I’ve always been a fan of the Need for Speed series going all the way back to a copy of the first one I played on the 3DO. It injected a dose of realism into the racing genre while most of us were still hooked on Super Mario Kart. The roar of the engine, the attention to detail, the real cars and of course, the FMVs, and then Gran Turismo came along and squashed the NFS momentum.
Need for Speed: The Run, had impressive graphics but was weighed down by an awful story and restrictive gameplay but right off the bat they emphasized the open-world nature of Most Wanted that The Run lacked.
The game drops you right behind the wheel of a speeding Aston Martin V12 Vantage, quickly forcing you to get acquainted with the buttons. The controls are tight and responsive and the graphics are already visually impressive. When you turn a corner and sun peeks out from behind a tree with a level of brilliance that almost forces you to squint, you know they put an exceptional amount of time into the detail. Later all you will fully appreciate the vast world they’ve created here that seamlessly transitions from a city scene to an industrial area to a highway along a coast to the mountains. It’s all fairly generic but it still looks nice.
While behind the wheel of the Aston Marton you realize you’re driving to a “jackspot,” one of 100+ locations in the game where you can quickly hop into a car and complete races to earn upgrades or collect Speed Points to achieve various milestones. Most of the cars are available right from the beginning so all you need to do is drive around and hop in. The more exotic, high-powered machines are the “Most Wanted” vehicles that you must race against, win and then “take down” after the race in order to drive the car. That concept, the destructible billboards and drive-thru repairs were lifted from the Burnout series, specifically Paradise. Mixing realistic gameplay with arcade-style elements creates a well-rounded gaming experience that increases the replay value.
I mentioned that upgrades are available when you win races but they’re fairly standard (nitrous, light-weight, chassis, etc.) and lack the depth found in other NFS games. You can change the color of your vehicle by driving through the repair stations but the color is selected at random and you’re limited to a few base colors. The Run was an inferior game but it did offer a bit more variety in the appearance of your vehicle. I was heavily involved in the tuning scene around the late 90’s early 2000’s and always look for those components in a racing game.
The Police. Cops are everywhere in this game so if you speed past one going 125 mph, a pursuit is initiated. Smash into a cop, a pursuit is initiated. Once the pursuit begins you have to drive around and lose the 2-3 cops on your tail. The longer you drive the more your heat level increases resulting in roadblocks placed and additional police vehicles. it’s cool the first time it happens but when police are after you every 5 minutes in begins to suck the fun out of the game.
The game does contain a brilliant “jump-to” feature that will automatically place you behind the wheel of a car you’ve already jacked or jump to a race you’ve already competed in. This can happen while you’re going 200 mph in a Bugatti Veyron, just select the option and boom, Countach. The Autolog social feature has also been included to coincide with earning Speed Points and milestones.
Tunes are a mix of rock, techno, Muse & Skrillex. You start out with Muse’s Butterflies and Hurricanes and for some reason, seem to hit either a Skrillex song every 3 songs or Last Dinosaurs’ Zoom. Apparently Prodigy’s Firestarter is on the playlist but I’ve played the game for weeks and still haven’t hit it. I would have liked a little bit more diversity in the playlist; hiphop, r & b or reggae would have been nice.
Overall, the game is awesome. The graphics are stunning, the controls are precise, the upgrades and milestones for each vehicle heavily increase the value of the game but what really matters is that it’s fun to play. You can compete in races or just drive around the vast city they’ve created and enjoy the scenery. Cop it.