin deep damage, but ultimately this isn’t a Burnout sequel and shouldn’t be thought of as one.
In the end Need for Speed: Most Wanted gives you a tonne of content to absorb both online and off with a wide array of vehicles to collect and items to smash. One thing it really does very well it make the Burnout fan inside me yearn for another entry into the series; maybe that’ll happen someday, but until then you’ll find me racing on the streets of Fairhaven.
Audio/Visual – 5/5: Amazing soundtrack and great graphics make this easily the best looking NFS title.
Gameplay – 3.5/5: Unique car system looks to break the mold for racing games. Lack of any story at all and recycling of certain aspects from other Criterion racing titles make it bitter sweet.
Innovation – 3.5/5: Recycling of certain familiar areas from Burnout: Paradise may be apparent to fans but the great EasyDrive menu and having the game always at your fingertips is welcomed.
Value -4.5/5: Plenty of content and a satisfying multiplayer experience as long as you have the friends list full of racers to support the full experience.
Final Score: 4/5