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Need for Speed: Most Wanted

3 Ratings: 3.3
Racing / Driving video game by EA - Electronic Arts for the Xbox 360

Wake up to the smell of burnt asphalt as the thrill of illicit street racing permeates the air. From the makers of the hit Need for Speed Underground series, Need for Speed Most Wanted challenges players to become the most notorious and elusive street … see full wiki

Release Date: November, 2005
1 review about Need for Speed: Most Wanted

Need For Speed: Most Wanted - Breakin' the Law, Breakin' the Law!

  • Apr 23, 2006
Rating:
+2
Pros: Solid gameplay, nice variety of things to do

Cons: Average graphics, gets a little dull

The Bottom Line: While it doesn't bring a tremendous amount of new stuff to the genre, NFS:MW is an enjoyable racer.

I'm not a tremendous fan of racing games. But for some reason, I keep renting them. Not sure why. They just end up in my queue. And some of the time, I enjoy them. Was Need for Speed Most Wanted one of those games?

Read on, Dear reader....

•• Story ••
The story is quite simple as it should be for a racing game. You are a street racer who loses is his car in a dirty race. The theft was committed by the guy who resides at the top of the Blacklist 15 - the top ranked street racers. The story of the game is to win street cred, money and bounty and make your way to the top of the blacklist to get revenge. Pretty simple. And thankfully so. Deep stories in racing games never work and come off contrived and silly. EA kept it simple and it works.

•• Gameplay ••
The controls of NFS:MW are basic and don't stray from the tried and true formula of every other racer with a few minor exceptions. The right trigger is the accelerator and the left trigger is the brake. If you aren't moving, the left trigger becomes the reverse. The minor differences are the d-pad and they are proprietary to this game. The left direction gives you an overall map with waypoints, safe houses, car lots, etc. You can move the thumbstick to to any of these spots on the map which enables your "GPS", which is a fancy name for the arrow above your head that tells you where to go. Move down on the d-pad and you get the nest challenge on the blacklist.

The blacklist consists of 15 people and each one has certain requirements for being able to race them. You must get a certain amount of bounty, win some races, and complete milestones.

Bounty is simple a numerical value of how wanted you are. You get bounty by getting into police chases. The longer the police chase, the more damage you cause, the more roadblocks you avoid, the more bounty you accumulate. Pretty simple, right? Wrong. As you get higher in the blacklist, the bounty requirements increase. And in order to get the needed bounty, you have to escape the police chase. This is the hardest part. Getting into trouble is easy, the hard part is escaping the police. They get fast and furious and never let up. You almost always need to trip one of the many incident zones that topple a giant donut, or drop a boat from dry dock. your timing needs to be right to other trap the cop or make him stop to help innocents. Once that's done, you need to find a cooldown area to avoid being detected. Then and only then, do you get your rewards for being a miscreant.

And if you get caught, you get busted. You have to pay the fines associated with your crimes. If you don't have the money your car gets impounded. If your last car gets impounded, game over. You have to start at your last saved game. Thankfully, the game autosaves for you. If it hadn't I think I would have thrown my controller against the wall.

Milestones and bounty are tied together for the most part. As you race around avoiding cops, you can complete milestone such as ramming a certain amount of cops, avoiding a number of roadblocks, etc. Basically all the things you get bounty for also count toward fulfilling your milestone requirements assuming you do them enough times. And of course, you need to escape the cops or the milestones don't count.

And finally, the main part of the game, racing. You compete against other people in a variety of races such including laps knockout, point to point, drag racing, tollbooth checkpoint and speed traps. Most of these are pretty run-of-the-mill except for speed trap which has you competing to see who can exceed the speed limit at various checkpoints and Drag racing which are short races that focus on shifting more than anything.

Once you complete these and qualify, you can race the next person on the Blacklist. This races consists of two different races and if you win them, you get your choice of 2 markers. These could be car upgrades, get out of jail free cards, or pink slips to the ride you just beat. It's a crap-shoot, but certainly a fun part of it. Kind of like a scratcher lottery ticket.

The AI in the game is good and gets better as you go along. One of the things I hate about racing games is the need for perfection. If you miss a corner or don't drift just right, the competition will crush you and you might as well start over. I never got that sense in NFS:MW. Nor did I feel the need to take every shortcut, unlike Burnout Revenge. While the AI does get challenging, it never required me to know every nook and granny of the course. It was a nice change of pace and made the game fun.

One thing lacking int he game is the arcade feel. There are no points for good slides, no reward for tricks or good crashes. This is a straight racing game and it could have used a bit of extra spice to get some unique flavor.

As maps go, it seems to get a little repetitive. As you progress, new areas of the city open up for new races. But the tracks seem to be variations on the same areas of town over and over again. I understand the need to do this, but at least in games like Project Gotham Racing, you have different cities to interact in. In NFS:MW, you race around the same city over and over again.

While this game would like to be a simulation, it really isn't. There's no tweaking like there is in Forza. You can buy upgrades in the shop, but you can't tweak your alignment or gear ratios or anything. Simply upgrade upgrade upgrade. Along with these upgrades, you can change the visual stylings. These don't do much for your car except make them more valuable if you want to sell it.

•• Graphics ••
The best graphics in a racing game still go to Project Gotham Racing 3. NFS:MW doesn't dethrone the champ simply because there isn't enough to differentiate it from the other consoles this was a port from. The cars a beautifully detailed and the weather effects are dynamic. But the city doesn't look alive. There are no pedestrians, no people, no activity in the city. The buildings are bland and nondescript and the objects placed around town a fairly sparse. There just isn't enough there to make me go wow.

This isn't to say the graphics are bad, they just aren't fantastic. That said, the cars do look great and take a fair amount of damage. But since they are real licensed cars you'll never see the visceral destructive glory of Burnout Revenge. Along those same lines, the game doesn't have the sense of speed that other racers do.

One things to note is that cutscenes use a technique I haven't seen in many years - Full motion video. Instead of using computer-animated "actors" to do the scenes, the hired real actors, shot them against, green screen, and then blended them into computer generated environments. The effect is a real throwback to some of the great adventure games of the early 90s. It was a nice change to use a technology long-thought dead so effectively.

•• Sound ••
As racing games go, the sound doesn't stand out. Each car has its own unique sound and upgrades modify that sound in subtle ways. And certainly, the rumble of higher powered engines will give your subwoofer a workout. The same goes for explosions. While there aren't as many as in Burnout Revenge or Full Auto, often times driving through a gas station will cause an eruption. These explosions are deep and satisfying.

The voice work is pretty good. You get message from people at various times and the acting is certainly good. One thing that was impressive was the chatter of the police radio as you are being pursued. I often wondered if they actually got real police traffic recordings. They seemed very authentic and added quite a bit of realism to the game.

•• Achievements ••
Achievements are pretty basic. You get one for each person on the Blacklist you defeat. Quite basic, but expected for a launch title.

•• Parents Should Know ••
This game is rated T for Teen. There are lots of crashing cars, but no language or sex. It's assumed that someone is driving the cars, but you never see anyone inside. Should be harmless for the intended age group.

•• Conclusion ••
While it doesn't bring a tremendous amount of new stuff to the genre, NFS:MW is an enjoyable racer.

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