Need for Speed Most Wanted Hands-On

We test-drive Need for Speed Most Wanted and plow through some unfortunate cop cars.

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The Need for Speed franchise had a breakout hit on mobile earlier this year with the excellent Need for Speed Underground 2. With the release of Need for Speed Most Wanted (on current and next-gen consoles) looming large, development for the mobile version is headed into high gear.

It's too bad those cops are using such featherlight vehicles for their blockades.

In Need for Speed Most Wanted, you're once again stripped of your ride, fame, and dignity when you're beaten by a rival street racer. Fortunately, you once again meet a sexy strumpet who views you as a great fixer-upper and helps to bolster your confidence as you recklessly speed.

Most Wanted's focus is your relationship with the cops. You actually want to court a record of reckless endangerment, driving to endanger, and basically any offense with any permutation of the word "danger" in it. Cops were plentiful in the races we played, but they didn't exactly doggedly pursue us. Instead, they'd set up their vehicles as roadblocks. Incredibly, we were able to plow right through these, sending those Crown Victorias literally flying dozens of feet into the air.

We test-drove a build on the Nokia 6680, which uses a JSR184 chipset to boost the performance of 3D applications. Even still, J2ME is, by nature, a slower medium than BREW. If you played NFSU2 on Verizon's V Cast, you're not going to encounter that level of performance in Most Wanted--at least not on Java handsets.

Despite quite a bit of slowdown, the build we played seemed to handle OK. We wove in and out of traffic, plowed right through cop cars (more on this later), and nitro-burned with abandon. It was actually hard to tell when we enabled nitro, because there were no telltale graphical effects, and the game usually choked up at these points, negating any speed boost we would have otherwise witnessed. Hopefully, the frame rate problems we encountered will be fixed before Most Wanted's final release.

Most Wanted will feature eight licensed vehicles, the names of which we aren't at liberty to divulge. As in NFSU2, you'll be able to upgrade these vehicles in a career mode, which comprises 42 individual missions in two distinct locales: an urban environment and a marina.

Apart from the standard circuit races, which take place on closed tracks, there are several game types available. In checkpoint races, players must follow onscreen arrows to the next locale, only to be redirected to the next by another arrow, and so on. Knockout races work as they did in NFSU2: The poor schmuck in last place at the end of each lap is taken out of contention. Finally, there's outrun mode, in which you've got to pass police speed traps while exceeding the speed limit by a respectable margin. This puts the 5-0 in hot pursuit, which is exactly what you want.

Most Wanted includes challenges from rival racers, and these serve as the game's boss fights.

Your work in career mode unlocks new cars, options, and race types in a quick race mode, which is designed for shorter, more-casual play sessions. Quick race mode skips the ride building and exposition and just gets to the racing.

The unfinished build of Need for Speed Most Wanted we played wasn't performing as well as we'd like at this point, but it shows promise in its course variety. We'll tell you how Most Wanted shaped up when the game hits retail this fall.

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