Need For Speed: Most Wanted Hands-On Preview – Police, Camera, Action!
Written Friday, October 12, 2012 By Dan WebbView author's profile
A lot has been said about Need for Speed: Most Wanted to date: “It’s Criterion’s take on Most Wanted,” “It’s a spiritual successor to Burnout Paradise!” and “It’s like Hot Pursuit but in a sandbox city environment.” The truth is, these statements are all right and Need For Speed: Most Wanted is the result of Criterion’s experience on some of the most memorable racing games. Funnily enough, of what’s been said to date, it’s all been positive, which based on Need For Speeds of yesteryear, is something of a surprise. This is Criterion though, arguably one of the best racing studios in the UK - although Codemasters might have something to say about that - so we expect nothing less.
This was the first time since the game’s announcement where we’ve actually had chance to plough some considerable time into Criterion’s latest. Dabbling in the single-player, climbing the Most Wanted leaderboard amongst our fellow journalist friends and then diving head first into the manic multiplayer.
What you need to know about Most Wanted is this: there’s no structure, it’s your game experience and you can do with it as you please. Craig Sullivan, Creative Director on Most Wanted, noted that if you looked around at everyone else’s progress after an hour, no two people would be at the same point or doing the same thing. He was right. Some people were doing the races, but in different cars. Others were smashing billboards, searching for cars and racking up the fastest speeds they could on the speed cameras. Some people were even just racing around like maniacs and battling with the police. Yes, that was us.
Everything in Most Wanted earns you Speed Points (SP) and at the game’s core is the Most Wanted table, where you and your friends list battle it out for the number one spot. Some people will climb the ranks while playing multiplayer, others will do it in the single-player races, whereas others will do it by smashing security gates and the like. It’s an addictive core to have at the centre of the race experience, taking Autolog to the next level – in this case, the 2.0 is warranted – and fuels the experience somewhat, but it all depends on who your friends are and how competitive you are. That said, you can’t help but do one more race to overtake a friend in the leaderboard. It’s classic “just one more go” gameplay. After all, there’s nothing better than beating a friend to a pulp and showing him up for the inferior racer that he is, figuratively of course!
With the 'Most Wanted' suffix in the title, there are Most Wanted rivals to defeat too. Beating these will grant you a good SP boost, but take them down after and you’ll net their car. Whereas in the previous Most Wanted, each rival had a personality per se, Criterion’s Most Wanted instead offers you just a fast car to race. No personality. No reason to beat them. Nothing. That’s the only department in which the 2005 version tops its spiritual successor.
Unlike most racing games known to man, if not all, you can pretty much drive every car in the game – aside from the Most Wanted racer’s cars – from the off. I say from the off, but you do have to find them first. If you do though, they’re yours to ride around in unabated. Because there’s no difficulty level in Most Wanted, Criterion does some interesting things in making the game more challenging, and honestly, I’m not sure they work. Instead of having a set of events that you can race in using one of a number of cars, each car has their own set of events. So, if you, like us, were to have a blast with the Lamborghini Gallardo and loved driving it, once you’d completed all the events and got all the upgrades, there was nothing left for you to do but get in another car. Like the Aston Martin for instance, which was complete crap. It handled like a bus, which is lifelike of course, but I’ve never used an Aston Martin in any other racing game ever, so why should I change now? The Ariel Atom on the other hand...boy is that car a wee bit nippy! It is about as durable and reliable as racing a high-powered soapbox derby contraption at 150 miles per hour though, so clip something at your peril.
For us, the multiplayer is where it’s at when it comes to Most Wanted. Having played it briefly at E3 and Gamescom this year, we suspected as much anyway, but having sat down for hours on end to play it with a bunch of like-minded rapscallions, it only cemented our initial thoughts: it’s bloody good fun, manic and ridiculously addictive. You should all know the setup by now, as we've covered it multiple times. For those blissfully unaware, it goes like this: drive to the meet-up, take part in a race, team-race or challenge, move onto the next. The winner is the one who earns the most SP, which is not only awarded for where you finish, but for who you wreck as well.
The freedom for the host to setup the events as you see fit will mean you can tailor the experience to how you like it. Don’t want to travel too far? That’s fine, you can choose all the events in a small subsection of the monstrously huge city. Want to do team races for every event? Okay, that’s fine. I suspect what most people will do is set it up every event as a challenge, because let’s be honest, that’s where the fun is.
The challenges do vary considerably too, so one minute you could be seeing who can amass the most amount of drifting yards and the next minute you could be using a structure in the middle of the city to jump onto the roof of a nearby car park. Some of them do get a little complex and confusing in truth, due to a lack of clarity and tame signposting, but still tend to be fun. Take for example the one challenge that had us jumping cars over our opponent’s cars.
One of the greatest aspects of Need for Speed: Most Wanted’s multiplayer is being able to screw with everyone else. Seriously, it’s what makes it so manic. If you win a race, why not turn around and park on the finish line, or even better, turn around and drive the wrong way around the track? If you set the fastest time in a speed trap challenge, then why not just disrupt everyone else and try and put them off? The sky’s the limit when it comes to dirty tactics, something that resonated with us ever so much, though we have no idea why!
All in all though, Most Wanted is looking like a solid package for racing fans where freedom is at the forefront. If you like your racing games with a bit of structure, you might have to look elsewhere. If you like your games with a hefty dose of anarchy, then Need for Speed: Most Wanted might be right up your street. Look out for our review at the end of the month.
Need For Speed: Most Wanted is scheduled for a October 30th and November 2nd release in North America and Europe respectively.