Need for Speed Most Wanted E3 2005 Hands-On Report

Drag racing has never looked so good.

OK, so it seems like a lot of people were unsure about the Need for Speed Most Wanted footage shown at Microsoft's press conference earlier in the week. But wonder no more, because that exact sequence is serving as a brief playable demo of the game on the show floor at E3.

The demo is a drag race that's very similar to the drag racing mode found in the Need for Speed Underground games, but unlike those games, you'll have full steering control over your car instead of just switching lanes at the tap of the controller. The demo puts you behind the wheel of a tricked-out BMW and puts you on a short stretch of road. You'll have to weave your way through pretty heavy traffic to win. You'll even get the opportunity to drive right under the trailer of a big rig. If you don't make it under fast, the logs on the back of a truck spill out, blocking even more of the track.

Graphically, the game offers some smoke effects and other neat little visual tricks. When you exit a tunnel, it'll take time for the lighting to adjust, thus properly emulating the way your eyes adjust to abrupt lighting changes.

It's a short demo, but it's an effective one. Need for Speed Most Wanted controls well and looks pretty nice, too. It'll be interesting to see what other race modes make it into the game, especially since "Most Wanted" definitely implies the return of the police-chase-oriented gameplay of some of the earlier games in the Need for Speed series.

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Jeff Gerstmann has been professionally covering the video game industry since 1994.

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