I remember getting up early in the morning on the first day of E3 2012 Live Coverage on G4 (R.I.P) and getting to see EA’s conference. One of the games demoed was Need for Speed Most Wanted and after enjoying Criterion’s last Need for Speed effort, Hot Pursuit, I was pleased, but skeptical of the new Most Wanted since it looked more like a sequel to Burnout Paradise rather than a reimagining of 2005’s Need for Speed Most Wanted. After getting my hands on Most Wanted for a week, rest assured that even though it does look and feel similar to Burnout Paradise, it is a Need for Speed game at heart and a great racing game as well.
Most Wanted is set in the city of Fairhaven and it offers a lot of diverse scenery, featuring industrial, urban and countryside areas to explore and you will be doing a lot of exploring in order to find all 123 “unlockable” cars in the game. Instead of having to grind through races to go from a tuner car that you see in everyday life to exotics that you can only get in your dreams, Most Wanted lets players explore Fairhaven and find all 123 cars from the beginning. These cars range from tuners and exotics that have better handling, to muscle cars and trucks that can take more damage and have less of a chance of crashing.
Need for Speed Most Wanted (Xbox 360 [Reviewed], PlayStation 3, PC, PlayStation Vita)
Developer: Criterion Games
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Release: October 30, 2012 (North America) / November 2, 2012 (Europe) [Buy Now]
Find a car you that your able to drive? Pull up to it, press triangle or “Y,” then you’re good to go. As an added bonus, whenever you find and get into a new car it is automatically added to your car selection in easy drive and you can jump back into that car whenever you want from any location. Sometimes managing your cars can be difficult, since when you discover a new car, it isn’t marked on your overhead map, making finding a car and saving it for later if you are on your way to a race a little difficult. There is a new feature in Most Wanted called Easy Drive lets you select and jump to cars on the fly, but for those who aren’t car enthusiasts, the name of the car and its stats are the only thing available to you during selection, so it’s best to become acquainted with the car’s names.
Speaking of easy drive, minus the press start and map menu, Most Wanted does not rely on menus to access features in the game. Simply hit the right directional button to access easy drive to pull up car customization (performance only), race events tied to the specific car your driving, the most wanted racers that you have to take down to become number one and Autolog. Autolog returns in Most Wanted with many improvements, thanks in part to the new XP currency in the game known as speed points. Speed points are awarded for doing almost everything in the game, from drifting, to avoiding road blocks, to smashing billboards,to taking down cops and other racers (which always varies between being hard to do, to just having to graze another car). The other improvement to Autolog is the easy to access multiplayer component, which now is more party based minus the mini game esque party mode of Burnout Paradise. Players can challenge each other in various ways, including beating each other to race starts, but one thing that I felt was a weird missing component to multiplayer was that cop pursuits are not a part there. Even with a game that’s whole theme is based on becoming the most wanted, this felt like a missed opportunity for extra multiplayer content, a cooperative mode also could have sprouted if the cop pursuits could have been included, but maybe the absence was made to distinguish Most Wanted from 2010’s Hot Pursuit remake.
Speaking of Hot Pursuit, I really appreciate how much the soundtrack for Most Wanted has improved from Hot Pursuit’s. The soundtrack features artists ranging from: C&D, Green Day, Nero, Lower Than Atlantis, The Vaccines, Calvin Harris, The Who, Deadmau5 and many more. It was nice to be able to have such a great soundtrack while racing and dealing with the cops.
Most Wanted is by far the hardest racing game I’ve played in years to evade police, if the heat level gets past three (there are six total). The police chases aren’t unforgivable at higher levels, but there were times where I entered cooldown mode and I was stuck on a straightaway, for example a highway, and the game would spawn another cop miles ahead of me while there were cops still chasing me from behind with no way to go left or right. This didn’t make pursuits insanely difficult thanks to the help of being able to switch cars while in pursuit and being able to go through body shops to change your car’s color to decrease your heat level. One thing about the cop pursuits that seemed odd was that cops would be able to intercept me from miles away from locations that had my area blocked off as if the A.I was homing in on me.
Other problems with Most Wanted arose the more that I played it. Each car you unlock has five races available, ranging from circuit races, police ambushes, sprint races and speed runs. The problem with this is that even though every five races for every car isn’t in the same order, the performance upgrades are, meaning that some may feel that they will be in a forced rhythm as the game goes on, since these performance upgrades are vital to helping with taking on the most wanted racers. One annoyance people may find is that whenever you select to take on a most wanted driver, only the car name is given with no stats. This means that some may have situations of wondering what would be the best car that they have to bring to the race or that maybe they don’t have the best upgrade yet. I also started to notice rubber band A.I issues in some of the races on easy or medium. Sometimes A.I racers suddenly passed me in the last three seconds of the race when I haven’t made a single mistake and they were miles behind me. Also sometimes the environment will actually be more of a challenge than the racers you driving against, with inconvenient pieces of the environment that seem harmless but can cut your car off and make it stop on a dime if even slightly touched. Aside from the minor issues that Need for Speed Most Wanted suffers from, it is still the most fun racing game that I’ve played in years. With the fast paced arcade racing, aggressive police chases, simplified interface and over 130 cars and races available, Most Wanted is definitely a great game that will have you making trouble for a while.