The Need For Speed series from EA has spent a little time in the dark with the Underground games night-time style but thankfully not in gameplay, Most Wanted brings the NFS series back into daylight and with some noticeable and important changes too with the most notable alteration being the police presence within the city and the part they play in the game, you will not just go casually blasting around like you own the city this time without attracting some attention from the local law enforcement.
The illegal street racing scene has been the focus of many a videogame over the last few years but the latest iterations of the Need for Speed series have generally fended off the competition very well.
Most Wanted of course features the now familiar 'career mode' which will see you step behind the wheels of several cars as a new racer on the scene and work your way to the top, the top in this case is the top of the Blacklist - a list of street racers whom you must conquer as you progress. At the top of the list is Razor, in the earliest sections of the game we are introduced to the idea that Razor is a prize moron and thus the player has a reason to want to top the list to defeat him, basically Razor is topping the charts in a car he conned you out of whilst landing you a spell in jail in the process, ass.
Getting up the Blacklist means beating the racers already above you on it but its not like you can just challenge these people at will and beat everything in a few races as each challenge has requirements which must be met before it can be raced, these are simple objectives like number of races won or time spent playing up the police, this makes the career mode last much longer than it otherwise would do and so you will likely not be beating the whole game in just a few hours.
Tearing up the Tarmac
The different types of races that you will be involved in include your usual multiple laps of a circuit races, point to point races across the city and drag races, to compliment these EA have thrown in some other ideas like getting you to trip the speed cameras at as great a speed as possible which is novel at the least. As with many street racing games you can jump straight to the races without needing to endlessly cruise around the city to get from place to place.
At first you will find the races no real challenge if you know where you are with driving games, absolute concentration is nowhere near needed in the early stages and I found I could still thrash out a win even if I crashed quite badly a few times, with perseverance though you will reach the sections of the game where both the skill of the A.I drivers and the sense of speed on screen start to pick up and then everything gets to be more fun after that, you'll still be engaged in the same sorts of races and events though but there is more challenge to them.
Inbetween the career races the story (which is actually quite absorbing) gets played out, at first this is done using some cutscenes and later through simple voice messages. The cutscenes feature the usual levels of unintentional humor common to game cutscenes but are good to watch.
Outside of the career mode you can opt to enter quick races and challenge races, challenges are the more fun of these as you are assigned goals to accomplish within the race which make it much better, you may be asked to break through X number of roadblocks for example.
On your path to the top of the Blacklist you will experience many of the different vehicles that the game has to offer, initially you will need to purchase these and tune them yourself but as you climb the ladder you may be lucky enough to win an already tuned car from off of your opponents by beating them in Pink Slip races with some skilled driving.
The licensed cars on offer in Most Wanted are varied, they have packed in machines from Mitsubishi, BMW, Lotus and many more top name manufacturers, as is par for the genre some of these machines are of questionable usefulness but the good stuff becomes available as you play.
Cruising around the city you will gain 'heat' on your vehicle, 'heat' is a measure of how much the police would like a word with the vehicles driver and serves to indicate how forceful the authorities get when chasing you, changing vehicles will lower heat on your unused machines and so the player is encouraged to run more than one car. If you really want to carry on driving around in a car with a lot of heat then you should think about applying some of the games visual upgrades to the car - no longer just for show these upgrades help you to drop the heat too.
Escaping police capture in Most Wanted is a simple but fun affair, first you must lose the police already chasing you, this is mainly done through skilled driving and knowing the layout of the streets and where the shortcuts are, then when you have lost your pursuers you need to remain out of sight for a while until they give up and looking for you and go away.
Playing up the police is important as you will need to do it to some extent in order to progress up the Blacklist but fortunately as mentioned this is fun to do - especially when you have acquired a lot of 'heat' and they come at you with helicopters and the roadblocks start coming out.
Sights and sounds of Rockport
The cityscape of Rockport is created in quite a lot of detail and looks solid, the graphics do not glitch or warp but you may notice a bit of slowdown occasionally although not enough to make a big impact on the game, the cars are as detailed and well built as the city itself, some of the high end vehicles look amazing.
The engine sound effects change per car which is a nice touch although common to many racers these days so nothing really standout there but the ambient sound effects of the road and vehicles are well done and do help to add the atmosphere of the game. For the music they have gone along with the usual street racer score of hip-hop with some rock thrown in for good measure.
The additions made to Most Wanted - most notably the police presence - mean that it is a worthy new entry in the Need for Speed series without feeling like just an Underground 3, still fans of the previous games will almost certainly enjoy Most Wanted. Getting to the top of the Blacklist and defeating Razor will become a must if the storyline grabs you (which is good since that's what it's there for) and keeps you playing.