Need for Speed: Most Wanted ReviewPC

excellent
key review info
  • Game: Need for Speed: Most Wanted
  • Platform: PC
  • Gamepad support: Yes  
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Racing delight

A good racing game is not about the cars or about the streets or even about the graphics, although they all matter, but about the feelings that it creates, about the way it manages to use speed and uncertainty and sudden moves to make the player feel like he is actually in control of a powerful machine hurling towards a destinations.

Need for Speed: Most Wanted was created by Criterion, the company that’s best known for the Burnout series, and is being published by Electronic Arts and it manages to deliver that feeling despite some small flaws.


Story

You are a man of no identity, characterized only by his choice of vehicles, and you are on a quest to get to the city of Fairhaven and then use it and its surrounding areas to be involved in some of the most exciting racing on this side of Burnout Paradise and get to the top of a ten most wanted men list maintained by the police.

This is the entire story of Need for Speed: Most Wanted and the game does not need anything more to be engaging because the heart of a game developed by Criterion lies not in the narrative but in the mechanics.

Despite this Fairhaven itself there is a story, a re-imagined Detroit characterized by a downtown filled with old skyscrapers and lots of building material and suburbs that all seem to have enjoyed better days.

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Race map
Stripped down

Most Wanted does not offer any social or political commentary, but it’s interesting to see that the setting of the game is much grittier and dirt-filled than that of the Criterion made Burnout series.


Gameplay

The single-player structure for Need for Speed: Most Wanted is pretty clear: an open-world city filled with cars, that one needs to find in order to unlock, races, smaller events and the chase happy police.

The carrot here is made up of both new cars to drive around and unlocks, from body and tires to nitrous, for those you already own and the final aim is to get the best vehicle possible and then race against those who make up the top ten most wanted list in Fairhaven.

The driving model in Need for Speed: Most Wanted is well balanced, somewhere in the middle between a true simulation and an arcade title, designed to transmit the feeling of incredible speed, while also giving the player plenty of chances to mess up, recover and still have a way of winning the races he takes part in.



Every car included in the game, ranging from the starting Porsche to a Gallardo and a selection of the most powerful cars from almost all manufacturers in the world, has its own events and there’s a lot of variety here, some really imaginative courses that combine off-road and normal sections and some pretty incredible jumps.

The town is also interesting to explore between the actual races and if a player is looking for something different, then he can quickly challenge the cops, who quickly escalate their measures to the familiar roadblocks and spikes trips.

One of the biggest problems that Need for Speed: Most Wanted has is that the focus is so squarely on the cars that it often fails to remember that there are people behind the wheel and that those should have at least a modicum of personality.

The big idea in the single-player mode is to get to the top of the most wanted list in the city, which consists of ten racers, but they are never referred to by name, they are represented by the car they drive.

This is great from a mechanics standpoint, because it allows the player to think about what car and which upgrades he needs in order to outperform his challenges, but it completely eliminates the human angle from the racing game.

There are two other things that would have made Fairhaven and Most Wanted even better: the ability to play as the police, at least in some events, and a more extensive crash camera, because most player’s will end up with some spectacular vehicle on vehicle and car on environment impacts.


Graphics and audio

Need for Speed: Most Wanted looks great and moves great and I can bet that car lovers can spend hours just looking at what the various car models look while moving around the city.

The only problem is that there’s a limited selection for camera views, which feels weird given the quality that’s clear in the rest of the game, and that the cars that represent simple traffic sometimes seem to lack some detail.

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Bridge view
Spinning the wheel


The soundtrack for Most Wanted is equally impressive and effectively mixes classic rock and modern dub in order to create an atmosphere that’s perfectly suited to the adrenaline-filled races.


Multiplayer

For some time, publisher Electronic Arts has made it clear that the Need for Speed series is shifting towards a multiplayer focus and Most Wanted is a good expression of what that means.

Part of the brilliance of the multiplayer is linked to the way the developers set up the various events, introducing competition even when it comes to getting to the start point for various races.

The game groups five types of events together and then goes so far as to give the first player to get to the starting point a boost in his point tally, which means that the events quickly become full-time battles, with the cars racing during the actual events and jockeying for position during the rest of the time.

It’s a mad dash most of the time and every player will seek to do everything he can not only to win the races he takes part in, but also impede his closest competitors as much as possible.

During the Challenges, gamers compete for specific achievements in the game world, with the twist that a car that’s taken out can no longer compete, but it is still able to take others out by crashing into them at speed.

This quickly leads to strategies like performing as good as possible on the first pass and then spending time making sure that no other players are able to get close by simply ramming them out of the game.

There’s incredible potential for unfair competition here, but so far, the community seems to be more interested in simple, quick fun than in causing trouble for others, although the situation might change in the coming weeks, as some players drop out and only the most competitive types remain engaged.

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Beauty shop
Crash time


Need for Speed: Most Wanted uses the Origin digital distribution layer from Electronic Arts on all platforms to synchronize experience points, friend lists and progress, which is a handy tool for the most hardcore gamers, even though it is highly unlikely that anyone would get three complete game packages just to take advantage of this feature.


The Good

  • Focus on cars and racing
  • Variety of vehicles and events
  • Autolog integration

The Bad

  • Big difficulty spikes
  • Can be overwhelming

Conclusion

Need for Speed: Most Wanted is a good game but not a great one, mostly because it tries to do too much at once and fails to successfully blend the single player, the police chases and the impressive multiplayer infrastructure.

I fully expect the next Criterion-made Need for Speed game to drop the single player entirely and focus on events and races that involve groups of people, while Electronic Arts uses other developers to create single player only games that share the same name but none of the mechanics.

I tend to play more of Need for Speed: Most Wanted mostly to drive my beloved Porsche vehicles through the city, but the game somehow fails to live up to the promise of the name that it bears.

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story 7
gameplay 9
concept 9
graphics 9
audio 9
multiplayer 8
final rating 9
Editor's review
excellent
 

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