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Need For Speed: Most Wanted!

The latest iteration in the long running Need for Speed franchise has finally launched, but will the latest in the franchise bring anything new to the table?

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The Blacklist: Need for Speed: Most Wanted, as you may expect from a racing title, does not focus heavily on the story and the bread and butter portion of your entertainment comes almost solely from the gameplay. That being said, while there is no significant narrative to speak of in Most Wanted, there is progression system and set of goals that you will be looking to achieve over the course of the game.

Placing a focus on the "Most Wanted" list, it features 10 different racers in 10 different cars that are regarded as being the best (illegal) street-racers in the world.

As you refine your own rubber burning abilities, you will be able to challenge each of the drivers one by one and slowly take over not only their position on the list but also their vehicles. While Most Wanted does not offer much backstory or running narrative, the "Most Wanted" list does give you something to aspire to while you hone your skills.

The Clark Kent Effect: Need for Speed: Most Wanted is developed by Criterion Games and the reason I feel that is important to note is because they also developed the well-received Burnout: Paradise and after only a couple minutes playing Most Wanted, anyone who has experienced Burnout: Paradise will see the immediate similarities.

Essentially robbing the Burnout franchise of many of its staples, Criterion Games managed to introduce "new" features to the Need for Speed series that have been showcased in Burnout titles for years.

Aside from the clear similarities of the open world environment of Fairhaven that you spend your time in, but in the gameplay that Most Wanted displays. The ability to "takedown" other drivers and cleverly force them to crash into various cars and other objects is now featured in the game, as well as the driving mechanics that fuel the entire title.

The sense of speed that the game focuses on it quite akin to Burnout: Paradise and quite frankly the majority of the gameplay feels immensely similar to the 2008 Burnout title. In fact, many of the events featured in Burnout: Paradise see similar reincarnations in Most Wanted.

There are a few kinds of events in Most Wanted but only one of which are unique to the title. One is a simple "Sprint" that tasks you from going from one point in the city to another. The second is the "Speed" event that asks you to traverse through the checkpoints as fast as you can, looking to pass the final checkpoint at a certain desired speed.

The main unique race event in Most Wanted is the "Ambush" that puts you in the middle of a hot pursuit as you are being hunted down by police and forced to evade their capture. All of the events can be difficult and take multiple attempts to conquer (particularly if you are inept at racing titles), but it is triumphant and enjoyable when you finally manage to secure victory in a troubling event.

While Most Wanted primarily borrows a lot of concepts from other racing games, with Burnout: Paradise serving as the biggest inspiration, one of the primary differences between Paradise and Most Wanted comes in the form of the police, who play a large part in the latest iteration of Need for Speed.

Treasure Hunt: Unlike previous installments in the franchise and going against nearly every racing game before it, Most Wanted does not force you to unlock more cars as you play and progress thorugh the game. Rather, every car you will ever be able to drive is featured from the start and hidden throughout the city.

Back alleys, off-road paths, warehouses and more all house a variety of cars that, if you are fortunate enough to stumble upon, you will be able to drive and add to your collection. There are a multitude of cars for you to choose from as well, with notable vehicles such as Vipers, Corvettes, Porches, Mustangs and many, many more.

Catch Me If You Can: The gimmick of Most Wanted is the "heat" meter that progressively increases when you are racing and generally causing mayhem in the presence of Fairhaven's finest. When you commit vehicular crimes, you will get "heat" and be chased down relentlessly by the police force of the city.

The fuzz will chase you to all ends of the map and as you try to evade your being "busted" (which is brought on by being trapped stationary for a few seconds) you will have to endure tire spikes, road blocks and, even if you manage to escape their field of vision, a grid by grid search for you.

Evading the police is a large focus of the game and they can be triggered at any time. It is not uncommon to see the police bearing down on you in the middle of important and difficult races, adding a unique dynamic to an already intense racing experience.

The only issue I have with the gimmick in Most Wanted is that being "busted" comes at very little consequence. When you are busted you will simply lost the experience points that you would have earned had you evaded the police.

Experience is not incredibly difficult to come by and quite honestly losing a marginal amount of experience for not completing and being busted during a race does not really make you fear the long arm of the law as much as you should.

That being said, it appears that Most Wanted has a larger focus on rewarding you for successfully evading the police rather than punishing you for falling victim. When you manage to escape the police, no easy task, you will earn a multitude of experience points and other unlockables that push you closer to challenging the other drivers on the "Most Wanted" list.

Music And Shiny Cars: The soundtrack featured in Most Wanted is one that may sound familiar to those that enjoyed Burnout: Paradise. While none of the songs are carried over from Paradise, much of the same kinds of music are displayed.

Artists such as Skrillex, The Chemical Brothers, Green Day, Icona Pop, Deadmau5 and more are showcased in the music that thumps throughout the game and I personally found the soundtrack to be quite refreshing. Filled with primarily house music, pop and rock songs, if you enjoyed the songs in Burnout: Paradise you should have no trouble taking in the melodies in Most Wanted.

In addition to the music that plays in the background constantly, the actual sound effects of the cars and environments were pretty impressive. There are distinctive differences in the sounds between driving at top speed or lower speeds and noticeable changes when you enter tunnels or have your tires torn out from under you thanks to road spikes.

However, the visuals are one area that Most Wanted failed to impress me. Although the large variety of cars looks respectable, the environments are not brilliantly detailed and the traffic on the roads are unremarkably glossy.

To be honest, it appears to me that Criterion Games carried over more than gameplay inspiration for Most Wanted and seems to have put a similar graphical skin on everything as they did back in 2008 with Burnout: Paradise. Most Wanted runs on a different graphics engine but fails to look as good as it should considering the time period that it is releasing in at this point in the lifecycle of the PS3 and Xbox 360.

As well, the animations are actually inferior to that of Burnout: Paradise! The cars move and control nicely but they react as if they are built entirely out of bricks when colliding with other objects.

They are uncharacteristically heavy and blocky and although some damage and visual scuffs and dirt can be seen on your previously shiny ride, it is purely cosmetic. As well, when crashing into objects you may "respawn" with a few more scratches on it but you are not treated to metal-crunching animations that Burnout: Paradise showcased in every crash.

Rent vs. Buy: Most Wanted does a lot right in terms of the racing genre and although this is far from a simulator, it feels like a modern version of Burnout: Paradise, which is not a bad thing. New missions, real vehicles and the constant battle with the police give the Need for Speed franchise a fresh change from the previous installments that often featured quite linear racing.

There are some shortcomings in the graphics and animations, both of which act seem older than they should be, but the gameplay is sharp and this is one of the best racing titles that this generation of consoles has seen.

At a retail price point of $60 this is clearly not worth the money, simply because racing around a somewhat small, albeit open world, will only entertain you for so long. But I cannot fault anyone for picking this up if they can find it for heavily discounted prices, say anything any $30.

Report Card

There are some shortcomings in the graphics and animations, both of which act seem older than they should be, but the gameplay is sharp and this is one of the best racing titles that this generation of consoles has seen. (Krakrabbit.com)


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