Criterion's "Need for Speed: Most Wanted" has more in common with their own "Burnout Paradise" than the original "Most Wanted". That'll either disappoint you or thrill you. Personally, I think it's a great racer. But I do wish there was more of the old "Most Wanted" in this new version. This game plays more like "Paradise" with licensed cars and police chases thrown in. But it's also more challenging and expansive than the original "Most Wanted". That being said, I also wish there was more of a narrative. The game places you in a car and gives you the goal of partaking in various races. As you rank up, you gain access to race 10 superfast cars. Beat the drivers and you can acquire their vehicles becoming the "Most Wanted" in the process. That's it. There are no campy, stylish cutscenes that propel a story.
Unfortunately, Criterion has also taken out two key features from the first game: body customization and "Pursuit Breakers". You can no longer modify car appearances nor create major havoc for the police by ramming into objects that tumble down. Also, the "Speed Breaker" feature of the original MW isn't featured. However, "Milestones" (in-game achievements) do return and logs of stats replace the "rap sheets" of the first game. 140 licensed cars can be driven simply by finding them on the map. With the exception of the "Blacklist" vehicles, you don't have to win races to unlock rides. And as you drive, you earn "speed points" which in turn can help you upgrade a car's performance and also unlocks "Most Wanted" races. Each vehicle is assigned five races each and if you earn first or second place in them, you're awarded with performance parts.
The game features four type of races: Circuit, Sprint, Speedrun and Ambush. You win the first two types by finishing first, while "Speedrun" is won by having the highest average speed. "Ambush" is a mode in which you must outrun and lose the police. The game's blistering sense of speed and easy controls make the races extremely intense, yet highly enjoyable. However, the rules of "Burnout" make their introduction in MW. You can "takedown" opponents by ramming into them and your nitro automatically refills by driving skillfully (drifting, slipstreaming, catching air, etc). If you're connected to the internet, the "Autolog" feature tracks your progress and acheivements. It recommends beating your friends times' for extra speed points.
Online multiplayer includes its own stats and rules. It's an open-world map featuring a series of "party games" that can be either cooperative, competitive or both. You begin a race by meeting up at the starting line with other players (up to 7) and then contest in a series of five games. These challenges consist of racing, drifting, jumping or just parking. In between challenges, you can takedown the others for extra speed points. And at the conclusion, the name of each winner is displayed. As in the single player mode, you unlock parts (and license plates) by completing milestones. But unlike the single player mode, there is the addition of "Call of Duty"- like perks that can be added to your vehicle to give it an edge.
If you're a fan of both "Need for Speed" and "Burnout", then you should enjoy this "Most Wanted". It may not resemble the original by much, but it does feature challenging police chases (which sadly don't make the jump online), a great selection of cars, a huge, detailed city and an awesome sense of speed. Grade: B Plus