The Need for Speed series is one of the classics of gaming. Starting out in 1994 with the original Need for Speed, and working through such titles as Need for Speed SE, II, III, High Stakes, Porsche Unleashed, Hot Pursuit 2 and the Underground I and II series, this game has gone from accurate simulation to arcadey racer to street racer over the years, and has now arrived at a watershed: NFS:MW takes elements from all the previous versions and blends them together to try to please both the original "purist" fans of the game, and the more recent street racing fans.
The game’s career mode starts out with a hilarious bang. You take on the role of a nameless, faceless new racer attempting to hit the scene in the city of Rockport. An underground ranking known as the Blacklist governs who can race who, and when. You almost immediately run into a punk named Razor, who’s definitely the sort of dude that lives his life a quarter-mile at a time. He’s at the bottom of the list, but a few races later, he’s sabotaged your ride and has won it from you in a race. Meanwhile, you’re carted off to jail. Left with nothing but some mysterious help from a stranger named Mia, your task is to get back in the race game to work your way to the top of the Blacklist, which is now topped by Razor, who’s using your old car to wipe out the competition.
Working your way up the Blacklist is a multistep progress. Before you can challenge the next Blacklist racer, you have to satisfy a list of requirements. You’ll have to win a set number of race events. And you’ll have to reach a set number of pursuit milestones and earn enough bounty by riling up the police. The cops hate street racers and will give chase when they see you rolling around the open city. You can also just jump right into a pursuit from a menu, too.
Running from the cops is the best action the game has to offer. Chases usually start with just one car on your tail. But as you resist, you might find 20 cars giving chase, in addition to a chopper flying overhead. Losing the cops gets tougher as your heat level rises. Level one heat results in the appearance of just your standard squad cars. But by the time you get up to level five, you’ll be dealing with roadblocks, spike strips, helicopters, and federal-driven Corvettes.
There’s also a lot of racing in Most Wanted’s career mode—almost too much, in fact. You’ll engage in multilap circuit races, point-A-to-point-B sprint races, drag racing, checkpoint-driven tollbooth races, and speed trap, where the winner is the player that accumulates the most speed while passing by a handful of radar cameras spread throughout the track. The races are solid but not spectacular. The artificial intelligence doesn’t really help things along, because most of the game is rubber-banded like crazy.
The game has more than 30 licensed cars that you’ll be able to purchase or win from other racers. We started out with a pretty weak Chevy Cobalt, but eventually we picked up a much faster Supra, a new Covette C6, and so on. You can also find the Ford GT, a Ford Mustang GT, and other cars from BMW, Mitsubishi, Porsche, Lamborghini, Lotus, and more.
Aside from the career mode, there’s also a challenge series that gives you a car and a specific goal. Race goals are fairly easy to understand, but the pursuit challenges ask you to achieve specific milestones, like blasting through five roadblocks or racking up a specific amount of property damage. You can also just dive into quick races, or take it online. The online game is focused strictly on racing, which is a little disappointing. Teaming up to avoid the cops or letting some players drive police cars probably would have been more interesting.
While the actual racing in Need for Speed Most Wanted is probably the weak link in the chain, it’s still solid enough to keep you interested as you move from racer to racer, working your way up the Blacklist as you go. But the real stars of the show are the police, who give the series a much-needed shot in the arm. If outrunning the law sounds like your idea of a good time, you’ll have a great time here.
Platforms : PC, PS2, XBox, GC, Xbox 360, PSP