Does the latest entry in the Need for Speed series live up to its 2005 namesake, or is it a flat ride?
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Criterion is pretty much known as the king of arcade racers these days. Having delivered two excellent racers in the past few years in Burnout Paradise and Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit, not to mention the likes of Burnout 3: Takedown and Burnout Revenge before them, if you find out an arcade racer is being developed by Criterion, as a rule, you get excited.
A lot of people were excited about Most Wanted too. Not because it was being developed by Criterion- well, that too- but because it bore the name of the excellent 2005 title, which has to be one of the best racers to have ever been created. But does the all new Most Wanted impress as much as the 2005 classic did, or does it crash and burn?
Well, it’s not exactly the thrilling joyride that 2005’s Most Wanted was, but Criterion’s Most Wanted is a damn good game, one of the best racers to have been released in the past few years, and the most enjoyable game you will play all year. It’s just pure, unadulterated fun.
While it shares a few features with its namesake, Need for Speed: Most Wanted is actually more of a mixture of Burnout Paradise and the 2010’s Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit. Using the free-roaming, open world mechanics of Burnout Paradise and the speed and chases of Hot Pursuit, Most Wanted delivers an excellent experience that, surprisingly, manages to have its own identity rather than just being a rehash.
The game begins with a brief tutorial, and after that, everything is open to you. No part of Fair Haven, the city of Most Wanted, is inaccessible, no car is locked, no types of races you’re restricted from entering. Right from the very first minute, you’re free to do whatever you want. And this is where Most Wanted’s strength lies.
The city of Fair Haven is marvelously developed. It’s no Liberty City or San Andreas, but no one expects it to be. It’s the perfect setting for a game like Most Wanted, which is all about speed. Ramps and shortcuts are scattered throughout the city for you to make crazy stunt jumps and enter slipways and alleys as you turn around a corner at 140 miles per hour. Billboards shadow the skyline of the city, so you can smash through them given you get enough air and speed. The police has blocked away several areas of the city, so you can drive through the barricades. Or you can just rush past speed cameras throughout the city and record your highest speed at those points and try to beat those scores later.
People who played Paradise will be familiar with this. But one thing that Most Wanted has that Paradise didn’t is an incredible sense of speed. Driving your cars is a pleasure in itself, and turning around corners at perfectly high speeds with just a tap of the breaks will leave you gasping with giddy joy. And as you zip through a highway at 150 miles per hour, break through a police barricade and jump off a ramp at the end of an alleyway to crash through a billboard to land 200 yards away, back on the highway below, all without breaking your speed, you won’t be able to help but marvel at the heart-in-your-throat thrills that this game hits you with time and time again.
As you drive around Fair Haven, you will also come across a number of vehicles. It’s a fairly small number- a little over 40- especially when you compare it with the likes of Forza, or even Most Wanted’s own predecessors. But the cars themselves are awesome. There’s all manners of autos in Most Wanted. Right from boxy, everyday cars you might see at the signal on the street next to your apartment to the flashy, gorgeous in-your-face Bugatti Veyron. 11 of those vehicles are locked away, as they belong to the “most wanted” drivers of the city, who you must take down so you can become the new most wanted racer of Fair Haven, but other than those, all cars are available and drive-able from the get go. And this is where Most Wanted strikes gold.
For people who just want to focus on driving awesome cars and not worry about going through a series of races in relatively boring cars to unlock them, Most Wanted is a must-buy. You just find a car in the city, hit a button, and switch- you’re driving the new car. No, you don’t have to complete races or tasks to unlock the big guns. You can drive a Land Rover or a Lamborghini right from the moment the game kicks off.
But that doesn’t mean the racing part isn’t fun. No, sir. Racing in Most Wanted is joyous and thrilling. Each car in the game has a specific number of events you can tackle. Each event unlocks parts that you can fit into the car depending on which position you finished the race. This is actually a bit of a letdown, since after five or six races, a car basically becomes redundant. It’s been maxed out, it’s been upgraded to its fullest, and there’s no new races for you to drive in. Having to use cars that haven’t been upgraded time and again feels like the game is resetting all your hard work, even though you can jump back into your fully customized cars whenever you want. Unlocking the same parts again and again also gets a little repetitive.
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Sense of speed is amazing; Great visuals; Thrilling, exciting racing; Police chases are a blast; Jumping through billboards is far too addictive; Performing stunts is very enjoyable; Driving is a joy; Excellent world design
A few technical glitches here and there; Multiplayer is a mess; Not enough cars; A little repetitive at times
Pure, flat-out fun. One of the most enjoyable games you will play all year.