TGS 2005: Need for Speed: Most Wanted Hands-On

We get behind the wheel and outrun some cops in EA's upcoming 360 racer.

TOKYO--Back at the Electronic Entertainment Expo in May, EA unveiled the Xbox 360 version of its upcoming racing game, Need for Speed: Most Wanted. The brief demo showed off one race and a couple of its new features. At this year's installment at the Tokyo Game Show, EA is showing off a few more cars and giving attendees a look at the game's pursuit mode.

The focus of NFS Most Wanted is some form of response from the Man. You know, the fuzz? Rollers? Five-Oh? Yeah, that's right. Cops. Even in regular races against AI-controlled opponents, the game tosses in a few cop cars for good measure. But the cops truly come into their own in the game's pursuit mode, where you'll try to outrun the police and stay away from them for a decent stretch of time, crashing through areas and increasing your bounty all the while. The pursuit races give you an onscreen meter that shows how close you are to evading the police. Once you've gotten the popes off their game, they'll fall back and lose you. This causes a cooldown meter to appear. Filling this up--by continuing to stay out of sight--ends the race. You'll score better if you cause a bit more mayhem, which seems to increase the amount of bounty your car is worth. If the cops manage to take you down, you'll get busted.

The one thing we noticed about the game so far is that the police response seems generally relaxed at the moment. In regular races, the cop cars basically just cruise along the race route and don't seem to actively give chase. They certainly don't seem to be trying to bring you down. In pursuit mode, the cops seem to be a little more aggressive, but here, their tactics seem to linger around the "crash into player's car repeatedly" zone. A pause menu revealed a "heat level" menu, but even when it was turned up to maximum, the police didn't seem too with it. Hopefully this is one of the things being worked on prior to the game's release. Controlwise, the game feels pretty nice. The driving is fairly standard, but you'll also have a boost bar to play with, which refills during skids. Also, you can drop the game into slow motion with a button press. This seems like it was designed to help you avoid collisions. Slow motion is governed by a meter that doesn't refill right away, so you won't be able to abuse the feature.

While the demo version of the game being shown is set up to deliver two race types in preconfigured vehicles, some portions of the game's menus are available, including a "my garage" section that lets you build out custom versions of the game's vehicles by tweaking their engines and messing around with other parts. The game contains a Ford Mustang GT, a BMW M3, a Lamborghini Gallardo, a Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren, and a Lexus IS 300, though, of course, the final version of the game will have several more cars to choose from.

The game's car models look pretty sharp, and as you bang them around, the windows will crack, but that appears to be it for car damage. Graphically, the rest of the game has a decent visual look to it, though at times the frame rate noticeably dropped. Additionally, the game's current running speed isn't completely smooth, and the game doesn't seem to deliver a terribly convincing sense of speed.

Though the soundtrack hasn't been officially announced, tracks from Juvenile, The Prodigy, and Styles of Beyond popped up as we raced.

All in all, Need for Speed: Most Wanted does look like another promising entry in the long-running franchise. With the game currently on for a November release, we won't have much longer to wait to see more of it in action.

Written By

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

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