For the past week and half I have been spending quite a bit of time playing Need for Speed: Most Wanted. I don’t normally buy too many games during the school year because I try to avoid unnecessary distractions as best I can, but being a huge fan of racing games as well as of Criterion (the developer behind the game) I felt the need to pick this one up. It had been a very long time since I had played a really fun arcade racer so I needed to get my fill of high octane action once again. Thankfully, Criterion did not disappoint.
Back when I first bought my PS3, one of the first games I played and one that really sold me on the value and capability of the system was Burnout: Paradise. It was one of the most enjoyable experiences ever as far as racing games go. All the high-speed action and thrills came together to form one hell of a fun game. The online component was revolutionary and the crashes were brutally realistic. All in all, it was just an extremely well-designed racer. So when I heard that Criterion was coming out with another Burnout: Paradise style game in the Need for Speed universe, I couldn’t help but be excited.
As one may expect, Most Wanted in many ways is very similar to Burnout. It consists of an open-world environment in which the player has the freedom to drive wrecklessly around town, smashing into everything and everyone. Billboards and gates make an appearance once again, as well as the in-game menu which can be brought up at any time while driving to do various things like changing cars and starting races. The game in almost all aspects of design is virtually identical to that of Burnout, the only differences worth mentioning in my opinion would be the addition of police chases, real licensed vehicles, and the Autolog feature, which tracks a wide variety of activities and events you complete throughout the game and compares them to others. Doing things like jumping through billboards will also record your jump distance which will be placed on a leaderboard to be compared with your friends. It is a very welcome new feature and can spark a lot of competition among peers. Another impressive aspect of the game would have to be the graphical improvement over Burnout Paradise. The game simply looks gorgeous and never fails to impress on that front. All I can say is someone over at Criterion really loves shaders.
That’s not to say that the game doesn’t have rough areas as well. For one thing you can no longer just pull up to any intersection, spin your wheels and start a race. Instead, each car in the game has 5 races to complete, some of which are even repeated across multiple cars. Winning these races unlocks various upgrades for the car at hand. While this system technically works fine, I still prefer the method in Burnout. It made the world feel less restrictive and gave the player that much more freedom. Also, the game only has 41 cars. With most racing games nowadays usually launching with closer to 100 cars, if not more, I can’t help but feel like this number is just too low. It’s hindered even further by there only being 5 races per car. It can also get fairly monotonous unlocking the same upgrades time and time again for all the cars.
With all that said, the game is still highly enjoyable and wildly entertaining. Weaving through traffic at 220 MPH in a Bugatti Veyron is absolutely thrilling to say the least. What’s better than being able to drive some of mankinds most impressive automobiles at mega speeds, crash head on into a brick wall, and then drive away like nothing happened?