Monday, 26 November 2012

Review: Need for Speed: Most Wanted (PS3)

Dating back to the mid '90s, I can remember being twelve or thirteen and playing endless hours of Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit with my friends on PC. One player would play as the cop setting up spike strips and the other would be the bad guy evading the police. The Need for Speed franchise has changed focus over the last decade focusing heavily on street racing during the middle of the decade with the Hot Pursuit style gameplay re-emerging over the past few years. I played Most Wanted (MW) at E3 2012 and in Germany at EA's Press Event for the game. My positive impression of the game that I took away from those events haven't changed since.

Most Wanted is set in the sandbox driving world of Fairhaven, an amalgamation of several American cities. Much like Burnout Paradise, there's no story or characters in Most Wanted as the developers wanted to do a sandbox game that didn't restrict the player to going down one path like the last Need for Speed title. Frankly, I would've preferred to have a story and characters. It creates some kind of emotional attachment to the single player experience. In Most Wanted I was always left wondering "Why am I doing what I'm doing?"

Unlike most racing games where you start off with a slower or low-level cars, you can immediately start driving luxury or sports cars, provided you can find them in the city. There are over 50 cars scattered around Fairhaven and if you find them you can simply add them to your collection.

Every aspect of the single player is tied to your friends' scores. Every jump, speed trap or billboard you drive through automatically compares your score to your friends score. This adds a great element as you're always wanting to one-up your buddies and gain bragging rights.

The game features an easy to navigate Autolog System accessed with the D-pad. All Races, Most Wanted events, car upgrades and car selection items are accessed through this menu as well. My only complaint about the Autolog System is that it does not let you compare car stats on the same screen so you have to cycle back and forth and remember which stats are better.

As you race, hit jumps, destroy security gates, attract law enforcement etc. you unlock speed points. Your speed points help you unlock events and dictate your position on the leaderboards. Speed points can be earned in both the career and online modes. Speed points are definitely a lot easier and fun to rack up in the online play.

Each car can be customized. You unlock customizable parts by finishing in the top two or three spots in a race. You'll need to continually upgrade your vehicle to compete in the harder events. The autolog system shows the difficulty of three events. . The level of customization isn't as deep as past titles in the series, so die hard fans maybe a little disappointed.

Most Wanted races are another big part of the single player game. There are ten Most Wanted events that see you square off against the Most Wanted drivers in the City. These events usually involve yourself and another car with some police chases and traps thrown in for good fun. If you defeat your opponent and take them down you get their car added to your inventory.

The police make a return to the series. If you're caught speeding or driving recklessly, the police will come after you. They establish roadblocks and spike strips, and attempt to run you off the road. The police chases can sometimes drag on for way too long. At one point I spent 20 minutes running from the police trying to escape. You essentially get the cops off your tail by hiding in an alleyway or any other spot off the main roads. There are a number of paint shops scattered throughout Fairhaven but even changing the paint job on your car does nothing to help evade the cops. It's rather ridiculous and pointless to have these shops if they do nothing. The cop chases are only fun during the races and not during the exploration part of the game. It's also a little strange that getting busted by the cops has no negative impact on your career and you don't lose speed points. I would often give up just so I could get on with the Career mode.

The career mode is fairly lengthy and there are lots of events to take part in. The game does a good job of changing up the races as there's a mixture of on road and off road tracks and even some tracks incorporate both types of racing.

MW also features online play. Rather than joining a lobby and begin racing you play through a setlist of events including challenges and races. After you join a game online you must head to a common meetup point. Between each event players are given a short two minute intermission. The online play is great and definitely my preferred method for earning speed points.

Presentation wise Most Wanted dazzles. The game's soundtrack features everything from punk to hip hop from bands such as Muse, Green Day and the Who. The game also looks stunning. It runs at a smooth at sixty frames per second, the car models look great, the environments are well detailed and the crashes look over the top.

Most Wanted is definitely aimed towards those players who normally don't play racing games. The game doesn't feature the exhaustive customization options of game's like Gran Turismo; instead Criterion successfully delivers a beautiful looking and fantastic adrenaline packed racing experience.

- Sidd Masand

The Good:
- Adrenaline-packed gameplay
- Online play
- Great presentation
- Long and robust career
- Awesome stat recording against friends

The Bad:
- No story
- Car customization is not that deep
- Cop chases can get frustrating
- Autolog system could be tweaked a bit

Score: 8.5 / 10