The lights are on
In Need for Speed: Most Wanted, Criterion masters it's open-world vision that it pursued in its 2008 title, Burnout Paradise. Through seamless transitions from racing to free roaming, Criterion is able to deliver an outstandingly enjoyable game.
By having every car available from the beginning of the game, Criterion encourages the exploration of the huge city of Fairhaven in a way that is more rewarding than Burnout Paradise's method of finding repair shops and gas stations to have them permanently put on your map. From the industrial sector in the North, to the huge freeway that is accessible from almost any area., the city of Fairhaven is a blast to explore.
However fun the open world exploration is, it is handily bested by the intense races that are designed specifically for your car. The races are fun, very fast, and pleasantly generous in their rewards if you win. Opponent racers are the right amount of physical aggressiveness, and desire to win. Even when you have to try a race multiple times, you enjoy the challenge and aggravation doesn't come. The most wanted races are by far the most exciting and demanding races. Battling a top racer and Farihaven's finest is an absolute delight. However, opponent racers are able to pass over spike strips without getting blown wheels, and the progressive damage to your car from crashes is rather minimal, but these are minor complaints.
By encouraging the use of many different cars, Criterion keeps the replay value high, and the game stays new and fresh even after hours of play. Overall, the game is expertly executed and a joy to play.
Not that fun.
If I wanted Burnout Paradise, I would have bought it. Even though the Need for Speed series was getting a bit tired, the cheesy stories were nice rewards. I don't want to drive to every race, and it wouldn't hurt to have Emmanuelle Vaugier in the storyline. If you like the Need for Speed series, you probably won't like this game. Carbon and Hot Pursuit are way better. Even "The Run" is more fun. I used to trust GameInformer reviews, but not anymore.