Need for Speed Most Wanted Review

Developer: EA Canada Publisher: EA
Release Date: November 2005 Also On: GCN, PC, PS2, Xbox, and X360

Need for Speed is about to return to the video game scene this fall. This time cops will be chasing your tail as you blaze down the highway going 150 miles per hour, spinning your wheels down the long, curved roads of the inner-city, lined with destructible signs, poles, and industrial sites. Watch out for the oncoming traffic, and be sure to outrun the police as up to six patrol officers chase you.

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Like its predecessor, Need for Speed Underground 2, Most Wanted will feature a large city to explore at your leisure, or at your peril. Most Wanted includes the men in blue once again, bringing the series back to the days of Hot Pursuit 2. You’ll need to evade the cops as you make your way up the Blacklist. By challenging the people on the Blacklist, you’ll earn their car and the needed respect.

Whereas you were ‘boxed in’ in Need for Speed Underground 2, Most Wanted will allow gamers to roam more openly, across fields, golf courses, parking lots, and docks. The sense of expansiveness is there, and EA claims that it can take several minutes to travel from one side of the city to the other, once all areas of the city are unlocked. According to the developers, it’s roughly double the size of Underground 2.

It comes as no surprise that the police will play a major new role in this version of the Need for Speed series. The development team was sure to let us know that this is one of the few games these days that actually has a ‘game over’. You have to suck really bad to get there, but if your car gets impounded three times, and you have no more vehicles, you’re out of luck.

The computer AI is rather advanced, at least by the explanation given to me. According to what I was told, the AI will respond to each situation, holding grudges, and figuring ways to best deal with you. For instance, if you hit a police officer, he’ll take it personally, chasing you alone until he’s satisfied he’s paid you back. Hit a computer opponent into a cop car and they’ll pay them the same attention. Police will also respond to rank, chasing the front-runners over racers lagging at the end of the pack.

The chases themselves can last several minutes. I’ve seen them go on for more than five minutes. The police will call in assistance the more you bash their squad cars and the more destruction you cause. Obviously, with more police on-screen, the higher the likelihood you’ll be caught. Their means of capturing you is surrounding your car, and then boxing you in. You’re virtually defenseless when this happens.

If you find yourself in a police chase, you won’t have access to events on the map. Electronic Arts Canada was sure to keep you white-knuckled as you fight for the right to your vehicle. Remember, if your car gets impounded, there are penalties. It’s going to cost you cash for each expense you cause the city. In order to run this bill down, you’ll need to ‘cool down’ your car in the ‘safe house’.

The map from Need for Speed Underground 2 returns, as well as GPS. I didn’t mind the free-roaming from race-to-race that much, but at the request of gamers with less time – or those that simply don’t want to explore, it’s now possible to skip all of that by selecting races through the menus and warping to them. This takes away from the whole concept of gaining a rap sheet by evading the cops, costing the city as much money in destruction as possible, etc.

Need for Speed Underground 2 was all about tuning and upgrading your car. Need for Speed Most Wanted does not come close in the level of customization that Underground 2 did last fall. Instead of individual parts, you now have several body kits to choose from for your vehicle. I consider this a good thing, as you’ll be more concerned with what’s under the hood than the appearance of your vehicle.

Speaking of which, the cars available include, but are not limited to: BMW M3 GTR Street, BMW M3 GTR Race, Mazda RX-8, Porsche Carrera GT, Ford Mustang GT, Lotus Elise, Subaru Impreza WRX STi, Audi TT 3.2 V6, Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren, Corvette C6R, Corvette C6, Mitsubishi Eclipse GT, and Toyota Supra. More will be announced in the weeks ahead, including a number of to say the least, interesting ones.

I played both the full version of the single-player game and the demo. As I can’t go into much other than what I’ve already divulged, I’ll now go into detail about the demo. With three different game modes, the demo is a small sampling of what the game is like. In-between the Toll Booth, Sprint, and Drag races are chases from the cops. These can be as short as one and a half minutes, to two minutes or longer.

The Toll Booth mode is comprised of a series of three checkpoints. Fail to reach them in time and you lose the race. Sprint is a race against four computer opponents to the end, in percentage format, instead of laps. Drag is against a Blacklist opponent, using the analog stick to shift gears. You’ll have to deal with cops in all the modes, excluding drag, except for the evasion part at the end of each mode.

As much as I already like Need for Speed Most Wanted, I can’t help but feel an enormous amount of inspiration for the game came from Burnout 3. Mixing the best of both worlds, Need for Speed Underground and Burnout 3, isn’t such a bad idea. Add the pursuit of cops and you’ve got yourself a racing game that strives to differentiate itself from its competition. While at this point in development, there’s no evidence Most Wanted reinvents the racing genre, it definitely improves upon the winning formula that the Underground series was based on.

Written by Kyle

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Note: These are next-gen screenshots, not current-gen.

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