Need for Speed Most Wanted Updated Hands-On

EA's summer press event affords us an opportunity to try out more of the upcoming high-speed racer.


Last weekend we got a chance to get hands-on with Need for Speed Most Wanted at the Infineon Raceway in Sonoma County, California, and today at EA's press event we got to spend some more quality time with a slightly updated build of the game. As before, the demo included three separate challenges. One was basically a checkpoint race against the clock that had us trying to reach one tollbooth after another to extend our time. After we made it through the course, an intensive police pursuit kicked in that had us driving around frantically for a set period of time until we could escape.

The second event was a standard four-car street race through a slightly more rural area, presumably set outside Most Wanted's East Coast-style industrial urban environment. This mode was a lot more focused on straight racing, since the game will apparently keep the police more or less out of your hair while you're pitting your skills against other drivers. The third mode was the same quick two-car drag race seen back at E3, though we found the police to be more vicious in this build than they were previously.

During our demo we got a good feel for the speed-breaker feature, which lets you slow down time for a few seconds and also improves your handling and gives your car extra weight, which lets you crash through roadblocks to get away from the fuzz even faster. Of course, use of the speed breaker will be dependent on a meter that will slowly recharge after it's depleted. We found that it quickly became second nature to pop the speed breaker whenever we hurtled toward a turn that it didn't look like we could take, or when too many cops were heading our way and we needed to cut a quick turnaround and go the other direction.

Beyond our hands-on time, we were able to glean some more info about Most Wanted from an EA Canada rep, such as the way you'll build up reputation and the associated risks of street racing with such a strong police presence. Essentially, the more you beat the cops, the bigger your bounty rep will become, and that will come in handy when you want to challenge some of the bigger dogs on the street racing circuit. Don't let the police bust you too many times, though, or that hot set of wheels you spent all that cash on will end up in a government-owned lot. The designers want there to be a real air of danger when you incite the police to chase you, so you'll have to be careful not to lose your favorite car by driving sloppily.

Each car will have a unique style, since in addition to all the expected under-the-hood customization options, you'll be able to trick out your rides with custom body kits that have been designed to match the lines of each individual car. At E3, EA showed off Most Wanted running on Microsoft's upcoming Xbox 360, but today we got a look at the PS2 and Xbox builds of the game. Surprisingly, they didn't look too far removed from the next-gen version we saw at E3, which isn't to disparage the 360 game but rather to say that the PS2 and Xbox versions are looking pretty darn nice. They're in lower resolution, of course, but much of the same effects, like specular highlights and reflections, are still in there, and everything was running pretty smoothly.

Though EA didn't show off anything really new about Most Wanted, what we got to spend time with was impressive and has left us interested to see how the rest of the game will shape up. Need for Speed Most Wanted is due in November, so stay tuned for more.

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