On October 30th, Criterion’s latest game NFS Most Wanted was released in North America, followed shortly by November 1st in Australia, and November 2nd in Europe. The premise of the game is to become the “most wanted” driver in the city of Fairhaven. To achieve this, you must accumulate “speed points” by winning races, evading the police, completing various challenges, and flying past speed cameras or through billboards. The game is an open world racer not unlike Criterion’s Burnout Paradise (2008). One of the first things I noticed about Most Wanted was how similar the environment was to Burnout Paradise’s. Obviously this shouldn’t be terribly surprising, but it resulted in an interesting feeling as I played. On the one hand, I felt like I was driving in familiar territory which was nice, but on the other, it felt like I had already played the game, especially in the industrial portions of the city.
On the single player side of things, there are a number of different event styles for you to participate in to gain speed points. There are races based on laps, races from Point A to Point B, challenges requiring you to keep a minimum average speed over a certain distance, and events where you have to escape the police under a specified time limit. An interesting thing to note is that if you have police pursuing you during an event, they don’t stop once the event finished. They continue to chase you even after you’ve cleared the event (with the exception of the “Ambush” event where you must escape the police) and will continue to use road blocks, spike strips, and sending armoured SWAT vans after you. To evade the police, you must first manage to put enough distance between yourself and the police so that you escape the circle on the map, representing the radius you’re still visible in, and then you must stay away from any and all police officers while your “heat” level decreases. This isn’t as easy as some of you will remember though, as the police in Most Wanted are far more relentless than in previous NFS titles.
Once you rack up enough speed points to challenge the 10th most wanted racer, you go head to head with them in a Point A to Point B race, and after you beat them, you have to shut the car down to own it. Those of you who played Burnout Paradise will remember a similar feature, but the nice thing about Most Wanted is that immediately after the race, the car will remain near you. If you happen to lose track of the car and it disappears, it will randomly appear while you drive around the city until you shut it down. When it appears, it stays fairly close to you, giving you some time to realize it’s there before it starts to speed away from you. This little touch is incredibly welcome as you’ll likely lose the car the first time around if you crash during the pursuit. Not having the car fly past you just as you’re turning a corner or recovering from a crash makes it a little less depressing to try to shut down the car.
When it comes to multiplayer, the set-up leaves a little to be desired. Gone are the menus from Hot Pursuit, and instead there is a very simplified set of options in the “Easydrive” drop-down menu (which will be talked about a little more later) on the main screen. While I’m all for simple menus, the multiplayer menu is so sparse that it doesn’t explain how to do anything. If you want to set up a game, the only option in the menu is to set up a game with friends, otherwise you have to join a public game. Upon setting up a friends game, the game informed me that if I wanted people to join, to make the game public, but I couldn’t find the option to make it public anywhere, only to make it “invite only” or “friends only.” If you just want to join a public game, it will drop you into a random game which may be just beginning, half done, or just finishing. Fortunately, whenever a “speedlist” (what a set of challenges, races, and speed tests is called in multiplayer) is finished, the same players stay in the game and are simply given free reign to drive wherever they want until the next speedlist begins in a couple of minutes. Whether you’re participating in the speedlists or just the free drive during the intermission, you can find all of the security fences, billboards, and speed cameras from single player, and any of them you smash through or drive past in multiplayer will also count in single player.
The events which make up the speedlists are a free-for-all race, a team race (where the times of the racers are added up to form the team time but individual racers are given speed points based on their finishing position), challenges where all of the racers must act together to perform certain tasks and points are given based on how much each person contributes, and speed tests where everyone is given a single task to perform (such as obtaining the longest jump or drift), and 90 seconds to complete it to the best of their ability. To add some fun to the speed tests, once the timer starts, you can take down the other racers to remove them from the competition. Of course, 90 seconds isn’t terribly long, so it’s best to use some strategy when trying to decide how much time to devote to trying to complete the task and how much to spend trashing other racers. The variety in game types for multiplayer makes for an enjoyable experience and helps alleviate that feeling of “been there, done that.” While there is obviously a finite number of events, there’s a large number in each category, helping to prevent the multiplayer from growing stale quickly.
Now that there’s a brief overview of both the single player and multiplayer aspects of the game, I’ll touch on the other features of the game, such as the Autolog, mods for the cars, and jackspots. As you complete events, you’ll unlock different mods for the car which completed that event, and each mod also has a “Pro” version of the mod which is essentially a permanent upgrade of that mod. To unlock those, there are certain requirements which must be met with the base version equipped. Most of the mods will have advantages and disadvantages to having them equipped, so it helps to know where you’re going to be driving to get the most of your mods. Most Wanted was touted as being one of the most socially connected and competitive racers and games, and it definitely brings plenty of support to those claims. Players of Hot Pursuit will remember the Autolog which kept track of how quickly your friends completed each race. Autolog 2.0 in Most Wanted not only tells you how quickly your friends completed each of the events, but tells you how quickly they drove past each speed camera and how far they flew through the air after smashing through each billboard. Not only that, but a driver’s license with their account’s picture will appear on it just to rub it in if they flew the furthest.
In addition to billboards and speed cameras across the city, there are also security fences (another familiar feature for players of Burnout Paradise) and jackspots. Jackspots are places throughout Fairhaven where you find a vehicle you can drive. They’re fairly easy to spot because the car will be parked somewhere but have its headlights on, as well as have the car company’s logo above the car. There are multiple jackspots for each car (save for the most wanted ones), and once you have found the location, you are able to use the Easydrive menu to switch to that car at that location on the fly (unless you’re being pursued by police). Speaking of the Easydrive menu, if you’ve been following Analog Addiction’s coverage of Most Wanted, you’ll know I expressed some concern with the streamlined menu system after seeing it in action in a video. If you don’t remember which video I’m referring to, here it is.
As you can see, the Easydrive menu which comes down from the top left corner, is used to do just about everything you need or want to do in this game. Everything from joining multiplayer, to changing cars, to changing mods on your car can be done through this menu, but navigating it in the midst of a heated race can be incredibly tricky. You use the d-pad to navigate these menus, so if you have a controller in your hand, it’s not terribly difficult to figure out why it might be a little rough to use it while utilizing the left analog stick to steer your car at 100-200 MPH. It’s not impossible to do, but some of the deeper menus, like the specific mods for the cars, can be frustrating to navigate while driving. For this reason alone, I highly advise waiting until you’re either driving at low speeds or you’re not participating in an event to modify your car. The mod menus also tend to block a fair chunk of your screen and as such, only add one more reason why you should try to avoid changing your car on the fly. It’s a little tough to see oncoming headlights through a menu.
Despite some slight gripes with the game’s menu systems, it is a phenomenal racer with a perfect difficulty scale and a great soundtrack. The controls are tight, there’s a metric ton of billboards, speed cameras, and security fences to find, and before each event, a very stylized little cinematic plays (which you can skip if you so desire) and adds some visual flair to the title. Some of these little cinematics are obscure and really far-fetched, such as several police cars connecting from bumper to bumper and forming a giant wheel which proceeds to roll down the street, but others are very sleek and thoroughly impressive visual displays. In typical NFS fashion, the cars range from everyday cars to the exotic, and let me tell you, there are very few things more satisfying in this game than tearing through the streets and smashing through billboards in a modified Bugatti. If you’re a fan of the Need For Speed series, the Burnout franchise, or a fan of racing titles, I highly advise you to pick up this game, you won’t regret it.
Final Score: 9/10
Eric became the “Most Wanted” in Fairhaven and loved every second of it. When he’s not driving through billboards or drifting like a stuntman, he’s an editor for Analog Addiction where you can find all the latest gaming news, previews, reviews, and everything else that rhymes with those words. ‘Like’ Analog Addiction on Facebook to receive all of the updates as they’re posted.