Need For Speed: Most Wanted Review
When looking at this title I was worried and avoided it to begin with, if you read the game’s overview it comes across as Need for Speed Underground + Need for Speed Hot Pursuit, two great titles in their own right, highly overdone. Thinking that this title would feel like a basic racer with some additional features tacked on, I left it well alone. However after giving in and playing the game I find there is actually a well designed and implemented system for each area of the game that comes together to make a highly fulfilling experience.
Starting off the game throws you right into the action, literally with a police chase, where the story quickly comes out to reveal itself. As a “nobody” in the world of illegal street racing you are to climb the ranks to the top (that storyline is in too many games now) purchasing new cars as you get more money, and equipping each car with the latest tune-ups and body accessories.
The game features clever levels of progression called the Blacklist, on this list at each rank there is a racer you must beat in a one-on-one, but to get to that race you must first complete a number of races from the list given to you. These lists will include a range of different types of races, including tollbooth, sprint, circuit, lap knockout, speed trap and drag strip.
As you progress through the game new cars will become unlocked, as well as new tune-ups and body accessories. From NOS upgrades for a burst of instant speed to body kits to give your car style, the garage has you covered. The cars themselves are well varied, each performing differently in their speed, acceleration and handling. This means that if you want to progress you will be best changing your car several times throughout the game. The customisation of the cars is exactly as you would expect from Need for Speed Underground, giving you similar types of upgrades for all cars. There is certainly enough variation to create unique custom cars which is perfect for online play.
A large annoyance with the gameplay is a difficulty feature,which always keeps the action fast paced by making sure the race is always close right till the very end. This is done by using a large handicap where if the A.I was leading it would make irregular braking to slow down giving you the needed chance to win the race – so slamming into a wall isn’t a worry as they opponent will be letting you catch up. Whilst this is annoying in its own right, it’s far worse when the tables are turned, no matter how skilled you are the opponent will never leave your side for long. I would find myself getting such distance that the opponent was off the radar, then suddenly the opponents car would appear on the radar, travelling at speeds of 400mph at which he will fly right past you. This would often happen right at the finish line where his dramatically increased speed would easily win him the race.
The game truly shines in the “bounty” type challenges where you are expected to complete difficult tasks whilst being chased by the police, this mode is highly intense and extremely enjoyable. Some of the challenges include taking out police cars head on, dodging set amount of road blocks or spike strips and evading the police after a certain amount of time. All of the challenges are extremely hard and put you right in the danger area of constantly keeping in contact with the police, considering that as you do more damage they will call out spike strips, helicopters, jeeps and the special speed units the intensity becomes to the point where your screaming at the screen, as when you get busted you lose it ALL. Now imagine if you have spent 30minutes being chased by the police, surviving to get through 10+ roadblocks, 7 spike strips and avoid 3 helicopters just to get busted as a jeep ploughed into you… it’s hard to resist throwing that wireless controller at the wall. Whilst the bounty challenges seem extremely difficult and frustrating it’s a positive feature that gives the game a great sense of tension and skill when racing.
Graphically the game is well done, using a style unique to Need for Speed mixed with the car modification scene. This works well with the game and provides atmosphere and depth to the story and concept of the game. The cars themselves reflect the light beautifully and look amazing, especially when photorealistic reflective paint is used. As for the actual game world everything is looking pretty average with the world clearly designed with previous-generation consoles in mind. This can be seen by 2D plants and the constant blur effect on buildings and walls as if to hide the low polygon count and “jaggies”. Whilst racing at 200mph the levels do turn into nothing more than a complete blur so it’s not much of a problem.
Whilst racing through the world at 200mph it’s clear that there is a good attention to detail concerning the audio, every engine noise you would expect has been included, the slightest bump can be heard and the music / sound effects included on top of the car audio creates constant tension and a feel of pace. Even the menus have been packed with sound effects and music.
Lastly the game has great length and lastability as simply completing the game will count up enough hours to make it worth while and then you have the option of going back completing the challenges you missed, online play, completing the harder bounty missions or even customising the other cars. All in all this is a fantastic title to the dated Need for Speed series, worth a look to any fan of the series or racing games in general.