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Review: Need for Speed Most Wanted

The storyline is the same as most of the titles in the Need for Speed series: a ‘climb the ranks and become the most wanted driver’ scenario.

The storyline is the same as most of the titles in the Need for Speed series: a ‘climb the ranks and become the most wanted driver’ scenario.

Need for Speed Most Wanted is the latest iteration in the long-running franchise of arcade racing games. The new developer, Criterion Games (known for making the Burnout racing series), has been able to refresh the title and push the boundaries of the arcade racer genre.

The storyline is the same as most of the titles in the Need for Speed series: a ‘climb the ranks and become the most wanted driver’ scenario. From the outset, there are 41 vehicles available to the player, from the slower Nissan Versa to the top-of-the-range Aston Martin V12 Vantage. This is a significant departure from previous games where the player had to race and earn each vehicle. All the player has to do now is find a ‘jackspot’ where the vehicle is parked, drive up to it and press the Y button.

The in-game menu system, Easy Drive, is probably the best executed aspect of the game.

The in-game menu system, Easy Drive, is probably the best executed aspect of the game.

Each car is fitted with standard components and players can upgrade them by entering street races to win new parts. Every car is designated to five races – which vary from ‘circuit races’ to ‘average speed races’, where a high average speed needs to be maintained while weaving through traffic.

My favourite event was the Ambush races, where the player needs to elude the cops by either out-riding them or breaking their line of sight. As they destroy more vehicles and property, their heat level increases and the cops employ more mechanisms to take them down, including faster cars, roadblocks and spike strips. These races are difficult, but the reward of finally evading the cops after a tense 20-minute chase is exhilarating.

The multiplayer works well and is woven into the single-player missions.

The multiplayer works well and is woven into the single-player missions.

The in-game menu system, Easy Drive, is probably the best executed aspect of the game. NFS dispenses with a clunky static menu system and allows players to upgrade their vehicles or navigate to their next race using the DPad. This adds to the open world feel of the game.

The race gameplay has a distinctly Burnout feel to it. Each race is started at full speed; there is a big focus on taking out any competitors by destroying their vehicles; and unfortunately, there is significant rubber banding in the race: the faster players get ahead, the quicker their competitors catch up, but when players fall behind, it isn’t too hard to catch up. However, the cars handle well and the race gameplay is fun and addictive.

The multiplayer allows players to drive around the city challenging friends to races. Between races, they can even perform mini challenges, like clocking the fastest speed at a speed camera or performing large jumps through billboards. The multiplayer works well and is woven into the single-player missions – a billboard a friend burst through will carry his face. This is a highly effective way to get the player to perform the mini challenges.

Criterion clearly brought a number of Burnout dimensions to the game. Great graphics, beautiful cars and dynamic open world environment makes this a must-play for all NFS fans.

ITWeb is giving away one Xbox and one PS3 copy of the game. To win a copy, tweet the phrase “I want to win a copy of NFS from @ITWeb”, together with the hashtag #ITWebNFSMW and either #Xbox or #PS3, depending on which console you have. The winner will be chosen by random draw. Competition ends 16 November 2012.

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