At the other end of the action spectrum are those pursuits. High-risk rewards are on offer if you ram a police car. On impact, the world is wiped clean of other players, and suddenly it's one man versus an ever-inflating cop presence. It's easy to escape quickly, but that earns you a paltry sub-100 Rep. Avoid capture for extended periods, write off state property, and generally be a very rude chap, and you can expect exponential rewards. A six-minute pursuit bagged me nearly 1500 Rep - the same as four or five multiplayer wins. It's also - perversely, as a solo experience - one of the most enjoyable parts of the game, once you've invested a skill point in the radar skill.
It's tense, only slightly unfair, and the frustration of failure is easily matched by the jubilation of escape. If you do get boxed in with your Emergency Evade and Juggernaut power-ups empty or on cooldown, you'll still get a commiserating sliver of Rep. But that won't stop you slamming your gamepad on the desk and standing up like you've got something better to do, in a miniature impotent protest. That's a good thing. It's good to feel something. But it would have been so much better if I could have done it with a friend.
At Level 10, free players are capped, and the XP required to advance ramps up. So even a few days into NFSW's full release, with the early tracks brimming with newcomers keen to race, you'll find the tracks that are unlocked after Level 10 require patience to find a convincing challenge. You can play the old tracks, but the Rep rewards are diminished and you look like the awkward big kid who hangs around his old school because adult life isn't working out. "Sorry," I said, having won my most shaming victory yet. "There's no-one playing at my level." Six people ignored me. One replied “Sure.” I'm fairly sure he was shaking his head.
Skill points are earned immediately, and can be distributed in three areas: Race, Pursuit, and Explore. It's a shame you have to specialise, because the game wants you to do all three things - I'd have preferred more a more granulated selection and two points per level. However, after a few essentials (Radar and Ram for pursuits, and skill-awarded Nitrous boosts at the start of a race) these skills aren't really pronounced enough to be imbalancing.
Boost is Need for Speed World's micro-transaction currency. With it, you can buy short-cuts; how fair that feels is up to your own conscience and how visible the cheat is. Essentially, you're all playing by the same rules, but people with more Boost can take advantage of those more often. It will be most illustrative to describe what I spent my £15's worth of boost on. I'll use sterling here, instead of a euphemism that's designed to feel like easily-spent Monopoly money.
- £2.70: Three days of 25 per cent reputation boost
First things first: I paid to have my reputation earned from races and pursuits boosted by 25 per cent. This means 20 per cent less life spent getting to those unlockable cars and vinyls. The first few levels are all sprints, with a circuit race opening up around level four. Circuits offer slightly different power-ups, such as One More Lap - but they're still races.
Unlocking new races makes the world fuller, and more interesting, and you progressing faster hurts no-one. Buy with a clear conscience. You can also buy a 25 per cent cash boost for the same amount, if you're a breadhead.