Need for Speed: Most Wanted Review

  • Posted November 7th, 2012 at 16:49 EDT by Adam Dolge

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Need for Speed: Most Wanted

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Need for Speed: Most Wanted begs you to play it, to explore Fairhaven, to take your skills online, and to become the best racer in this open-world setting. It's a perfect addition to the franchise and keeps you strictly focused on driving and competing.

We like

  • Great open-world city to explore
  • Intense, fun gameplay
  • Always focused on driving without the fluff

We dislike

  • Mediocre police pursuits
  • Limited events for each car
  • Some confusion for online play

See PSU's review on Metacritic & GameRankings

Sitting behind the wheel of just about any of Fairhaven's numerous real life cars is an exhilarating experience, but the real joy in Need for Speed: Most Wanted rests in vehicle discovery, the connected content, and the get-to-business attitude of this open-world racer. Whether competing online with friends, searching for a new ride hidden away in some vacant parking lot, or speeding through city streets to avoid the aggressive police, you'll never run out of things to do in this latest Need for Speed game from Criterion Studios. It's clear the developer held onto much of its experience with Burnout: Paradise and built upon the NFS franchise after some less than perfect recent outings. Most Wanted certainly doesn't reinvent the arcade-style racing game, nor does it perfect it. However, this is one of the most complete arcade racers we've seen and certainly one of the franchise's best.

The city of Fairhaven offers an elite group of racers a playground of asphalt, and in your quest to become the very best, you'll discover vehicles--upgraded or not from your current ride--scattered throughout the city. There isn't much of a story here, nor is it needed. This is a racing game, and that's what Criterion wants players to do, not focus on some side mission or random objectives. In fact, players never get out of their vehicles, even when finding a new ride stashed away in some garage. This ongoing competition to become the best racer in Fairhaven captures the attention of the police, and while occasional cutscenes introducing new races touch on this idea, it never feels artificial. Instead drivers are under constant threat of police pursuit while simply driving through the city. Speed past a copy and they will pursue.

Most Wanted takes an alternate approach to unlocking cars. While most racing games task you with earning points and winning races to unlock new rides, you simply have to find them. Manufacturer logos are pinned atop parked vehicles, which lets you know it's free to claim for you own. Once you unlock a new car--accomplished by a touch of a button--players are granted immediate access to events associated to that specific car. Do well in these events and you'll be rewarded with modifications and upgrades that give your car more power, a stronger chassis, more nitrous, and other features.

With just these events, you'll be plenty busy after discovering the 65 cars. The variety of vehicles will also keep your job of becoming the best racer quite interesting. You'll have access to everything from traditional sports cars, muscle cars, more standard cars, trucks, and other racecars. Each vehicle feels unique and ensures the associated events are interesting. It's problematic to have a weaker car against Fairhaven's police, which are absolutely relentless. At times it simply feels unfair to try and flee, but if you can come across a better car during pursuit, simply switch and get the advantage.

Easy Drive is a genius tool in Most Wanted. It allows you to drive through Fairhaven and simply click through events, multiplayer, and your car inventory using the d-pad. Criterion accomplished the basic idea of not needing a pause button extremely well through Easy Drive. It adds to this idea that you are spending time in Most Wanted to play a racing game, and not fiddle with a lot of menus or story.

Spending time exploring the city comes naturally by competing in events, but it's worth taking time to check out the varied districts. The city is an absolute beauty with plenty of interesting side streets, large highways, dirt roads, and construction areas. Just about everything you could ask for in terms of driving environments is available in Fairhaven, and in this exploration you'll likely keep the pedal to the metal. This will keep things interesting as Fairhaven is practically filled to the brim with cars--racers, cops, or others--in addition to speed cameras and destructible environments. These things all help build Speed Points--used to determine your ranking--and in addition to competing in races, you'll have plenty of opportunities to earn your points on the roads. Speed past a camera and you'll pick up some points. Plow through a billboard and you'll earn more points.

All this destruction and speeding is sure to catch the attention of the ... (continued on next page)

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