The lights are on
Need for speed offers quite a ton of variety in a single genre no? You have Hot Pursuit which lets you choose between racers or cops, Shift where you enter in precision races, a couple other ones that don't attract a whole lot of attention, and now we have NFS: Most Wanted. Sharing the same title of a previous game back in 2005, does Most Wanted keep the NFS series going, or has it reached an unfortunate dead end?
Visual, NFSMW looks great. The sun produces glares which effect your ability to drive, light is reflected off the wet streets, but what it's really about is the cars. They look fantastic. From the wax finish when you first tune on the engine, to every scrape and chip of paint after a brutal race. I often found my self stopping and using the camera to pan around the car to admire it. I even did this at times while I was driving, which usually resulted in crashing. Eyes on the road people.
But it's not enough to have good looking cars, they have to appear fast, and thankfully they do. At first this can be a bit complicated until you tune your reaction times and learn to better weave around traffic, but once you get used to going fast, you'll be hard pressed to ease on the gas.
The city is another thing to marvel at. It's pretty big. Not big enough to get lost as you'll constantly return to areas you recognize, but there's so much hidden in areas off the road. You can beat the game entirely without exploring much, but I highly recommend it. Awesome jumps, and some unique detours, plus these are where other cars can be found and driven. More on that later.
Soundtracks are a big thing with racing games. And thankfully, the soundtrack here is actually pretty varied. You're bound to find at least a couple songs you can enjoy.
What's cool is that each and every race has it's own unique intro video. Some of these are quite odd, and a particular race mode has some rather humorous ones. Thing is some of these are fairly long. It would seem like a good cover up for a loading screen, but you're given the option of skipping them, which I found myself doing often.
Another interesting thing they did here is incorporate an in-game menu system. You can pop it up whenever, while parked, driving, even in the middle of the race. From it you can re-equip different items like boost and different chassis for your car on the spot, set destinations on gps to the next race, even swap out from one car to another. It's quick and highly convenient, though you may want to ease on the pedal while using it, else you might find yourself going head on with a cop.
There's isn't really a story here, rather a premise. You've come to the city of Fair Haven for one thing and one thing only: to be the best. The most wanted. However, you first have to beat the top ten most wanted drivers. However, they're not going to race you until you're good enough.
It's simple, but sweet. I honestly think long story plots in racing games don't turn out very good. And it's not like I really care either. I just want to race, and Most Wanted does that. You start the game and I can instantly head over and get racing.
The gameplay in Most Wanted is actually quite open. You're honestly free to do whatever you want. You want to drive around, find cool jumps or see how fast you can go before crashing? go for it. All cars are available to you, it's only a matter of finding it. This means you can find a very fast car early on and drive it.
Once a car is found, it's stored in your autolog (the in-game menu I talked about earlier), and you can easily switch between cars. Each car has 5 races to take part in, and each offers rewards for second and first place. Getting first in all 5 events will really "pimp your ride" with nitro, special tires, and better build performance. Additionally, each of those you unlock can be further improved to "pro" versions by completing a specific challenge for it.
All that can be done for every car you find. And there are a lot of them. However, though racing is fun, what good is there without a goal? Ah the most wanted, don't forget about them. Once you've earned enough points through winning races and doing illegal things on the streets (i.e. escaping from cops, busting through billboards, racing through restricted areas) you can challenge the most wanted driver. You'll want a fast car for these guys.
And that's how the game pushes forward. You race for points and to better your car for the most wanted race. You do that for each most wanted driver. Sounds like a repetitive drag, but the races are a lot of fun, and finding new fresh cars to drive will keep you going.
Unfortunately, this means that once you do find a fast car you want to stick with, because there's only 5 races for it, you'l end up completing them all, then saving him for the Most Wanted races, while you race other cars waiting to get enough points to face the most wanted.
Racing the most wanted cars can get pretty intense. Cops are on your tail, and the most wanted driver wont hold back on pushing you into the wall. I did find some times where a racer did a dumb move, or take a wrong turn which resulted in me being effortlessly put into the lead, but it wouldn't take long for them to catch up. After you beat the most wanted driver you can win his car by making him crash, which ads a bit more excitement to it.
Speaking of cops being on your tail, they make the races quite fun. Though they don't count within your race, having twice as many cars running the track and crashing into each other is great. the more the merrier right? However, meeting a cop outside the race is incredibly frustrating. You'll be on the way to a race when you pass a cop. Even if you get to the race start, as long as that cops still on you, you can't start. This means you have to drive further away from the starting point just to get rid of the cops, who can sometimes be surprisingly hard to shake. Sometimes, it's easier to get caught just because there really isn't much penalty. No loss of points, or cash since there's no money system. You simply get set back to where you first got in that specific car. This can be a bad thing if you were on your way to a race and it puts you even further a way. I also find it slightly funny that these cops are only triggered by speeding. They're perfectly fine with you going on the wrong side of the road, bumping innocent drivers, and crashing through billboard signs, just as long as you follow the speed limit.
The races themselves had some variety. You have standard circuit races with 2-3 laps, sprint races going from point A to point B, a then a couple more unique race modes. One has you going from point A to B while maintaining high speeds to meet a set speed average by the finish. The other puts the cops hot on your tail while you attempt to escape within goal times. These two modes add variety, but can sometimes be plain frustrating. Escaping cops is already frustrating, and there's nothing like your average speed time dropping from a gold to a bronze because you hit two "pedestrian cars" (as I call it) in a row.
By the way, the "pedestrian cars" are severely minimized for races and other events. However, there are tons of them while your not participating in races. So you can expect to crash a lot on your way to events.
What's really cool about the multiplayer here is that it's almost like a social gathering. Tops scores are on everything to be compared such as billboards and even speed cameras. And once the most wanted drivers are all taken care of, you're still competing to be the best among your friends. All this even when their offline.
Need For Speed: Most Wanted gives you a large open world to drive in and due what you please. There's not a ton of variety of things to do, but what's there is fun and will last even after beating the 10 most wanted. The cops and pedestrian vehicles are a constant annoyance outside of racing, but it's tolerable. If you're in the market to drive fast beautiful cars in an open world, Need For Speed Most Wanted is for you.
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