OXCGN’s Need For Speed: Most Wanted Review
Is Need For Speed “Burning out”?
by Arthur Kotsopoulos
©2012 Arthur Kotsopoulos
From the moment the voice over details how to become the Most Wanted, the production value is nothing shy of perfection. It’s present throughout the game and it’s at its pinnacle when being introduced to each of the 10 Most Wanted racers in Fairhaven.
Chasing the pack?
With a lack of any type of dedicated story it’s hard to really have any type of rapport with anything apart from the tiresome Fairhaven Police Department that seem to chase you for the slightest road violation.
A police force creates a different dynamic when racing but it ultimately doesn’t bring much to the table apart from being more annoying than challenging.
In 2005’s Most Wanted, which is arguably the best entry in the franchise to date, the games Blacklist had 15 racers each with a name, face, strength and weaknesses and their own unique personality which was portrayed through their cars.
In Criterion’s re-imagining (remember, Criterion do not do sequel or remakes but ‘re-imaginings’) the Blacklist has been lowered to 10 and titled “The Most Wanted List”. Customization has also been toned down to its bare bones, where the player must continually unlock the same parts for all 41 cars separately over the course of just 5 races.
Looking at the finer details of the game, every car is located at various “Jack Spots” around Fairhaven and are accessible to the player from the moment they start the game. This I feel, is a great way for the game to be accessible to any player, veteran or newcomer and enjoy what it has to offer.
Lots of cars
Each car only has 5 races available to it and various parts that can be unlocked. When you’ve ultimately completed all 5 races and unlocked every part you then move onto your next car of choice. You do this until you’ve racked up enough ‘Speed Points’ which grants you access to race the next available ranking ‘Most Wanted’ car on the list.
Essentially what we’ve got is a game that gives us access to every car on its roster from the start, but we’re limited to only 5 races before we have absolutely no use for it going forward in the game, apart from beating your friends’ speeds or jump distances via billboards.
It’s the classic rinse and repeat formula and it does grow tiresome; once you’ve accustomed yourself with how the McLaren handles around corners you’re required to sideline it for another car which doesn’t turn or drift as easily.
Those who take pride in unlocking achievements/trophies will no doubt find Most Wanted to be enjoyable and lengthy in game time but for those who just want a good racer will see that this game is limited in replay value.
Captain’s autolog, stardate 2.0
Once you’ve acquired the best cars in the game (and the game does features some beauties from muscle, exotic, and concept cars) and you’ve taken down the 10 Most Wanted racers, the games substance lies within Autolog 2.0.
Fairhaven is literally littered with speed cameras, billboards and security gates allowing the player to record the fastest speed or longest jump and claim bragging rights among their friends. All this information is masterfully displayed on screen so you’re never fiddling through menus to see who’s in the lead.
When you’re not competing in the same race you’ll find yourself spending most of your time in Fairhaven searching for these interactive objectives. You’ll come across beaches, city buildings, industrial plants and countryside highways, and you’ll realize there’s more to Fairhaven than just its traffic and pretty buildings.
Repair stations are located on your map via the green spanner icon and it’s as easy as driving through the station to change the colour of your car or repair its damage and burst tires (that’s if you’ve driven straight over the police spikes during chases)
All these features which seem to create a seamless gameplay experience where the player is never distracted or intruded on by a plague of different menus and options is all undone by the game’s Easydrive system.
Essentially a way to easily access your cars, multiplayer, customisation and much more, it is a chore to navigate when competing in any race.
Unless you can somehow manage to have your left eye on the easydrive menu and your right focused on the race and do multiple things at once you won’t be swapping your track tires for off-road tires to take advantage of sections of certain races.
It’s a great way to access the different options when stationary in your vehicle but when it comes to when driving be careful because you’ll almost 100% of the time crash and be forced to watch a 3-6 second cutscene of your car flipping about.
The most annoying and constant issue, crashing, is all too easy to do in Most Wanted. When a game tries so hard to allow the player an experience of uninterrupted gameplay, crashing undoes this.
The more your crash, the greater the annoyance as you watch your car flip and tumble for several seconds.
Unlike Criterion’s Burnout franchise, Need for Speed: Most Wanted shouldn’t be about how spectacular you can crash or how much damage you can inflict.
I found that in almost every race when in the lead and at pivotal moments in the race a civilian car would instantaneously appear in my line of sight and with no time to brake or swerve around it, I would crash and be forced to watch the excruciating cutscene which I so dearly wished you could skip or better yet, turn off.
Most Wanted‘s catch-up system is very lenient, so as long as you have enough distance between you and the finish line you’ll still be able to manage the win.
In fact Most Wanted as a whole is very lenient. When being caught by the police there’s no punishment; you’re just spawned in a fixed location and off you go. No loss of “Speedpoints”, progression or cars.
Unless you’re gunning for achievement or just too lazy to drive anywhere from 2 – 20 minutes to lose the police, get caught and you’re good to go.
Pump up the volume
The game features a robust soundtrack from trance, dubstep, house and metal that any music fan will appreciate listening to when speeding down Interstate 92.
If you’ve got an decent surround sound system then best to turn the volume way loud and listen to the Aston Martin V12 Vantage or the Audi R8 Spyder rip through tunnels. You will definitely NOT be disappointed with how amazing each car sounds.
When driving on any of the off-road portions of races you’ll see dirt spurt from the side of your car and rain drops bouncing off your car’s windshield. Bumping into opponents and scrapping the side of the road barriers will create realistic sparks.
In the game’s multiplayer component, all the attention to detail carry over and “Speed Lists” will randomly generate 5 races that players must meet up at. This does away with pesky menus and waiting in the lobby for a race to be set up.
During intermission I found that the game took too long to register the end of one race and the start of another, and having to wait almost 5 minutes for anything to become available was frustrating. No Easydrive, no mini-map, nothing.
I always thought the game had somehow disconnected me from the server only to magically tell me to go to the next meet up location.
If you’re taken out whilst competing, the score you’ve accumulated will be set in stone and you’re eliminated from adding to that. Whilst it means you won’t be able to come first, you do have the ability to take out other drivers and this is where multiplayer becomes challenging.
It’s not the best nor the worst multiplayer available and it does a decent job of holding your attention for a little while longer.
Go for a drive?
Whilst it does feel good to brag to your friends about having the fastest time in a circuit race or longest jump distance at certain billboards, it ultimately feels like just another Burnout game with spectacular crashes and isn’t what Need for Speed used to be.
Though the production values of this game are of the highest quality, I do feel Criterion, whilst they may seem like the best development team to take on the NFS titles, haven’t exactly struck gold twice.
The best way to compare Most Wanted is with Mortal Kombat vs DC Universe, a game which was purely Mortal Kombat focused with DC Universe lazily tacked on.
This is how I feel Criterion’s Most Wanted became, an amazing looking Burnout game with Need for Speed elements inserted within its gameplay.
I’ve been saying this since Carbon; the franchise needs to go back to the drawing board, take a hiatus for a year or two and re-focus on where it wants to go in the future.