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Review

Need for Speed: Most Wanted Review

  • Game release: October 30, 2012
  • Reviewed:
  • PS3
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.

Fairhaven always looks lovely, but the rain effects are particularly beautiful.

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.

Rubbin', as they say, is racin'.

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.

Sometimes it's tricky to find your way through a police roadblock at high speeds. Not always.

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.

It's almost as if this big art installation was designed to be driven on.

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

14 comments
Gulraizrashid
Gulraizrashid

the driving in this game is great...as far as i can say driving is better than hot pursuit , original mw and carbon and no its not burnout fools

slainta
slainta

I agree with the Cons, but it is a fun game. Maybe a bit too short. Burnout Paradise is superior, though.

cannonfodder69
cannonfodder69

I have been playing NFS since 1994.  I have all NFS games up to 2008 + shift 2 unleahed.  Before anyone comments about my experience.

Going by the sounds of the reviews and what people are saying one here Most wanted ( by Criterion)sounds like a bad burnout game with police and licensed cars added.

I know MW wasn't any good because I was playing burnout paradise when it came out and noticed the sudden drop in people on BP.  Then a gradule rise about 2-3 weeks later.

I have never played the new MW but if BP is anything to go by then there are probably plenty of bugs in it,

Dracolu01
Dracolu01

EA do you realy listen nfs MW fans.....if you guys can’t do better just admit it and realize that the original MW was the best you had to offer, here some advice give us a PS3 version of the original MW  I’m sure the fans would love that. (bossman001 u rule dude!!)

Metallicwolf29
Metallicwolf29

i never liked how the cops would only chase you and not the other racers in the race. 

KevinWijaya
KevinWijaya

I've played the original 2005 NFS Most Wanted on PS2 which is really excting and fun for me. When I read this review and listen to a story review about this game from my friend, I think this new NFS Most Wanted is really dissapointing because there are no modifications, the story is unclear, and lack of variaties. Even though game play is good, but I think it's not worthed to buy this game especially for NFS fans. I hope they want to make a better NFS Games next time like for instance the NFS Underground 3 or something like that which still have a modification features.

Zenwork21
Zenwork21

Excellent review, I just do not get it why Criterion want to build a Burnout game on whatever they do. The first Most wanted is still one of my best driving game

ricewithcheese
ricewithcheese

A racing game with no option for manual transmission? no thanks...

Bossman001
Bossman001

Where is Cross! , Where is the Top ten most wanted characters, where is the theater and drama that conceptualize the original MW, where is the accomplishments, there is no feeling of accomplishments in this game, yes it’s a good racer and the police chase can be intense sometimes which is fun but that’s it

It starting to look like they will never be able to improve on the original most wanted and as much as I love the series I am not buying another NFS MW until they can significantly improve the game.

EA if you guys can’t do better just admit it and realize that the original MW was the best you had to offer, here some advice give us a PS3 version of the original MW  I’m sure the fans would love that.

novacane1980ps3
novacane1980ps3

This games Sucks . I'm so happy  i have game fly, even tho i have to pay extra for an online pass for multiplayer games. but it save me 60-65 dollars on waste less  spending per game , graph  was good , but  this is suppose to be an  arcade racing game?  please , go pick up midnight club .Or better yet, get  gta 4 , I'm no fan of burnout , ridge racer  is arcade game with better content . need for speed shift  is also an arcade game , need for speed games focus on making racing games for everyone(sad) ill be dame, no skill needed . One of the elite arcade racing games was Project Gotham Racing , that was on Xbox first system 2001 shit Sega Saturn started it all , oh  food for thought why the fuck you need a steering wheel for an arcade racing when you have no cockpit view! this is y EA puts out shit games . 60 bucks lmao ,well if you bought this game and enjoyed it ,well another group ill stay away from!

RealitycheckXyz
RealitycheckXyz

Yo I played most wanted three times. Once on the ps2 and pc and once on the psp . I know the game stayed most wanted just looked like burout

RealitycheckXyz
RealitycheckXyz

.This review is totally wrong I know your a great writer but maybe you got bias here I am not a big fan of racing games But I must say NSF stood out and you just shut it down

RaHorakhty66
RaHorakhty66

Need for Speed Most Wanted is my favourite racing game of all time. Since this came came out, I started replaying it. Carbon was a good followup. But after Hot Pursuit came out, I'm wary of buying another NFS game ever again. No cash, you just get a car! Come on, that's the whole point of these games!

RussellGorall
RussellGorall

I really have to disagree with the review. Been playing this the last five days. But, that is your opinion.

 

It plays a lot more like Burnout than Hot Pursuit, which is good. The getting away from cops may seem hard, because it is. It isn't supposed to be easy, but you can mostly just get Busted and let it end there after a race where you are chased by cops. The all or nothing with a general pursuit only applies to that pursuit, if it wasn't done that way then you have nothing to gain by getting away? So, you would just take out cops forever? 

 

However, that was an awfully short and weird review to me. Just very little info for one of the bigger games this year. Just because the game doesn't do Halo traffic doesn't mean it isn't important or worth a lengthy talk.

Tomk-man
Tomk-man

the game is total crap. No story, no motivation for winning the races or finding new cars or mess with the cops.the older version is 10 times better than this one. I wonder when they will finally make an NFS game that is actually worth buying/playing...

AZE160
AZE160

They still have a chance of getting a good NFS, just get Criterion and Blackbox out of the picture!!!

muzza93
muzza93

If there was an Underground 3, that would sell so many copies.

davel33123
davel33123

i know this isnt a vita review but im 40% through the main game on vita and im absolutely lovin it.... its pretty much the same as the console....so stoked i got it! make sure you download the 1st patch though. Vitas game of the year easy !

SadPSPAddict
SadPSPAddict

I can't get the game until tomorrow ( damn the UK for releasing games on Fridays instead of Tuesdays! ) but it sounds great. I am looking forward to it even more now than I was before. Even if I don't always agree I find Carolyn's reviews to be well written!

sanmaan
sanmaan

Nice to see that this game isn't total crap. My pre-order was not in vain.

oldschool_9
oldschool_9

you failed me. and again you ignore what nfs fans want not criterion decide. is plain stupid. and i rated ya'all 5.0. this game is plain garbage now, sorry i m old school fans not fucktard new school shit. next installment, no more criterion cuz it look burnout platform is plain shit. get real developer not wackass criterion. sorry that i offensive ea and you, ea need to wake the fuck up and once u hear this game will rated ya 6.0 or below for blowout or your business sink in somewhere in the middle of ocean.

 

Daemonreign
Daemonreign

the views are really bad 1st view feels like your on the road not in the car for it.

car handling is a joke. shall i go on?

Daemonreign
Daemonreign

this game is pile of dung it is not Need for speed. and if you loved need for speed most want the better verson dont buy this it will make you wanna vomit

 

Lost-to-Apathy
Lost-to-Apathy

A majority of the reviews so far have given this game a 90% or higher. Personally,  I'd say it's like an 8.5. This review seems nit picky. And complaining about the story... really?

kkxtrouble
kkxtrouble

Just another meh NFS, i haven't really enjoyed any racing game since burnoutakedown... sure hope criterion makes another burnout similar to that one.

F0RS4K3N
F0RS4K3N

Another Need for Speed i won't buy.  Give me Underground 3 and i'll give it a shot.

SSS1989
SSS1989

Don't get the same opinion as those video game critics, they're stupid on the noob gaming level. Pick up Forza Horizon because the single player is better. This one should belong in the Briton Bargain Bin.

rez_1kabir
rez_1kabir

Generally whenever I read these reviews, I first look over the summary points in "The Good" and "The Bad"... but with this review, it feels a little contradictory...(or is it just me?)...

 

Anyway...if this game doesn't really offer anything significant that improves the level of quality in  2010's NFS: Hot Pursuit....then I really don't see any benefit in purchasing this game...(Especially when considering that PS3 games in my country are sold at a premium!)

KevinWijaya
KevinWijaya

 @Bossman001 The NFS production team are really dumb these days, they don't know how to make the real NFS game like the NFS Underground and Carbon

Ononto
Ononto

 @RealitycheckXyz dude...r u new to the nfs series or what...have u played the original nfs mostwanted...the game it is named after..if u havent..go and play it first..i hate these new gamers..who dont have no idea what a nfs game is supposed to be like...and they say its awsum..we r ot critcizing the game..its a great burnout game.but it should ave been a sequel to burnout paradise..not most wanted..thats why we mostwanted fans..give it a 4 or less...try to understand the reason..and please..if u are new..please go and play burnout paradise and original mostwanted and then comment..then u will knw y criterion is ruining the title..:)

 

Ononto
Ononto

 @muzza93 lol..they would name it underground 3..but just to make mostwanted player buy the crap...they will make a underground game with no mdification,no street racing,cash,motivation..all they will do is make a sequel to this crap...so best of luck with undergound 3 as long as criterion fuckers are making it...

ojplay
ojplay

 @saosebastiao  Chill, it's just a video game.

 

..and if Dark Souls is too difficult for you, maybe it is you that should stick to the party games, work out that frustration with Raving Rabbids or something.

sanmaan
sanmaan

 @saosebastiao I agree with you on this. It's a Criterion game so it is bound to be different. They are not making sequels for NFS. They now own the rights so they can make their game however they want. Criterion just made 'their' NFS Most Wanted.

Narc23
Narc23

@saosebastiao Why do you end most of your sentences with "woman" and "lady"? If the reviewer were a man, would you go to great lengths to point out his sex in your rambling posts? It's a well-written, informative review which acknowledges the game is good. Go cry somewhere else.

Ononto
Ononto

 @Lost-to-Apathy dude..answer one thing have u played the original most wanted and how often and how long have you been playing mostwanted games..if u did play the original nfs games like underground 2 or mostwanted..u would knw why it deserves a 5..

 

fastitocalon
fastitocalon

 @Lost-to-Apathy The lack of story stopped me from purchasing this game.  So at least for me it is a valid complaint.  From watching and reading reviews I have decided that if I want to play a racing game I'll reinstall any number of the ones I already have.  I do not see a good reason to "upgrade" to either this or the also recently released Forza Horizon.  

 

Pukshd
Pukshd

@Lost-to-Apathy believe me, of course they just gave this rate because is not more NFS, loooks like Burnout p.s agree with then, but the rate they gave is really generous. Like, isn't like Most Wanted, doens't bring nothing new to franchise

saosebastiao
saosebastiao

 @ojplay Dark Souls deserves the 9,5 rating on consoles, but the Pc port, I'm really sorry, it was poorly made. Just try both versions (console port and pc port), and you'll know what I mean.

Yes, it's hard as nails, but oh so rewarding. Really an amazing game.

I_are_Cake
I_are_Cake

 @ojplay  The PC port of Dark Souls is Games for Windows Live infested crap. The console versions are amazing though.

saosebastiao
saosebastiao

 @Narc23  @saosebastiao Dude, just don't write the "If the reviewer were a man" on a Carolyn Petit review, just trust me on that one lol.

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

  • 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 1340 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