Need For Speed: Most Wanted Review

Developer: Electronic Arts Publisher: Electronic Arts
Release Date: November 16, 2005 Also On: PS2, Xbox

Need for Speed: Most Wanted sure is memorable. Electronic Arts has struck gold, as Most Wanted is one of the best games in the Need for Speed franchise. It’s more of “Cops” and less of “Pimp My Ride”, which makes for a much different experience. Humorous cinematics, fast-paced racing, high-speed pursuits, tight controls, and slick graphics make way for an overall package that is worth the $60 price point on the Xbox 360.

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Welcome, you’re the new guy in town. Like any big-headed car tuner, your goal is to gain the respect of other street racers by pushing the law and becoming the “Most Wanted” racer in town. When you attempt to do this, the locals tamper with your fancy BMW and you’re quickly in the hole, losing your pink slip to an arrogant, outspoken hotshot named Razor. Razor doesn’t stop there, as he climbs to the peak of the Most Wanted list using your car. Through different races, events, and police chases your goal is to have another race against Razor to get your car back, but there are 14 other Most Wanted racers on the “Blacklist” and hundreds of races waiting for you before you get to him. The story is told through some ridiculously beautiful cutscenes. These scenes mix computer-generated animation, real-life actors, and a fancy color effect to make a look that you have to see to believe. Not to mention, these scenes are usually pretty funny, making them worth watching all the same.

The different races leading up to Razor have the same simple goal; cross the finish line before everyone else as quickly as possible. There are standard Circuit, Lap Knockout, and Sprint races as well as the Drag races that were made famous with the Underground series. Those familiar modes stand next to new challenges that mix things up very slightly. Tollbooth races have you zooming through checkpoints as quickly as possible. Speed-Trap events have speed cameras set up around the course, and each camera determines your speed and gives you a score. The scores accumulate as the event goes on, and at the end, the player with the highest score wins the challenge. If I could say anything about the different races, it’s that they’re varied enough and downright entertaining enough to keep the gameplay from getting stale and moldy.

When you’re not racing in Most Wanted, you’ve got a free roam in a huge urban, suburban, and rural environment that is bursting at the seams with things to do. Whether you’re upgrading your car’s superficial aspects or tinkering with newer and better parts, exploring, or causing trouble with the police, there is a lot to do in this game. Speaking of the police, the pursuits in Most Wanted are one of the most exciting aspects of the game. You’ll attract the attention of the local feds if you’re caught speeding, causing property damage, or collisions on the road. These minor infractions can turn into twenty- or thirty-minute chases that are loaded with spike strips, road blocks, pursuing helicopters, and cop cars that range from your standard beater to Corvette federal chasers. Believe me, it can get nasty when you’re taking out cruisers left and right while trying to find a way to shake the heat and end the pursuit. If the races weren’t exciting enough for you, these chases should be. They’re mostly optional, and the only time they’re required is when you’re trying to move up on the Blacklist.

The racing controls feel very tight and realistic. The driving physics aren’t as realistic as, say, Gran Turismo 4, yet EA managed to do a fantastic job on the controls. The sense of speed is pretty fantastic, especially when you go over a small hill and you’re sent flying into the air, sparks and exhaust following you as you fly through the sky, landing with more sparks and a crash. Alongside the frantic pace of the races, the visuals provide quite a show while tearing through the streets. Particles fill the screen when you crash through a roadblock and the shine effect from wet roads or rain is breathtaking. On a high-def television set, Most Wanted is unbelievable. Alongside the visuals, the fast-paced punk rock and metalcore soundtrack and metal-crunching sound effects make for an expertly-presented videogame. The only potential problem that I can see is fans of NFS: Underground complaining that the game takes place mostly in the daytime rather than at night, like Underground and Underground 2 did. This time change results in a completely new color scheme and atmosphere that, quite personally, I preferred.

There isn’t much to complain about in Need for Speed: Most Wanted. The opponent racer A.I., unlike the police A.I., is a little too easy at first. They’re not very competitive until hours into the game, but that’s really the only valid complaint that I have. Most Wanted isn’t a revolutionary title but it’s something that is a blast to play and it’s a great start for racing games on the Xbox 360. Pick it up if you’re looking for a racing title or if you liked the Underground series, you won’t be disappointed.

Graphics: 9
Sound: 9
Gameplay: 8
Creativity: 8
Replay Value/Game Length: 9
Final: 8.4
Written by Cliff Review Guide

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