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razork222 avatar 8:44 PM on 11.08.2012
Need For Speed: Most Wanted

Available for PS3, 360, PC and PSV.
Rated PG.
Reviewed on PS3.

I have to confess that I’m not a huge racing game fan. However, I am a very competitive gamer and I will play racing games purely for the thrill of defeating my opponents.

Need For Speed: Most Wanted is Criterion’s second entry in the Need For Speed franchise, after 2010’s well received “Hot Pursuit”. Criterion are best known for their crash-centric series Burnout; the latest of which was Burnout: Paradise, a free roaming open world experience which bears more than a passing resemblance to Most Wanted.

This is a good thing. After all, Burnout Paradise’s open nature was a revelation as far as racing games go. Naturally, Criterion have taken what they’ve learned from both Burnout: Paradise and Hot Pursuit and have applied it to Most Wanted. The result is a sweet (oh, so sweet) blend of the two games. Simply described, this is the premier arcade-style, open-world, street-racing game.

The city of Fairhaven has been built from the ground up to be a street-racer’s dream town. Long highways near the coast lead into European-style countrysides, which seamlessly take you to a central business district that could be either Los Angeles or Hong Kong. Every event and every race you participate in will happen in Fairhaven and you’re completely free to explore every inch of it from the beginning.

Parked around Fairhaven are most of the game’s driveable cars. There are no restrictions to unlocking these cars: once you’ve found it, you can drive it. Finding a car will unlock the challenges that are tied to that car. Succeeding in these challenges will unlock the car upgrades and customisation options. Finding the right car and combining these upgrades is the key to defeating the “Most Wanted”, the game’s equivalent of boss fights.

Police and traffic are two obstacles that you’ll be constantly battling. While it is annoying to be taken out while you’re crossing an intersection or having to put off objectives because the police show up, they are both an integral part of the street-racing experience.

For the competitive gamer, Most Wanted is a treasure. Everything you do is quantified and recorded by the Autolog, which was introduced in Hot Pursuit. If you’re a few takedowns away from being top ranked amongst your friends, Autolog will let you know. Leaderboards are a big part of today’s gaming landscape, and Most Wanted refines that to a fine art.

Multiplayer is a joy and enough of a pull to recommend this game for alone. Eight players earn Speed Points while competing or working co-operatively in a series of five events. These could be races, burnout competitions or a contest to see who can jump the farthest. Once the five events are finished, a winner is declared and a three minute intermission allows players to drop out if they wish. Players who are keen to continue can just take each other out to earn Speed Points in between matches. In true Criterion style, takedowns are always rewarded.

Graphics and sound are terrific, and special attention has been paid to giving each car a nice feel. Presentation of the game is elegant and slick, and the soundtrack boasts a nice list of energetic tracks to get you in the mood.

Free-roaming games in any genre have always been a balancing act between structure and freedom. You’ll have to be self motivated a lot of the time, choosing for yourself whether to focus on exploration/acquiring cars, acing races or beating your friends’ scores. For the player expecting a tight, linear driving experience, this game will disappoint. For the rest of us, this game is an absolute blast.

 
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