After a few years off to explore its “underground” side, the Need for Speed series is poised to make a return to its breakin’ the law roots with Need for Speed: Most Wanted. The game is due out on November 11th for the PS2, PSP, Xbox, and on the 22nd, the Xbox 360. But with Burnout Revenge blowing the minds of arcade racing fans everywhere, will anybody care? I recently spent some quality time with a preview build of the PS2version, and of course, I’m here to share.
Most Wanted differs from the last two NFS games in several ways. For starters the pointless hot chick in the game is David Blaine’s ex, Josie Moran, and not Brook Burke. Yay? Seriously though, the whole premise of the game has changed. Instead of focusing on building your own street racer (though you can still modify your vehicle, just to a lesser extent) and the underground racing scene, Most Wanted features racing with more exotic cars, and of course, running from the law. In the game’s career mode, you’ll strive to make it to the top of the Black List, a group of notorious racers that the police would just love to get their hands on.
One thing that NFS:MW has that Burnout , is licensed vehicles. Over 40 cars will be available in the final build, including Toyota, Chevy, Ford, Lamborghini, Porsche , Mazda, Cadillac, BMW, and Volkswagen. Only four vehicles, two variations each of the BMW M3 GTR, and Mazda Rx-8, were playable in the demo. The car models are up to the usual high standards of the series. They sport a high amount of detail, and are highly reflective – something you’ll notice as a result of the game’s bright sun.
The demo had three playable game modes, a tollbooth race, a circuit race, and a drag race. The tollbooth race is similar to a traditional checkpoint race – you’ve got to get from one tollbooth to the next in a certain amount of time. When you reach the end of the run, the cops will be after you in full force, and you’ve got to last a minute without getting arrested to move on to the next level. The race that follows is very similar to the standard race in Underground, complete with shortcuts. The same goes for drag racing – it’s very similar to what you’ve played before.
Where Need For Speed: Most Wanted stands out from all the other racers is the role that law enforcement plays. They’re not just patsies for you to play with; these guys want you off the streets, and they’ll stop at nothing to haul you off to jail. You can actually hear the dispatcher alert units to your activities and even hear the officers respond to the calls. Soon after, they’ll appear – blue lights flashing. The longer you manage to keep the fuzz at bay, the more cops join the chase, and the more daring they’ll become. Using real police tactics, they’ll try and run you off the road, box you in, set up roadblocks, and even attempt to force you into roadblocks. In my encounters with the authorities, I lost more often than I won – they’re no joke. When the cops have you cornered, a meter appears on screen that shows you how long you’ve got until you’re busted. Believe me, it doesn’t take long. If and when you’re apprehended, your reward is getting to watch yourself thrown in the back of a police cruiser. You’ve even got your face blurred out, just like on Cops. Your mother would be so proud.
A new addition to the series is the Speedbreaker button, which like in Midnight Club 3, will slow down time, allowing you to navigate through heavy traffic or squeeze through a police roadblock. It comes in handy on occasion, but it doesn’t change the game’s mechanics a whole lot. The rest of the controls felt a little loose, but this could easily be attributed to the low-end vehicles that I was driving.
Our build of the game wasn’t without its problems, particularly from a visual standpoint. NFS: Underground 2 wasn’t a visual tour de force, and at this time, Most Wanted isn’t either. The framerate isn’t very fast, and to make matters worse, it’s not very stable. This keeps the game from having any real sense of speed – especially compared to the blazing fast Burnout Revenge. The backgrounds have a lot of detail, but between the aliasing and the framerate, you won’t be able to enjoy them. There are some nice lighting effects, in particular a blazing sun that when its shining in your eyes, makes it very difficult to see. Hopefully the developers can clean things up a bit before the game’s release, but it’s unlikely that we’re going to see vast improvement.
EA has just revealed the lineup for EA Trax, and as usual it’s a pretty sizable list of lesser-known commercial artists, though there are some recognizable games mixed in too. Game soundtracks are always a love/hate sort of thing, so feel free to check out the track listing so you can make up your own mind.
With Burnout Revenge capturing the attention of so many gamers, it will be interesting to see how Most Wanted will be received. If the visual issues can be worked out, Most Wanted should deliver all of the action that fans of the series have come to know and love.
10/14/2005 Aaron Thomas