The Need for Speed franchise has been around since I was a kid. I remember playing Need for Speed 3: Hot Pursuit on a PS1 and being completely enthralled with running from the police. This carried over into Need for Speed Underground on the Xbox where you spent your time street/drag racing and customizing your car for hours. Yes, you don’t need to ask I had flames on mine (in my defense I was in 6th grade).
Need for Speed: Most Wanted was the first racing title I have played in awhile though. I would demo games like Forza, Project Gotham, and Test Drive but never really could get into them. I admire the realistic driving and the stunning graphics but their realistic gameplay also made it very hard to grasp and difficult to feel like you were in control of the vehicle. Need for Speed: Most Wanted has balanced that well and its gameplay is where this game really shines.
In NFS:MW you are plopped into the city in what I feel like is the most iconic vehicle of the series which is the Porsche. You do a race that works as a tutorial, but after that you are on your own. You have a vast city that combines architecture from many major cities and offers different terrains, scenery, and a great variety of roads.
The city is set up like a car scavenger hunt where you will run into cars parked in strange places which “unlocks” them. You are then able to drive that vehicle, participate in specific races to unlock new customization options, and run from the cops in it. You also have “autolog” challenges that rewards you with upgrades. For example you can unlock a tougher frame for your car that also gives you more control of your car, but then you can get a “pro” version of the frame that will improve it, and to do so you need to drive 10,000 yards through oncoming traffic.
Unfortunately the customization is limited to just these small upgrades you can get for your vehicles. Along with the frame of the car you can also change your nitrous, transmission, et cetera and they only offer 2-3 options each. You don’t even get to select your car color because repairing your car automatically changes the color back to the default.
The other part that is unfortunate is that each car comes with only a handful of races. You select the race from a quick menu that you use with the d-pad and then set the destination and drive. After that though once you gold medal in every race there is no incentive to keep using that car. So even if you found the car for you, there is no point of using it unless you want to use it for running from the police. This was obviously the intention of the design, but it goes against how I like to play.
I do really enjoy their “Most Wanted” list of cars that you unlock by winning races, escaping police, and doing cool things are the city. All of these actions go towards a point system that unlocks a most wanted car on a list and lets you race it to win that car.
Like I said though the game really shines in the actual driving gameplay. I loved the realistic feel of the cities with the addition of provisional “ramps” that you can stunt on and drifting on turns had this great feel to it.
Going 100+ mph into narrow streets and banging the car next to you to slam into a wall was so rewarding, doubly so since you earn experience and rewards by doing so. Trying to swerve around traffic to maintain an average speed of 120 mph to get a gold medal in a challenge was a blast. Even fighting to beat a rare car in a “Most Wanted” race that was way better than your car was exhilarating to beat.
My hands down favorite part of the game though just as it was all the way back on PS1 were the car chases. Having the police keep raising my wanted level, avoiding spike traps, watching SWAT trucks miss me, and doing action movie level escapes are so much fun. When you have an entire police force behind you as you drift down a 180 curve on a mountain road, you will understand the thrill.
I actually think that when the new GTA V comes out it needs to take notes on how pursuits should be done, because they are fun, challenging, and very rewarding if you can get away. I’ve tried so hard to escape after receiving a level 6 pursuit (the highest) and know that a 50,000 experience point reward is up for grabs after all the police cars I slammed, roadblocks I avoided, and general badassery I committed, but always corner myself like a fool.
If you can get past the fact that you can’t really commit to one car if you want to fully complete the game I highly recommend picking it up. It is more fun than realistic but I found it more enjoyable than any of the new racing titles that have been coming out recently.
A Copy of Need For Speed Most Wanted for Xbox 360 was provided to us for this review by EA