Need for Speed Most Wanted - Updated Xbox 360 Impressions

We take a spin in a near-final version of EA's 360 racer.

Our recent look at the current-generation versions of EA's Need for Speed Underground left us wondering how the Xbox 360 version was coming along. We didn't have much time to ponder the subject, as EA reps dropped by today with a work-in-progress version of the game, which they let us look around. While it still wasn't quite final yet, this version of the game gave us a sense of how it's progressed since we last saw it.

Need for Speed Most Wanted for the Xbox 360 offers an upgrade to the game's visuals.

Need for Speed Most Wanted will feature the same modes found in the Xbox and PC versions, so you'll be able to play career, challenge series, quick race, and multiplayer. The multiplayer will feature the added bonus of online play, so you can challenge up to four other friends to online races. The modes will all be essentially identical to the current-gen versions, in terms of content. You'll find the same parity in the game's control, which comfortably maps to the 360 controller.

Though content and control may seem familiar, the big enhancement to the game comes in the form of high-definition visuals that the development team has been working to ensure will serve as a flashy showcase for the Xbox 360. As glossy as the game looks on current-generation platforms, the Xbox 360 version brings a laundry list of effects to the Most Wanted party. The environments feature a much higher level of detail and crisp textures. The cars, the undisputed stars of the game, are modeled with a generous amount of polygons, resulting in an impressive look. The 360's added horsepower also allows for even more cars to be rendered at once, which is impressive because they add to the game's challenge (especially if those vehicles are police cars that are intent on stopping you). The environment and vehicles are complemented by a robust array of effects that showcase their detail. You'll find all manner of dynamic lighting, which runs the gamut from the broad strokes of lens flare that nearly obscures your vision, to the finer touches, such as reflections that glint off your car's highlights. Despite these additions to the visuals, the game's frame rate is already fairly solid, so the action remains fast and high, regardless of the onscreen lunacy that ensues as you tear through the large environments. Now, while the game shines running on an HDTV, it loses a bit of its luster on a plain old TV. However, it manages to retain enough to look considerably sharper than its Xbox cousin.

While you'll need a proper HDTV to really appreciate Most Wanted's graphics, it will still look shiny on a normal TV.

Based on what we saw in this update, we're hopeful that Need for Speed Most Wanted will turn out to be a solid game for the Xbox 360 launch. Though we'd obviously liked to have seen some ubercool additions, in terms of game content, the visual upgrade certainly puts the game a cut above its current-gen cousins. Need for Speed Most Wanted is currently slated to ship shortly before the Xbox 360 launch on November 22.

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