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Review

Need for Speed: Most Wanted Review

  • First Released
  • Reviewed: October 30, 2012
  • X360
Aaron Sampson on Google+

It's not quite the smooth, finely tuned speed machine it could have been, but Need for Speed: Most Wanted is still an exciting racer.

Vehicles glide along invisible roads in the sky. Cars are borne out of twitchy, twisty clouds of darkness. Groups of police cruisers perform coordinated donuts, twirling about like dancers in a Busby Berkeley musical. In the creative and unusual pre-race sequences throughout Need for Speed: Most Wanted, you get the sense that the city of Fairhaven is a surreal land with dreamlike logic that might allow anything to happen at any moment. It's striking, then, that the actual game here is so typical and unsurprising, and that although it delivers plenty of the hard-hitting, white-knuckle racing Criterion is known for, it doesn't do so quite as well as some of the studio's earlier games.

The first game Need for Speed: Most Wanted may make you think of isn't a Criterion game at all; it's Need for Speed Most Wanted, the 2005 game with almost the same name. But while both games take place in open-world cities and involve plenty of police chases, the similarities aren't as significant as you might expect. One of the earlier game's most memorable elements was its hilariously over-the-top tale, told using some cheesy cutscenes, of a newcomer to the city of Rockport who has a personal vendetta against local street racer Razor Callahan. The premise gave you a terrific motivation for rising through the ranks of Rockport's street racing scene and taking Razor down.

Here, you also have the goal of defeating a number of street racers, but there's no narrative to back it up. The 10 racers on your list are identified only by their cars--they don't have names or faces or personalities--and without a personal investment in defeating them, doing so isn't nearly as satisfying here as it was in the 2005 game. It is merely a structural hoop to jump through; you do it simply because the game tells you that this is what you are supposed to do.

Well, that and the fact that driving, racing, and eluding the police are really enjoyable, for the most part. If you've played Criterion's earlier Need for Speed game, 2010's Hot Pursuit, the handling here will feel immediately familiar. Despite the stable of real-world cars, the driving isn't realistic. Cars have a great sense of weight and momentum to them, while still being extremely responsive, and as you'd expect from a Criterion racer, judicious use of the brakes and a bit of practice will have you blissfully drifting through corners at high speed.

It's time to prove you're not just another bolt-on wonderboy lookin' to get smoked.

Unexpectedly, cars don't start out with boost, but fear not; boosting is a big part of racing in Most Wanted. Each vehicle has five events associated with it, and by taking first place in the easiest of these, you unlock the burn nitrous mod for that car. This enables you to boost after you build up your nitrous bar by doing things like drifting, taking down cops and rivals, and driving in oncoming traffic. Victory in each of a vehicle's events nets you speed points, which you need to earn a set number of before you can challenge each of the most wanted racers. Winning events also gives you access to other mods, including chassis that make you more resistant to impacts, gears that increase your acceleration or top speed, and tires that reinflate if popped by spike strips.

Winning events and making a good car better is rewarding; curiously unrewarding is the process of building up your car collection. In Most Wanted, you don't buy cars, and with the exception of the 10 cars driven by the 10 most wanted racers, you don't earn cars by winning events or doing anything else of significance to advance through the game. You simply find them all over Fairhaven. They're easily spotted thanks to the illuminated headlights and the manufacturer logos that hover in the air above them; you just pull up to a drivable vehicle, and it's instantly added to your collection. After that, you can warp to its spawn point and get behind the wheel, no matter where you are. The fact that you can and will so easily find yourself with a sizable stable of cars simply by cruising around Fairhaven, without having to do anything to earn some of the game's fastest rides, means that car collecting in Most Wanted lacks the sense of accomplishment so many racing games instill by letting you gradually gain access to better vehicles.

The upside of having cars waiting at set points (called jack spots) across Fairhaven is that if you get the cops on your tail as you're roaming about the city, you can pull up on a car's jack spot and, provided that you've got a bit of distance between you and your police pursuers, hop into the other car, reducing your heat level a bit. Your heat level determines just how much effort the police are putting into bringing you down. At the lowest level, you might have a few cop cruisers on your tail. As it increases, the police start setting up roadblocks in your path, and more and better law enforcement vehicles join the fray. Heavy SUVs might try to ram you head-on, and Corvette Interceptors speed along in front of you, deploying spike strips that, if hit, can seriously diminish your car's handling.

Welcome to the future! Here's your flying car.

All is not lost, however; repair shops are all over the city, and driving through one instantly fixes up your car and gives you a fresh coat of paint to boot. Like using jack spots, speeding through these repair shops reduces your heat level. Your heat level increases automatically as a pursuit goes on, and taking down police cars with a satisfying shunt into oncoming traffic, a swift T-bone collision, or whatever aggressive, effective option presents itself, makes it go up significantly faster. If you get enough distance between you and your pursuers, you enter cooldown, during which your heat level declines. Stay in cooldown long enough, and the police call off the pursuit.

You earn speed points during police pursuits, but you get to keep them only if you eventually escape; if you get busted, you earn nothing, so the stakes can get quite high. Escape from the cops, and you feel great; see the speed points you earned over the course of several risky minutes disappear as you get busted, and you may be crestfallen. It's a good risk-vs.-reward system that leads to some extremely tense moments. Unfortunately, shaking off your pursuers can often feel as much a matter of luck as of skill. Police are tenacious in their pursuit of you--maybe a little too tenacious, because it sometimes seems as if no amount of changing direction, catching big air, going off-road, or anything else is enough to lose the cops. In the game's faster cars, speed can often be your savior, but in the more everyday models, it often feels like you don't have a fighting chance.

Additionally, some parts of the city don't have many areas that are off the beaten path; you might enter cooldown but find yourself with nowhere to hide from patrolling police who soon spot you and reinitiate the pursuit. The balance between making it very possible for you to be spotted again during cooldown and giving you good options for eluding the police was better handled in 2005's Most Wanted, which provided you with more spots that cops on the hunt for you might or might not investigate. That earlier game also did a better job with police chatter; here, the police are irritatingly repetitive. Several times during the same pursuit, you might hear cops, awed by your driving prowess, come to the realization that they're "not dealing with joyriders."

The available events for each car come in a few varieties. There are standard checkpoint races against other cars, which sometimes attract the attention of the police. In speed runs, you try to maintain the highest possible average speed on a course. And ambushes start with you surrounded by cops; your goal is to lose them in as little time as possible. Though fun in faster cars, ambushes can be maddening in the game's more ordinary autos.

And then there are the 10 one-on-one showdowns against the most wanted. These races always involve the police, and always follow great routes that have you speeding on numerous surfaces through varied parts of the city. In addition to racing on the road, you might find yourself speeding across dirt, gravel, or rickety beach boardwalks. Your opponents are skilled but fallible, and you never quite know what's going to happen. You might be approaching the finish in first place, only to have victory snagged from your grasp as a police car takes you down, but conversely, you might be trailing behind your opponent when a police car does you the favor of taking him out, leaving you home free. These elements of luck don't diminish the sense of accomplishment that comes with winning; they just add some unpredictability to these races. You must still drive skillfully if you're to have any hope of winning.

Winning the race against a most wanted driver isn't the end of the struggle, though. You must then do a takedown on the car to add it to your collection. This sounds like a satisfying way to cement your victory, but it usually doesn't play out that way. As soon as you've won a race against a most wanted car, it starts driving incredibly poorly, often wrecking itself in head-on collisions in its attempts to stay away from you. As a result, what should have been a tense game of cat and mouse frequently turns into you waiting for your suicidal quarry to respawn after a wreck and then hoping that this time you can destroy it before it destroys itself yet again.

If you see your own gamerpic on a billboard, all of your friends who have smashed that billboard will see it too.

Some of the most fun you can have in Fairhaven happens not during events, but just when you're cruising around town. Cameras all over the city track the highest speed at which you zoom past them and show you how your top speed measures up to your friends' top speeds, but these are too inconspicuous and ubiquitous to make dominating any one of them, or all of them, worth caring about. The smashable billboards all over town, however, you will almost certainly care about. Fairhaven is filled with billboards that have the names of EA game studios on them, at least until you drive through them. After that, they become notices about one of the city's most wanted drivers.

If you get more air when crashing through a billboard than any of your friends have gotten, you can take pride in seeing your own gamerpic or avatar gracing the sign. However, if one of your friends has soared farther than you when destroying that billboard, it will be him or her you see displayed, and few things are more motivating than the prospect of smashing your friends' faces and their records, and claiming those little pieces of Fairhaven as your own. If you crave more competition, you can always easily access Autolog recommendations, which keep you apprised of events that friends have bested you at, or that you haven't tried yet, so opportunities for friendly competition are never in short supply.

You can also hop online with friends or strangers for traditional, simultaneous multiplayer competition, but this is frustratingly uneven. Of course, it's fun to host or join a game with friends and just roam around the city, smashing billboards and taking each other down. You can participate in races, team races, speed tests, and challenges, though you can't just start one of these events as a one-off. Oddly, you must do events in groups of five, which are called speedlists. In public games, speedlists are initiated automatically; in friends games, the host can use premade Criterion speedlists, or build his or her own. Particularly in public games with players who are more interested in messing around than completing objectives, a single five-event playlist can drag on for 45 minutes.

Take down another player online and they'll see your personalized license plate.

Traditional races are great, though the absence of police in online play feels like a missed opportunity, since dodging spike strips, finding the gaps in roadblocks, and taking out cops are defining aspects of the single-player experience. Challenges leave a lot to be desired, however. Though they were great fun in Burnout Paradise, here, their design often makes them a chore. You might head to a specific location only to find that your goal is nothing more interesting than speeding off a cliff a certain number of times, and vague instructions sometimes result in your spending a few minutes just trying to figure out exactly what it is you're supposed to do. Of course, some challenges make coordinating with friends to pull off a strange feat (20 near misses on a bizarre, loopy art installation, for instance) enjoyable, but like the proverbial box of chocolates, until you try one, you never know what you're gonna get.

Despite its inconsistencies and disappointments, there's a lot to like about Need for Speed: Most Wanted. Fairhaven is a lovely and varied city that looks gorgeous no matter how fast or slow you're going. Police chases provide plenty of reckless, high-speed thrills, and seeing friends dominate the billboards in your city fans the flames of friendly competition in an innovative and very effective way. Need for Speed: Most Wanted isn't quite a return to the racing paradise of some earlier Criterion games, but it's a mostly exciting ride nonetheless.

The Good
Terrific handling makes driving a pleasure
Police chases are usually intense and enjoyable
Billboards make for satisfying asynchronous competition
Online multiplayer races are fast and exciting
Beautiful and varied city
The Bad
In slower cars, police chases can be a frustrating ordeal
Repetitive police chatter
Lacks any sense of narrative motivation
Building up a car collection is unfulfilling
Inconsistent, sometimes dull online challenges
7.5
Good
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Discussion

9 comments
Jango-Man
Jango-Man

I could list off some many reasons why this game fails, but I think it would be easier to read my user review instead. Gave the 360 version 6/10.

godmachine0603
godmachine0603

By far, the most frustrating game i have EVER PLAYED!!!!!!

B-boy
B-boy

the run is bettter

emarati999
emarati999

i just love this game soooooooooooooooooooo much god its so much fun one of the best eva

PixelAddict
PixelAddict

What an incredible game.  Loving every minute of it.  

I'm a huge fan of Burnout Paradise (and most all Burnout / Criterion games).  If you liked Paradise, you'll love this game.

Console_Gamer93
Console_Gamer93

After finally playing the game it's painfully obvious that the majority of you loved Most Wanted and were going to hate this one unless it was exactly like that game.

chazjet
chazjet

I've played NFS since the days of playstation 1 and i have allways waited in anticipation for the next installment of car races and chases but this has no story nothing to pull you in . I loved Burnout but the two games were allways different an shoul have stayed that way .

And whats happened to the driving views only 2 behind the car and bumper view

I allways use bonnet view to me i get the best feel for the car.

Its like playing a Fake NFS.

NOT HAPPY.

PayneKiller
PayneKiller

ok, well I suckered up and bought this game on black friday since it was only $25. Been playing it for the last 2 days, initially hated it cause its not like most wanted, but it eventually grew on me, cause I just forgot about it's name and started playing it like it's Burnout Paradise.

I guess if you can do that, you'll enjoy it, cause to be honest with you I really enjoyed Burnout Paradise. So I've just been treating this as the sequel that was renamed, and it's pretty decent.

 

Doesn't change the fact that I REALLY want to see a proper followup of the original Most Wanted tho.

bmart970
bmart970

So, it's basically a bad Burnout Paradise with cops. I think that they should make another Burnout instead of this.

ABIBASS
ABIBASS

always had one question she or he

MrKyleKatarn
MrKyleKatarn

This game is not worthy of the Need for Speed name, the controls are VERY twitchy and you basically have to drift around every corner.  The AI also spawns police cars and traffic cars any time during any race.  The police cars also ignore the AI cars and chase only the player.  EA doesn't care who makes the game or how crappy it is as long as they get paid.  This game's engine is a lot more sneaky about spawning traffic cars to crash you.  TDU2 was open about it, you saw cars appear and disappear on the same screen.

Warmuro
Warmuro

(PC) Car handling sucks. Car physics-engine sucks, even most wanted 1 is more realistic. Car customization sucks too. You can just change the colour of your car instantly if you drive through paint-shop, even in GTA games you drive into shop's garage to spray the car first. Only a few performance boosts you can say for customization. Bullshit "CRASH" system ruins the game already because controls are not even in avarage quality. Another bullshit is "CHECKPOINT" poles which makes the game even harder and harder after all these terrible things. What i liked in this Most Crapped game are the some of the soundtracks and graphics-visual effects. My personal score for PC is 5.0. Ah, and EA proved that it has turned into a terrible company once more. I'm wondering to see what they'll ruin next, seriously.

Sp3ncerK
Sp3ncerK

(My opinion)

One of the worst racing games ever made, or one of the worst mechanics of a racing game. the game just sucks...first few multiplayer races might feel decent but then it starts to reveal that most of the things devs said was lies. its just racing with stock cars (that u can do in any racing game). no customization , no progression, frame drops, shittiest single player, worst controls, this is just a huge disgrace to the original most wanted and big F*** YOU to NFS and racing genre fans.

if u want an open world car game go for Driver SF (great game) or burnout paradise or its best to get the original most wanted.

Don't waste Ur money on this. 3/10

PixelAddict
PixelAddict

Sounds a lot like Burnout Paradise.  I did well over 100 hours in that game, and so I must get this one.

AmnesiaHaze
AmnesiaHaze

"In slower cars, police chases can be a frustrating ordeal" how can this be a CON??  its pretty much obvious that with slower cars you cant evade as good as on sports cars :D

DJMist
DJMist

The game simply sucks... 7.5 is waaaay up there. More like 5.5 - 6.0

For starters, it feels like playing a mobile phone racing game.

The map is a bad copy of the burnout paradise map, the gameplay is more casual and noob friendly than any racing game i have ever played. It doesn't even have the manual gear option!! I mean come on! Even Ridge fucking racer had the fucking option to change gears manually!

Biggest flaw of them all is that there is no sense of progression whatsoever, no garage, no hub, no nothing! You just race random events... Repetitive bullshit!

The graphics are just OK, after playing Forza Horizon I cannot compare it with anything else out there the game is really good looking, but the Need for Speed not so much... Burnout paradise was prettier.

Overall a very disappointing game. I didn't expect it to be so bad since the Criterion (Burnout) team made it. I had faith in them, now I lost it!

Going to kill my copy of the game ASAP.

essam24
essam24

all what i watched in this thing (CRASHED) its not a game cuz of this i call it a thing , moreover they crashed the name of Most Wanted , my system spit the disc out it self , i asked it why , he told me , Crashed !!!!!!! also the windows crashed everything crashed and NFS now ,,, crashed . 

shansss123
shansss123

old most wanted was the best even i play it sometimes

WarpedCore
WarpedCore

If you want this certain feel of a game I have the answer: Return the game and purchase Forza Horizon.

 

That is all.

BigB-65
BigB-65

Very good and professional review, except the part on controls; really? sharp controls? The cars handle like boats or hovercrafts. I've just finished the 10 most wanted list and I think I've developed a heart condition from all the stupid crashes and the need to endlessly repeat levels. I think I've popped some white hair in the past few days too!!!

When it works, the game is amazingly fun, when it doesn't (around 80% of the times!), it's unbelievably frustrating. It absolutly needs a rewind function or at least a revised control physics.

All the high scores this game is getting is because of it's online component which in my opinion isn't really something unique or new. It's the new hype of our time I guess. These days even a crappy game with good online gets higher rates than an excellent offline game, even though statistically, most gamers in the world still prefer story-driven cinematic-style offline games.

masterdrat
masterdrat

The game crashed my vita about 10 times today... they need to fix this.

Forsaken_Demon
Forsaken_Demon

I simply can't play this one, reminds me too much of Burnout Paradise. Police chaces are very frustrating as stated in the review and I'm not big fan of control system too.

 

I just think that Criterion underestimated gamers, trying to sell them a new version of Burnout Paradise. Shame on them.

DrRukesl
DrRukesl

Dunno, this game feels hollow and shallow...

-You're forced to change cars

- 0 customization

-Dunno about 360, but the controls feels extremely unresponsive on PC version. Even Shift, that is supposed to be a sim, has better handling.

-Repetitive. Pick car, race it, blacklist, repeat 2 previous steps.

 

This is the ONLY NFS game I actually gave up on playing due to these issues.

OtherFabbros
OtherFabbros

Criterion ha ruined another Mastrpiece Need Episode.

PLEASE EA, DO NOT LET THE UNDERGROUND SERIES OF THESE NEWBIES.

PLEASE CRITERION COME BACK TO BURNOUT.

AyeeeMatt
AyeeeMatt

Criterion has always made great games up until this. Why is it so hard to understand what every fan wants? In depth customization, epic police chases, a good story and open world racing. C'mon guys...

vunacar
vunacar

Good review, although a bit too generous, I must commend it for not being as terrible as other sites, giving the game undeserved nines and tens.

Justforvisit
Justforvisit

I was looking forward to it vey much, but that was because EA and DICE did a great job with the Hot Pursuit Relaunch. When I go though the comments and what I've read about it in mags so far it seems the change to Criterion wasn't a good Idea at all :(Might still get it when it's cheaper though

toderascu23
toderascu23

This game is terrible. Sharp controls? Really? The controls are kinda like Flatout 3. Before all the 20 updates.

Threesixtyci
Threesixtyci

I don't care about the narrative, I'm disappointed that all the cars are all handed to you on a silver platter.  Rewards should be earned not given.

mrwags
mrwags

 @chazjet I do agree. Ive spent thousands getting my seat and wheel and Buttlkicker setup and now your telling me I have NO HOOD VIEW?

 

I played it for 10 minutes and after trying the 2 views I took it back and said thanks but no thanks.... This was a HUGE BONEHEAD move on their part.

Warmuro
Warmuro

@PayneKiller Even though i tried to play the game as a burnout game, still any burnout game is better than this shit. I respect your opinions though.

PixelAddict
PixelAddict

@bmart970 Having played all the racing games, this is a GREAT Burnout Paradise with cops.

Also should add this is open world with the opportunity to pause and tap "re-race last event".  Great fix.

emarati999
emarati999

@MrKyleKatarn rubbish dude did u play the game it's the best need for speed after underground it's the best i loved all the part i am thinking that maybe u played a diffrent game or u have a problem in ur mind hoping the first

WillyChong
WillyChong

 @MrKyleKatarn Police chase you and you only, surprise? Nope its always been like this..... just that back in older Most Wanted it was least obvious, but now, it gone so obvious that every spawn is about hitting nitro and avoid being crashed while trying to play catch up against the seemingly attached rubber band AI.......

PayneKiller
PayneKiller

 @PixelAddict 28 days ago.. well if you haven't gotten it yet, you should. I hated it initially cause I was looking for the original Most Wanted, but then I started treating it like Burnout Paradise and I'm actually enjoying it now. So ya, if you love paradise, this is like a nice renamed sequel.

jknifeza
jknifeza

@DJMist,i couldn't agree with you more this game is definitely a 5/10,it should also be re-titled as "Need for Speed Most Crappy", no sense of progression you just find a car which is easy to do and race every race that’s available and if you feel like challenging for a most wanted car you can, this is Burnout using NFS background, you jerks at criterion F-ed this up good my hats off to you, the one thing that everyone loves is to customize their cars, here you can customize while you drive( what BS is that).... the police chases are annoying even with faster cars because they are always on your tail even in cool down one cop car will always pull up and see you, and if you get caught no prob they just start you off from where you found the car so what’s the point even trying to outrun them just stop and let the “arrest you” and start from where you picked up the car…well done to EA and Criterion for killing one of the best racing franchises in the market ,I could go on but its not worth the time and effort for a piece of crap game like this , and I would personally like to thank TURN 10 and the rest of the Forza production team for giving us an Unbelievably awesome game!

essam24
essam24

 @AyeeeMatt and also Crashed  . they must named the game NFS Crashed .

JasonDarksavior
JasonDarksavior

 @Justforvisit This is exactly how I feel. I expected something along the line of the 2010 game ... But I'm really disappointed. I really hyped this game up too.

ShadowOfKratos
ShadowOfKratos

 @Justforvisit 

Hot pursuit is better in my opinion.

 

You see, a racing game has ONLY 3 basic fundamentals: Accelerate, Brake, and Turn.

If you mess that up, the game is essentially broken. That's what happened with this game.

masterdrat
masterdrat

 @toderascu23

 I don't know which platform you play but on the vita... it's not rare to have the controls completly stop responding... I don't know if it's the game or the hardware but it's not doing that in other games so I suppose it's the game.

ShadowOfKratos
ShadowOfKratos

 @toderascu23 

I agree... I played this 2day at my friend's place and she said the same thing. Don't get me wrong guys, I doubted her, but then I played it..... The game looks awesome and has great physics (in the sense that you see the car bob when you brake and stuff).

 

But the handling of the cars... My god, when you flick the left analog stick to turn, there's like a half second delay before the car actually STARTS turning, and another half a second for the car to STOP turning when you release the stick. It might not seem like a big issue until you start crashing all the time because of it. It's almost impossible to drive accurately on narrow paths, especially when driving slowly with sports cars or exotics.

 

Carolyn should go play Need for Speed Underground 2 and THEN come back and rate the handling of the cars in this game, because obviously her standars for good gameplay are very, very, raw... Like she started playing games only recently. (No offense intended)

 

I've been playing games ever since the 1st "Ninentendo Entertainment System" (NES), so I'm pretty sure no1 can say I'm the one who can't play this game.

PixelAddict
PixelAddict

@SIDEFX1 @MrKyleKatarn Not true.  In my experience they go after whoever is in the lead.  If you are in the lead, they'll go after you.  If not, they'll bi-pass you (most times) to go after the leader.

PixelAddict
PixelAddict

@PayneKiller Finally got this game as a Christmas present, and I am enjoying every second.  Everything I would expect from a top notch Criterion racing game.  And graphically it is amazing in HD.

Need for Speed: Most Wanted - A Criterion Game More Info

  • First Released
    • PC
    • PlayStation 3
    • + 3 more
    • PlayStation Vita
    • Wii U
    • Xbox 360
    Need for Speed: Most Wanted is an open world Racing game and the 19th release in the long-running Need for Speed Franchise where players compete in races with police unified against them.
    6.6
    Average User RatingOut of 1342 User Ratings
    Please Sign In to rate Need for Speed: Most Wanted - A Criterion Game
    Developed by:
    Criterion Games
    Published by:
    Electronic Arts
    Genres:
    Simulation, Driving/Racing
    Content is generally suitable for ages 10 and up. May contain more cartoon, fantasy or mild violence, mild language and/or minimal suggestive themes.
    Everyone 10+
    All Platforms
    Alcohol Reference, Comic Mischief, Violence