2012-11-09

Need For Speed Most Wanted – It’s the Michael Bay Movie of Racers

by Yo Snyder

You pretty much know exactly what you’re going to get five minutes in to Burnout Paradise 2…er…I mean Need for Speed Most Wanted.
You’re going to get an insanely huge open world to race in, very cool
cars to do that racing in, tremendously fast, white-knuckled speed,
crazy crashes and super-intense police chases. That’s the game. You know
it in the first few minutes of playing that’s what it is, and if you
like speed and crazy car chases, you’ll be perfectly okay with that.

Now the reason you can pretty much know what the entire game is going to be like so early on is because NFS Most Wanted
tries something a little different; you can drive any car in the game
right from the start. No leveling up. No unlocking new classes. No
earning enough money to buy the elite cars. They’re all there for the
taking…if you can find them. This takes away any sort of sense of
progression from the game. The end game is the same as the starting
game, provided you find all the cars. Some may like that, some may not.
For me, it makes this the ultimate pick-up-and-play racer. I never feel
like I needed to invest much time in it because I know I can pretty much
get any car, so whenever I have a moment, I’ll cruise around, do some
races, evade some police chases, and then move on to something else. And
that’s fine, and it’s plenty of fun.

Now, this isn’t to say there isn’t any
progression in the game. Each car you find has a list of races it can
participate in and a list of upgrades you can get for that car as you
win. You’ll get stuff like re-inflatable tires, heavier chassis, or
nitrous or short and long gears to help your car’s performance. However,
you have to unlock all of the same stuff for every car. So you
may get used to driving your tricked-out Mustang and then jump in a
Lamborghini, only to be reminded that you haven’t raced it as much and
therefore don’t even have basic improvements such as nitrous. You can’t
even paint your car the way you want. You can change it’s color by
driving through repair shops, but don’t expect much customization
options outside of what you can win in races. So, you never really feel
like you “own” any of these cars like you do in other games. This system
works, but I think it’ll be one that boils down to how much you love
cars for how much you like it.

Speaking of those things you
that you win, NFSMW has a unique way of implementing them. You can equip
your car with any upgrade on the fly. Just a few taps of the D-pad are
all it takes to switch your tires or chassis or gears. It’s pretty
slick, expect for the fact that if you’re in a race and want to suddenly
switch to off-road tires, or your being chased by the police and want
to re-inflate your tires, it’s hard to watch both the quick menus your
going through and the road you’re racing on in high-speed.  Still, the
ability to switch cars and upgrades, find races and events, and more all
with a few taps of the d-pad is a good idea, just tough under
high-speed situations. 

Of course, the real progression in this
game is working your way up the Most Wanted list. As you earn “speed
points” for winning races, drifting, jumping, taking down racers and
more, you’ll unlock opportunities to race the Most Wanted and work your
way up the list. To beat them, you have win a race against them
one-on-one, and then take down their car to earn their car. This can be
pretty tough. The races aren’t easy, and then chasing them all over the
city, often with police in pursuit,  in order to take down their car and
then still have to evade pursuit is quite the challenge, but it’s fun. 

When
you aren’t engaged in any of that, you can also just explore the
massive world of Fairhaven. Plus, you’ll constantly be updated with what
your friends are doing via Autolog 2.0. You’ll see when they top your
race times, beat a speed camera time, and even when they get more air
jumping through a billboard. It’s kind of fun because if you can beat a
friends distance jumping through a billboard, your gamertag picture will
show up on that billboard; talking one-upping someone. That’s just the
stuff you can do with your friends offline. Online you can race, which
is fun, roam around the city and cause havoc, which is also fun, and
even do some co-op challenges. However, much of this is lacking any
police presence, which is rather disappointing.

All of this is
done in a gorgeous looking environment. It’s a bit dirty and grimy, but
has a nice lived-in feel, and getting outside the city provides some
nice variety scenery that isn’t more gray buildings and dusty
construction sites. There’s plenty to explore, and often times there’s
wet streets which splashes little droplets of water up on the “camera”.
It’s a nice touch. There’s a whole day/night cycle, and that cars all
look good. Now, all of this isn’t quite as good looking as Forza Horizon,
but it’s no slouch. This is a great looking game, plus the cars get
dirty when they’re off road; just saying it can be done *cough* Forza
*cough*. The cars all handle great, too. It’s easy for anyone to jump
behind the wheel and start power-sliding through roadblocks and around
corners. Personally, I think the handling isn’t as silky as Forza Horizon,
but this is an arcade racer with none of the pretensions towards being a
sim of that other racer, so it’s fine. For me, it’s an adjustment to go
from one to the other.

So we have two fantastic open-world racers to enjoy this year. Need For Speed Most Wanted
is like constantly being in a chase scene of a Michael Bay movie. It’s
fast, it’s exciting, it’s over-the-top, it’s chaotic but it’s beautiful.
There’s so much to explore and discover, and you’ll constantly be
competing with your friends, even when they’re not playing online with
you. Some elements don’t quite click, like the lack of a sense of any
“ownership” of the vehicles, and the whole Easy Drive menu system is
pretty slick for the most part, except for when you’re in the heat of a
race. Truly, this is a game that took the best of Burnout Paradise and the original Most Wanted game and combined them into something really fun for racers of all skill levels. It feels more like a Paradise sequel
than anything else, but it is without a doubt one of the best racers of
the year, and probably one of the best open-world racers of all time
(with the exception of Forza Horizon, of course).

Score: 5 of 7 – It’s fast and furious (pun intended) fun. This is a gorgeous
looking game with a huge open world and fast, intense races. Police
pursuits can be aggravatingly tough at times, and the races aren’t easy
thanks to some pretty extreme “rubber-band” A.I. (no matter how far
ahead you are, you’ll almost always just barely win), but if you love
racing games, or just having fun, this is a must-own.