Need for Speed Most Wanted Review

Xbox 360

March 27, 2009 by

Need for Speed Most Wanted Image

The Need for Speed series has made some significant changes over the years. Where we once took control of exotic rides in games that focused heavily on evading the law, the series took quite a different turn when EA Games took the popular franchises underground. Emerging with the new focus of illegally racing around the streets in the middle of the night with fine-tuned imports, the last two games were significantly different from their ancestors, which both pleased many but disappointed others. In the third title of illegal street racing series, EA has returned to the series roots to incorporate a number of classic features that once made the franchise so loved.

Where you once had full, free roam of the streets, youll soon learn of the dangerous entities that now prevent you from having your share of illegal fun; cops. Get spotted racing, driving recklessly, smashing into civilian vehicles or destroying the citys pristine streets will soon have the police breathing down your neck. The more you evade them, the harder they are going to come at you, launching road blocks, incredibly tough 4WDs that easily knock your ride around the road, helicopters to keep track of you and spike strips to rip the tires from underneath you. When you cross the exciting police chases with some enjoyable arcade racing and car customization options, Need For Speed Most Wanted clearly defines itself as one of the best in the series yet.

The game drops you directly into the action with a sleek BMW at your control. The story follows the lines of your arrival into the city of Rockport, a location notorious for hosting some of the hottest rides and toughest races in the country. Your racing competitors arent the only ones that you need to be weary of, as you are introduced to a smart-mouthed, determined police chief who plans on stamping out the illegal street racing that has long plagued his streets. After having a quick look at your car and attempting to scare you out of the city, he speeds off in his police-marked Corvette after a report of street racers competing in other parts of the city. Fast forward past a few unnecessary plot points and we find ourselves racing against Razor, the type of person that everyone hates; a smart-mouthed, idiotic fool who thinks hes the best thing since sliced bread. Your hatred for him soon grows to an all-time high when you discover that a certain someone has messed with your ride, causing it to break down mid race. Since you were racing for pink slips, you lose your ride and soon find yourself alone on the streets without a car and no where to go.

Your luck changes when you meet Mia, a beautiful and street-wise indivdual who helps you to get back on your feet and reclaim your ride. It turns out that Razor is using your car to climb to the top of the blacklist rankings; a list of racers that specifies your place within the underground world. With the backing and support of Mia, who is able to provide interesting and helpful details about Razor and the blacklist, you purchase your new ride and begin your quest to reach the top position on the blacklist and ultimately retrieve what is rightfully yours.

Need For Speed Most Wanted offers one of the best storylines in the series to date. Its largely engaging and often surprising, as a number of twists and turns leads to the final truth that is heavily hinted throughout the game. While the storyline starts off and finishes strong, the middle portions of the game tends to die away slightly, which does little in keeping your interest as you race your way through each of the ten blacklist drivers. Considering the background of the franchise and the casual gamer targeting, we didnt expect to find a truly spectacular and engrossing storyline; we certainly were not surprised with what we found. The majority of the games storyline is driven through phone calls and SMS, with the occasional cinematic, which mostly appears during the beginning and end of the game, provides a visually impressive world that further pushes the storyline along. We would have liked to see some more of these cinematics, given the impressive visual flair and effectiveness at portraying the games storyline.

While EA has made a number of small new changes to the series with Most Wanted, the game feels very much like a Need For Speed title. The game offers the same gritty streets to race in, the overly reflective cars to drive, the same arcadey racing style and the same music style. On the other hand, the inclusion of a free roam ability, which now appears in so many games that it really shouldnt be considered to be a unique feature, adds a further depth of realism to the games underground basing. The presentation and execution of the events that you participate in, namely those that come alongside the introduction of the police, are also a pleasing inclusion. While almost all of the changes can be considered positive, there was one aspect that disappointed us; the new limits of car customization. While the two previous Underground titles offered an expanding broad range of customization options at your disposal, Most Wanted has restricted the advancements that the two previous titles made. You are now limited to selecting a single body kit style, rather than being able to openly select the bumper and side skirts. You are completely unable to individually change the muffler, rather, the game automatically does based on the body kit that you choose. Some other customization restrictions further limit the level of individuality that you can pour into each vehicle, which feels like a step backwards when compared to the large variety of customization options in the Underground games.

The games Career mode is where the storyline-driven experience is provided. Outside of this mode, there is the Challenge Series to play through, which consists of some sixty different challenges to test your driving skills. The mode is basically straightforward, largely requiring you to complete a specific event within a time limit. There is also the Quick Race mode, where you can select between Quick Play, which instantly pits you into play with a randomly selected vehicle and event; Custom Race, which allows you to fine-tune the options for an event of your choice and Split Screen, which is Most Wanteds multiplayer offering.

Injecting some variation into the gameplay are the various different modes that you can compete in. Theres Circuit, which simply involves doing laps of a set course; Drag, which involves using the right analogue stick to manually control gears as you speed through traffic in a style different from the standard racing modes; Sprint, which is a simple race from Point A to Point B; Lap Knockout, where the last racer across the line for each lap is kicked out of the race; Toll Booth, which involves reaching each checkpoint within the given time limit; and Speedtrap, which sees you hurtling your car through a series of speed cameras where each racer must attempt to achieve the highest accumulation of speed that each speed camera captures.

Need For Speed Most Wanteds presentation is of a high level, cleverly mixing solid graphics with great voice acting that complements the games enjoyable gameplay. Cars offer superb detail, as does the large city environments. Cinematics are of a notably high level, as the development team have accurately created realistic characters through the use of motion capture. The sound of each car is absolutely spectacular, as each car offers its own distinctively realistic sound that various according to the changes made to it. The game also offers a mixture of street music to listen to whilst you race.

For a series that has been around for years, the evolution that has taken place in the Need For Speed series is quite commendable. EA Games has managed to successfully alter the series according to consumers interest, which enables the series to continuously top the charts for weeks after release. Need For Speed Most Wanted further strengthens the series stable number one position in the illegal street racing scene, and we cant wait to see what the developers do with the next title.

Rating: 7.5/10

Disclosure: We are provided copies of games from the game companies for some games that we review.