by Richard Edwards
previewed on PC
Need for Speed: Most Wanted
You would be forgiven for thinking you have already played this game. The Need for Speed series is long and sprawling and if you have set foot into a game shop somewhere in the last few years, you will have seen at least one these games sitting on the shelf. This latest iteration is the nineteenth game in the series, an impressive amount of games in anyone's eyes. To make matters more confusing, Need for Speed: Most Wanted is not just the nineteenth game in the series, it was also the ninth. That's right. This game is a reboot.
In Hot Pursuit
Criterion Games is well known for developing racing games. Since the release of Burnout in 2001 they have made nine games, and only two of these weren't racing games. That makes seven games in eleven years, each one allowing the studio to improve on what it does best: creating one of the best driving experiences in the game industry. This time around, they’re not just bringing the franchise to the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 but will also make it available for Windows, Vita, iOS and Android.
Criterion games are known for shiny graphics, attention grabbing game play and – ultimately – wanton destruction. Their trademark chaos translates well to high-speed car chases so expect sparks to fly in abundance and tires squealing the entire trip. It's all very visceral and really serves to grab your attention. To look at it is to realise that everything they're doing is improving on the already impressive Hot Pursuit.
Most Wanted features an impressive open world cityscape complete with every imaginable type of zone, ranging from industrial wasteland to fashionable city plazas. As long as the player follows the checkpoints during the race, it feels as though any route is a viable one, and barreling down some stairs only to end up in a busy shopping street feels absolutely unique. This is a game that attempts to bring the action of a big movie chase to the racing game circuit. And as one would expect, the police are a constant threat throughout the game. Reckless driving will bring them down on you like a tonne of bricks, chasing you through the streets until you manage to shake them off or get locked in. If you can elude them, you buy yourself an easier race by far.
If you've played the original Most Wanted, you may remember that there were some ways to escape the police quickly. Destroying the road behind you would mean there was no road for you to be pursued. There was a second way to make sure you could get away, though. To do this you had to find a hiding spot and park up. After a while the police would just drive past and you'd be free to continue the race. Both these options return and Criterion has hinted at other options as well.
The blacklist is also making a return. The blacklist is a list of drivers with hot cars that feature in the single player campaign. You can race against them for the pink slip of their cars. Once in your possession, you can dress these cars up to your heart’s content. Traditionally, Need for Speed games have had deep vehicle customization options and Most Wanted is no different. You can change the way your car drives, how it looks and create the car - you - want.
Become the Most Wanted
A new feature is the 'Most Wanted' system and it will change the way you play the game from the ground up. Essentially it's going to be a high-score table that allows you to compete with your friends. It's not a new idea by any stretch of the word, but it is new to Most Wanted and it never goes out of style. Every spot you climb will take you closer to occupying the coveted Most Wanted spot. If you can win multiplayer, games you will earn Speed Points that will propel you higher with every race.
It is not just multiplayer that will be getting you these points though. Everything in the game - including single player races - will improve your score. Play with enough skill and you'll soon be at the top of the table looking down at everyone. So whether you want to play the single player campaign on the weekends or feel the petrol flow through your veins in tight, online races you'll still be working your way up that table.
Regardless, it is clear that the game will be a lot more fun if you have an online subscription and some friends who have the game as well. In the words of the developers themselves, “Most of all, it's about beating your friends.” and Most Wanted is undeniably aimed at people who want to play online.