home > review > Need For Speed: Most Wanted Review
GamesFirst! Online since 1995
ups: Amazing audio, lots of play time.
downs: The story is el lame-o.

View Image Gallery || Get Prices

Need For Speed: Most Wanted Review
game: Need for Speed: Most Wanted
five star
posted by: Matt James
publisher: Electronic Arts
developer: EA Canada
date posted: 09:18 PM Fri Nov 25th, 2005
last revision: 09:20 PM Fri Nov 25th, 2005

Advertise on GamesFirst!

Click to read.So submerged was I in Need For Speed Most Wanted, that on my way to Thanksgiving dinner, upon seeing a state patrol car, my first instinct was to smash right into him. I have been all consumed with this game since the moment I first placed it into my 360. I am so hooked that I must leave the room while other games are being played, because it is all I can do to keep myself from ripping the controller from their hands and putting Need For Speed back in. This sounds like exaggeration but it is not. With all the power of the 360 at our finger tips, I was forced to wait while someone took their turn playing Hexic HD. At first I paced about the room anxiously. Then I gave up and went downstairs and watched a DVD. But I still thought about Need For Speed. I haven\'t gone back to Perfect Dark Zero nor Kameo in the two days since putting Most Wanted in. Project Gotham Racing may be the big attention getter on the 360 right now, but they can have that game, I\'m sticking with Need For Speed.

So, what has me so smitten? There isn\'t one standout feature that makes Most Wanted so much fun. It just all comes together so well, especially all the little details. And we all know that is where the devil is. The graphics are of course pretty. This is the 360. To me the cars look like cars. They look better on the 360 than on the last generation counterparts, but it isn\'t quite the dramatic leap that the cars in Project Gotham are. Where the graphics really shine are in the backgrounds. The weather and time of day are continually changing. It is truly amazing at times to watch this happen. At first you will notice a drop of rain on your windshield. Then two and three. The road gets wetter and wetter. The rain is pouring. The spray kicks up from the other racers tires. Finally the sun breaks, glistening off of the wet road, and slowly the road dries out. Oh, and did I mention that this entire time you are running from a half dozen police officers at a hundred and twenty miles an hour?

On another occasion I nearly wrecked. I was cresting a hill at sunset and was blinded by the sun. Even the glare on the pavement was intense. I had almost no visibility. When I could see there was a car right in front of me. These types of moments happen constantly. They are done so perfectly, so close to life, that it is impossible not to get wrapped up in each moment.

With the 360\'s launch a lot of attention is being paid to graphics. Need For Speed gives the audio side a chance to steal some of that attention. I have never been as impressed by a game\'s audio as Most Wanted\'s. There are times when you would swear you really did have your head stuck out of a car doing a hundred miles an hour. The action takes place all around you as you hear things crash to the side of you, behind you, and in front of you. You can hear the cars come up from behind you or whiz by as you pass them. Going through tunnels or bridges sounds so much like real life it is surreal.

I didn\'t find the music tracks to be as inspired as many racers and I had to turn the vehicle and sound effects noise way down to even hear the music. The 360 offers you the option of listening to your own soundtrack over any game so it is easy to load up something that will inspire you to effectively haul ass.

Need For Speed Most Wanted has some of the very best voice-over work in the form of the police radio. There is a sense of realism in the police chatter that you don\'t find very often and they find occasions to be funny without ever sacrificing the realism. It must be experienced to be understood. The police keep track of and report on your every move. It can be heartbreaking. The police chases get more and more intense and many times I got to a point where I thought about breathing a sigh of relief only to hear a cop report seeing me. This is one of those details that I was talking about, where Most Wanted takes it to the next level.

Not only do the police talk the talk, but they walk the walk. The AI in Need For Speed is excellent. You can psyche the cops out, causing them to wreck. Or sometimes they just mess up. I had a cop come at me and miss, crashing into a wall as I sped by. Most Wanted is one of few games that pulls off a perfect balancing act of making the antagonists fallible yet formidable. My only problem with the cops is the maneuvers that they can pull off. I have a hard time getting my ass end to slide around into a 180 pulling the e-brake at over a hundred mph, while they can flip around on a dime at 2 mph. It is frustrating to work so hard to pull a fast one on them just to see them do it with the greatest of ease.

The racer\'s AI is also nicely done. They use their speed boosts and will take shortcuts. Sometimes they will even try so hard to run you off the road that it works to their own detriment. It makes for some exciting racing though.

There is plenty to keep you busy. There are local two player modes, online modes, single player challenges, and a career mode. There are 15 racers to defeat in career mode, each with their own list of goals you must accomplish before you can challenge them. Plus there is the free roaming and police chases. You can unlock new areas, cars, parts (practical and cosmetic), and challenges. You can customize each of your cars in about a million ways. With all of this, you could play Need For Speed for twenty hours without even cracking open the multiplayer.

Most of the unlockables are acquired with money. You earn money by completing the races. There are a number of different kinds of races to keep players interested. Aside from the typical race types, there are toll both races, in which you have a certain amount of time to get from toll booth to toll booth. Then there are speed trap races. The player has to reach a certain speed before hitting the trap; apparently getting yourself a ticket is cool. A number of challenges revolve around the police, such as wrecking a certain number of police cars, or causing a certain dollar amount of damage, or incurring a certain number of infractions and evading capture after each challenge. If you are caught, you don\'t just lose the challenge but you will have to pay a hefty fine, or have your car impounded.

The story is minimal at best and pretty lame at worse. The characters are all pretty annoying and clich?. Need For Speed can get away with this because nobody expects a lot of story from a racer. What bothered me about it was how guy-centric it was. Razor, the villain, proclaims in the opening FMV (ultra-stylized so that it almost looks ugly) that he will take your car and steal your woman. This seemed especially absurd to me with a woman holding the controller at that moment. Not trying to sound overly sensitive, but this is one of those things that detracts from the submersion that we all seek from our games. More and more women are gaming and developers better take notice. This male gamer has. I do have to give it props for having a female cop in the mix though.

The multiplayer modes offer the old stand-bys such as circuit race, drag race, and sprint. These are all a lot of fun, but I did notice that the graphics would take an occasional hit during local two player mode. It wasn\'t a fixed decrease in quality but something that would come for a second and then look perfect again. Not enough to deter from my enjoyment, but worthy of note.

The online portion plays as we would expect. It is just as much fun as the local multiplayer, plus you can race and chat with your friends all over the world; well, all five of them that actually got their hands on a 360.

The racing itself is dead on for my tastes. I don\'t care much for the racing simulators. I drive my car all the time, so when I play my 360 I want something a little more fun. With a name like Need For Speed you had better be able to feel the speed. This isn\'t a problem. It never quite reaches that Burnout level of intensity but you still get a very good feel for the speed at which you are supposedly traveling. With Most Wanted\'s added weight and corrected physics, you get a much better feeling when taking the corners at these high speeds. It makes for a much more interesting powerslide. There also seems to be a greater penalty for hitting even the smallest of obstacles. Instead of interupting the flow of the game though, you usually just lose valuable mph. Hitting a few trees in some games means little, but in Most Wanted it could mean a lot. A new addition is the \"bullet time\" like function: speed breaker. This could be a useful tool in tight turns, but honestly i have yet to use it except to see how it works. I quickly had a feel for the way Need For Speed races and it felt good. Most people will already have an idea whether they are a Need For Speed or a Project Gotham type driver.

The Nitrous boost is a little different in this game than most. You have to unlock it and purchase it, which is normal, but while you race it replenishes. This doesn\'t make a lot of sense and makes things a little too easy sometimes. It is pretty slow to refill, though, which balances it out a bit. I think that if they were going to make the nitrous boost replenish then there should be some way of earning it. I know this gets into Burnout territory a little bit, but Burnout is brilliant. Why not copy it? Video games borrow ideas all the time. As is, it feels a little bit like a cheat and it takes away the strategy of when to use the boost.

I was excited to play Need For Speed Most Wanted, mainly just because it was another game for the 360. But I wasn\'t prepared for how much I would end up enjoying it. I am a moderate, at best, racing fan. It isn\'t often I get into a race game, much less freak out over it. Most Wanted has all the right touches to keep me hooked and all the neat customizations that the franchise fans have gotten used to. This one is a buyer, especially if you are looking to fill out your young X-box 360 library.

Click images for larger version

Click for larger. Click for larger. Click for larger. Click for larger. Click for larger. Click for larger. Click for larger. Click for larger. Click for larger. Click for larger.