Sneaky Gamer

NFS Most Wanted

A few years ago Criterion took on the challenge of producing a game for the Need for Speed franchise - Hot Pursuit. Having being applauded for their Burnout series, the result was predictably brilliant. Hot Pursuit redefined the way we viewed the arcade racer but was still true to the core NFS principals.

Now Criterion are taking on another of the old NFS titles, Most Wanted, and although the Need for Speed style is definitely present there is more than just a passing similarity to Burnout Paradise.

The game is built upon the city of Fairhaven, an open world environment very much cut from the same cloth as Paradise city. But really that's where the similarities end. Fairhaven has its own personality and distinct vibe, the racing structure and gameplay are similar but Most Wanted is still very much a NFS game and this seeps through at every opportunity.

One of the highlights of the game for me comes in the opening sequence. The atmosphere created with the brilliant soundtrack as it accompanies a slow reveal of the city as we pan around its streets and get our first glimpse on what will be home for a considerable amount of hours to come.

Most Wanted is a beautiful game. The visuals are second to none and the attention to detail is quite remarkable. There are so many small touches that together make the game better than its individual parts.

You'll find yourself partially blinded as you emerge from a dark tunnel, the surrounding environment will react with your car - especially off road as dirt and foliage are kicked up or simply how the game reacts to different weather conditions. All these things are separate to the actual gameplay but are just as important to sell the NFS concept.

Like all racing games it always boils down to the cars and how fun they are to drive. Most Wanted has over 40 cars within the game and each one is available right from the get-go. If you can find it, you can drive it. There is no unlocking of cars or no minimum points to achieve before you can sample the best. Most are out in plain sight but some will take a little searching to come across.

When you come across a new vehicle you can simply ditch your current one and start driving the new one. Each new car comes equipped with standard components such as tyres, chassis, transmission and no nitrous boost. You can upgrade your car by accumulating Speed Points that can be obtained by racing through speed traps, jumping through billboards or evading the police.

The quickest way to mod your car is to obtain Speed Points by winning street races. Do well in the races and you can be rewarded with some special items such as off-road tyres or re-enforced chassis. Upgrades are accessed through the game's Easy Drive menu system which is always available and can even be accessed mid-race or via Kinect voice commands.

There are also an additional 10 cars that can be obtained by challenging and defeating the best racers that Fairhaven has to offer. These do need to be unlocked somewhat by accumulating a particular number of Speed Points. The cars available are some of the best in the game and probably the best reason to keep those points rolling in.

As with all NFS titles, the police play an important role. They are ever-present and can arrive on the scene mid-race trying to take you out or in extreme cases deploying SWAT or building road blocks. Upgrades and car mods are essential to deal with the police as they'll provide the edge you'll need to outrun or evade their attention.

The multiplayer aspect of Most Wanted is also very well done. It builds upon the excellent online aspects of Paradise City and adds a number of great features. Back is the Autolog that keeps everything together and provides a nice focal point when challenging friends.

Multiplayer events are typically sessions where are participants race around the city from one challenge to the next. These can be street races, take-downs, longest drift competitions or simply who can jump further over a ramp. The race to the next event is a nice touch as it helps to keep everything more fluid and maintains the excitement level throughout.

Most Wanted is a must have game for all driving fans. It's the perfect combination of NFS and Burnout while maintaining a sense of individuality. The open world environment works brilliantly and the open access to most of the cars is a welcome change from the norm.