Need For Speed Most Wanted Reader Review
Here comes the new boss, same as the old boss
Elvis famously shot his TV rather than get up to change channel. I sometimes wonder if the same rules apply to certain types of gamer.
Well documented are the many ways people choose to whinge about EA Games, and their yearly updates of successful franchises. And yet, here is a game once again pilloried by many critics for offering little new to a well established intellectual property, and lo and behold less than a week passes between release and sales counts and the thing is at the top of the charts.
Off the rails, and then back on again
Need for Speed Underground is the latest in a long line of Need for Speed games. Personally I first encountered the games on a rather low end PC and started with Need for Speed III. This set a massively high benchmark (for me at least) for all successors to follow, featuring as it did enough supercars to get foamy over to keep even Jeremy Clarkson happy, plus the added bonus of having to spend a lot of the game escaping from police. A great combination of ideas that added up to a wholly satisfying game.
One of the better things about Need for Speed III was the amazing amount of modified cars that appeared for the thing, some official but the best ones modelled and rendered by fans of the series. Everything from Korben Dallas' taxi from The Fifth Element to (of all things) a Tie Interceptor.
Nowadays sadly, modification can only mean one thing, and that's a bit of (unmentionable brown thing) polishing. And though Need for Speed: Most Wanted reintroduces two of the factors we wanted to see back in the series (cops and supercars) really what you've got here is "Need for Speed : Underground" with the lights turned on.
It's in the game but we so wish it wasn't
The game revolves around a couple of nice options. You can build up your bad boy career, starting off with a production car, and working your way up the criminal ladder by winning illegal street races, peeing off cops, and getting enough cash to afford "by the numbers" upgrades for your car in the hope that it'll be like the six million dollar man, better, stronger and faster. However exactly the same mistakes have been made here as were made in the Underground series - upgrades are locked off until you complete certain parts of the game, and naturally to get these upgrades unlocked you have to pretty much apply all earlier upgrades. So there is no freedom, merely a linear "polishing" path robbing your ride of any individuality. Admittedly you have a greater freedom over the look of your car (paint jobs, decals, vynil stickers etc) but eventually you get so fed up with trying to make the thing look nice, that you wish you could just whack a bigger engine in the thing, win the next set of races and progress a little.
Bleeee! NO not Live, please not Live!
Career mode is all about working your way up a series of 14 race challenges (other racers who you have to beat in order to progress) until you get to the person who beat you in a previous life, and took your ride (and so he says, your girl).
Unfortunately gameplay is so utterly dull that you will find yourself nodding off at the wheel. There really is little more do to than win these races, apply the by the numbers upgrades, save your cash for better cars and then beat the smug eedjit claiming back your rather nasty looking BMW.
Other game modes include the obligatory live multiplayer modes (not worth bothering with unless your car has absolutely everything done to it that you can possibly do, because EA neglected to ban "cheating" meaning that pretty much every car you race against on LIVE is maxxed out). There is also a rather more satisfying "instant race" option if you just want to take a random car and track out for a spin. Again there are paralells to Need for Speed Underground in that most tracks and races just feel like all the rest, and the game world (though relatively large by most games standards) seems so samey and unsatisfying that you just won't want to bother.
The supercars are back though, this time rather than messed up Corsas and VW Golfs you can at least choose to earn enough cash to get yourself a PROPER sports car like a Porsche 911 or an Aston Martin, and if there's one area EA have definitely put in the hours on with NFS:MW it's with the audio. Car sound effects are superb, as is the atmospheric cop chatter when you're being pursued but oh why oh why do they still insist on whacking a load of tiresome crappy hip hop EA Trax all over the place, making you go straight to the options menu to kill off all the music? WHY EA! We do not all like Hip Hop in fact take a few cues from Top Gear for god's sake because they at least do seem to include some decent driving music in their proggy of late.
Oi! You lookin' at my Corsa?
Need for Speed : Most Wanted was lovingly referred to as "Chav Racer 3" by an EA colleague friend of mine, and yes that's exactly what you have here. A sad pale skinny baseball-capped parody of what it might actually feel like to be an elite US underground racer with street credibility rather than a pair of badly fitting jeans, an impossibly expensive pair of trainers and a pit bull called "Spike". Once again I'm left hoping that one day really soon EA takes a good long hard look at the NFS series and also has a good long hard look at other Supercar racers like Project Gotham, or even other chav-racers like Midnight Club, and says to themselves "Where oh where did we go wrong?"
5 / 10