copyright © Jedo Dre 2011

Need for Speed Most Wanted (2005)  



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Impact: Average

The need for speed Most Wanted is the 9th game in the NFS racing game series. That’s quite a legacy, don’t you think? After the release of the movie The Fast and the Furious, the NFS family turned into a new riverbed. The high performance Italian cars disappeared and in their place came the buffed up Japanese neon lighters. After the release of Xbox360 an amount of "next-gen" games (that are half-games and half-promotional items) have been released. The NFS MW is one of them and it returns some of the true NFS key features while still keeping to the hype.


GAMEPLAY


You play as a new kid in town. You were just starting a successful illegal racing career, when during one of the races one of the drivers messed with your ride and you loose. He gets your car and you get busted. However, you’re released because of a lack of evidence (or is there a different reason..?) and now have to work your way up the racing ladder to get your revenge and your car.


The racing ladder is a 15-name “black list” where to challenge each driver you have to prove yourself first. How? Well, by taking part in different illegal races and getting a bigger bounty on your head of course. You start on your path with little money with which you have to buy a new car. The more you win, the more money you earn and the more stuff is unlocked. By stuff I mean parts of the map, cars and different parts for them.


There are 32 cars in the normal edition of NFS MW and, I believe, about 50 in the Black Edition. They range from Lamborghinis to Volkswagen. Here truly you see that NFS returns to its pre-the-fast-and-the-furious style, reintroducing European racing cars. There's a car for every taste though. Of course if you want to stay competitive you'll eventually be forced to buy one of the next types.


Tweaking your vehicle is done in three departments: visual, performance and parts. Although there are many things you can do to your car, customization has taken some steps back from the last NFS game. It became a lot less detailed. Instead of choosing each bumper and side mirror individually there are several full body kits for each car. Smaller (but important nevertheless) things like headlights can no longer be changed at all, and there are no bottom neon lights anymore. Some parts, like the spoilers or rims, can still be chosen separately though.


You race on a single city map, some parts of which are unlocked as you progress through your campaign. The city features dynamic traffic and plenty of things that you can destroy with your car. During races your car kind of reminds a tank that cuts through light posts and containers with no problem. The damage your car is taking is superficial, reserved to some paint scratches and glass cracking. During races most of the roads are closed off and there are but a few short-cuts left (which do help your victory if you find them). There are all kinds of races, from drag racing, where you have to manually switch gears as you fly between the traffic, to time trials set between road tolls. There’s a little problem here that might annoy some people: during drag races the traffic can be predicted after going through it a couple of times. The whole thing becomes a trial-and-error challenge. Besides the campaign, there’s also a set of increasingly difficult challenges and a quick-race mode.


After getting bored with the single player, there’s a multiplayer. The campaign won’t offer much after you’re done with it. Unlike the previous two NFS games, there are no one-on-one races where you can just challenge a rival car on the road. If you want to race, you have to complete the already completed challenges again or go to quick-race mode.


The NFS Most Wanted features the return of the police force, and it’s one of the game’s central features at that. There are several levels of pursuit. The longer you evade the police and the more damage you make, the more cops there will be and the stronger are the measures which they will take. At the highest level you will be tracked by helicopters, there will be police blocks, road spikes etc. Some challanges are completed, as well as bounty points are gained, by speeding, destroying property and other ways of being an *sshole. The police talks on the radio, and their talking actually makes a lot of sense as they coordinate their pursuit, reporting what car the suspect (you) is in and where you’re headed. That’s a nice change to the generic police talk track that is used in most movies (and some games) that, as you might’ve noticed, hasn’t changed since the 60s. To evade the police you can ram through several constructions which will either destroy the police cars behind you or at least slow them down (and occasionally neither). Once you have evaded the police, you must go through a cool-down period before the cops will give up their search. That’s easier to do in one of the hiding places marked on your map. If the heat of cops gets too high on one of your vehicles, you can drive another, so the first one can be forgotten. After getting busted three times in the same vehicle, your car gets impounded for quite a while so you better have a substitute. NFS MW really emphasizes illegal activity. There’s even a rap sheet that tracks all your violations. The only thing missing for a full-fledged war is a loaded gun or two.


The problem with the cops in NFS MW is that in order to have some fun with them you’ll need to get to the highest level and then slow your car down a little. The AI, as interesting as it is, is too easy. However the combination of exciting dynamic music, police chat and high speed makes the chase very exciting, nevertheless.


What’s a high budget game without downsides? The cut-scenes in game feature real people acting really badly. Maybe the act will look ok to those who liked the movie Torque, but generally the actors (especially Razor) sound rather fake. Maybe it’s just that their macho attitude sounds so distasteful. Another thing, that was already annoying back in NFS Underground, is that there’s only one save-game for each profile that you use. I think we can agree that that’s not only rather risky but also not convenient.


SOUND


…Is very remarkable. We usually don’t really notice how good or bad the sound is in games, but NFS MW is an exception. Starting with the engine sound of each car that is noticeably different and really sounds like a super car (which is the whole point). Watching a few cut-scenes felt like watching a DVD with surround sound.


Music is dominated by heavy rock with rap and techno mixed in. You’ll hear bands like Disturbed and Celldweller. NFS people made some good music choices to fit the theme of the game. The music during cop chases is also quite dynamic, which makes the whole thing all the more exciting.


VISUALS


NFS MW looks the way you might expect from so called “Next-gen” games. The center of the jewel is the reflection system. Most noticeable, of course, are the cars’ complex reflections. However, the game goes further than that. The pavement also reflects the sun. There’s also some complex shadowing involved, although it's not really noticable. The rain in NFS MW is probably the best looking ever in the history of gaming. However some things could be improved like the foliage of the trees that still follows the old pixely technique where a couple of flat layers of foliage are stuck to the trees. Other cars in the game look absolutely dull compared to your big **s bling-bling-mobile. Although that’s maybe for the best, otherwise the low-end machines would never be able to run the game.


The cut-scenes feature real actors in a computer generated enviroment. That actually works really well. The thing here is that in our age where B-class actors can be replaced with good-looking computer-generated models, this whole concept is somewhat abundant.


There are many effects in the NFS like for example the blur during high speeds. The camera is used well. For example, when a police car is spotted, the action freezes and the camera closes in on the police car (this kind of reminds the movie Matrix). When you win a race, the camera rotates and takes a picture of your car. Whether you crash during drag racing or jump in the air, the camera is there to slow down and capture the moment. Also other smaller things like menus and loading screens have all been seriously worked on. Seeing NFS MW is like riding a rollercoaster inside some wonder-dome. Round and round…So many flashy colors…


PERFORMANCE


I was rather surprised that the minimum requirements for this game were so...minimum. Taking into account its looks, I was amazed to find out that I could run the game with the settings maxed out on my old P 2 GHz system. It was slow, but doable.


MW shipped with several bugs, however. The newest patches haven’t fixed them all. There’s a particularly annoying issue with the game suddenly slowing down to a slide-show speed even on the most powerful PCs. It happens now and then, and whether it recovers to normal speed depends on the game’s mood.


THE VERDICT


NFS Most Wanted is a crossing between all of its previous games, put to a new graphical and sound level. The police chases bring a new life into the game and are interesting even though the cops are easy to escape from if you do it right. The game has performance issues and some NFS Undergound fans might be disappointed with the customization drawback. However, NFS fans in general should surely be pleased.


Additional thoughts


And now a few subjective ideas I wanted to state. The game features some adverts yet again. Gamespot leaders and some other folks seem to have a problem with that. I think that it makes the game better...more realistic. I’m also all for the promotions of music artists during the game. I found several awesome bands (that I listen to now) through NFS Underground and NFS Most Wanted. In future I hope to see more commercials in NFS games.


I was also very happy to find out cars like Lamborghini and BMW back in the game. I like Mitsubishi, but I couldn’t stand that Japanese hype copied over from The Fast and the Furious that was so noticeable in the previous games. I do not consider many of those small cheap cars to be real cars, no matter what you stick in them. Putting flashy rims and golden paint on a VW Golf to show off is cheap, man.


I was also disappointed at the lack of night time. Don’t you think that illegal racing in a big city is more fun at night with all the flashy city lights and emptier streets?


A little something I didn’t like about the storyline. The storyline itself is nice but I don’t like being the fool who left his car unattended so Razor messed with it and made me loose. Then there’s some cop who scratched my car. In real life I’d probably sue his ass to kingdom come. I don’t like playing for an amateur.