Criterion Games, best known for their work on the Burnout series has taken the helm of the long enduring Need for Speed franchise with the latest release, Need for Speed: Most Wanted.
The game promises action packed racing and deep social integration with the aim of opening up the gameplay to the players in an unprecedented way.
Did EA and Criterion reach this goal? Read on to find out!
Usually a review of a game these days would kick off with a little bit about the story, but in Need for Speed: Most Wanted there doesn’t appear to be one. You’re a guy, with a whole host of expensive cars that you probably can’t afford at your disposal, in the massive Fairhaven city who must race for some reason.
It’s a plot written by Homer Simpson (sans talking, time-travelling pie) but in the grand scheme of things, it makes sense that there is no story: you are the story of Need for Speed: Most Wanted.
The game is completely open world – you chose everything. The car you drive, the competitions you race in, and how your car handles on the road. This is both a blessing and a curse, however – the greatness of the idea of doing it your way opens up the possibilities of you merely driving around the huge city for hours on end without actually doing anything important.
To help guide you, though, the ‘Autolog 2.0’ feature is your portal to actual fun. The Autolog will assit you by suggesting missions (such as ‘Drift xx metres’ or ‘achieve xx speed’) and races that are available to compete in.
There are a couple of race modes you’ll be subjected to; ‘Ambush’ is a race away from the police who are hunting you down, ‘Circuit Race’, as the name suggests puts you in a race of several laps around a re-defined course, ‘Sprint Race’ is a checkpoint-to-checkpoint roam and ‘Speed Run’ has you maintaining the highest average speed as you get to the finish line.
Of all, ‘Sprint Race’ is by far the least progressive and most annoying. The idea that you’re street racing but are forced to drive through checkpoints kind of misses the point of street racing. Miss a checkpoint and you’ll have to drive back to it to continue the race. While this does mean in multiplayer mode you have a hope of winning a race against a seasoned pro, it does feel somewhat pointless in a solo-race.
This mode is made all the more annoying by the GPS (map) function in the game. Races go both on-road and off-road, so following the GPS is essential but confusing as you often find yourself flying right past a sudden sharp turn. It’s something one will get used to as they explore the city more and more, but fans of Forza: Horizon will sorely miss the guide arrows – or at least the option to turn them on – over the actual road.
Throughout your journeys through Fairhaven, you will need to be wary of the police who patrol the roads. Crash into them, speed past them or just be a jerk near them and you’ll be chased down. This is a cool feature, and outrunning the cops is a blast.
Need for Speed: Most Wanted is built around social engagement, though and this is where the game really shines. The title is powered by the ‘Autolog 2.0’ feature which tracks pretty much everything you do, gives you points and lists you on various leader boards. The overall goal is to become the ‘Most Wanted’ driver.
Since Autolog is tracking your friends, their achievements will appear in your game. For example, one feature tracks your speed through speed cameras. If you’ve beaten your friends’ scores, or they have a better one, you’ll know about it and be able to directly compete against it. This feature is by far the best one in Need for Speed: Most Wanted, though it does require having as many friends playing the game as possible to get the most use out of it.
Multiplayer mode is hectic and fun – you can expect players to crash into you to get massive “Takedowns” and a huge range of race modes on offer. The multiplayer mode is set in the same massive Fairhaven city and you will be pitted against players in all types of competitions, like achieving the longest jump or just creating as much havoc with their cars as humanly possible.
Throughout Multiplayer, you will be guided by a very handy ticker at the bottom of the screen that explains exactly what your goals are in the current race. This is crucial since the game is very trusting in the fact that you know what you’re supposed to be doing at any given point in time.
In terms of presentation, let’s face it: Need for Speed games have looked better in the past. But if you can get past the GameCube-era style graphics, you will be pleased with a wide range of modern music tracks, licensed cars spanning decades and styles, fantastic damage effects that can make or break your race and smooth and consistant gameplay, even in multiplayer.
Having said that, though, multiplayer does have some graphic issues – such as randomly vanishing players or background objects. This isn’t exactly a deal-breaker, since the gameplay itself isn’t effected; just some extra polish in the art department would not have gone astray.
For the OCD among us, you will be happy to learn that Need for Speed: Most Wanted has a huge amount of collectables up for grabs. Billboards, speed cameras, shortcuts and hidden cars are all awaiting you throughout Fairhaven so you’ll have to be vigilant and explore to find absolutely everything.
You will find that each car you collect will have its own set of races with their own finishing conditions – and this is how you upgrade your car. The better you do in a race, the better modifications you will unlock; better tyres, faster nitros – it’s all there and there’s a huge range of customisation on offer. For the uninitiated, the ‘EasyDrive’ system helps you upgrade your car by clearly showing you the differences and suggesting add ons as you go. There are also a host of “Pro Mods” to be unlocked both in solo and multiplayer modes – these require very high scores so practising is well worth the effort.
What Need for Speed: Most Wanted lacks in visual polish and actual storyline it makes up for in the innovative approach to social gameplay. Criterion Games’ have achieved their goal of offering complete freedom and as such have crafted the best Need for Speed title to date.