+ Big and satisfying open world
+ A huge range of awesome vehicles to drive
- No story or characters at all leaving little sense of progression
- Pre-race cinematics suck badly
- Doesn't feel as solid or robust as Hot Pursuit
The original and one and only Need for Speed Most Wanted back in 2005 is possibly my favorite, and even more possibly one of the best racing games I've ever played. Far-fetched as it may sound to many, it was an invigorating experience, on both the console and PC. Criterion reboots Most Wanted, something in similar terms on previous installment and successful Hot Pursuit. Unfortunately, as much fun as this 2012 edition is, the typical lack of story from Criterion lessen the new Most Wanted's personality (along with other things).It is also sadly a step back from the brilliant Hot Pursuit, but still a game to own for any Need for Speed and racing fans alike.
Need for Speed Most Wanted (2012) offers a large open world area, which was one of the main things that could have made Hot Pursuit into a truly glorious racer. The original story of Most Wanted (2005) featured an interesting story of illegal street racing, and battling against 15 street racers in an attempt to bring your ride back from the No.1 blacklist, Razor. The reboot completely excludes story and character, which is honestly typical Criterion by now, and in that matter the game loses any sense of personality, and furthermore progression. A unique way to approach the open world structure, Most Wanted (2012) allows you to find vehicles as you drive. This system is an interesting one, but obtaining pretty fast cars is pretty simple, making it a hard effort to use slower cars if needed since there is very little balance when you'll obtain certain cars and where.
There are 10 blacklist drivers you need to beat. You need to know only that they drive a certain vehicle, and in one event you need to defeat them in a race, while evading the cops. Beating them requires you to shut down their car in order to add it to your collection. With the countless expensive and refined vehicles you will be driving throughout the game, there is definitely no shortage of cars to love. Ranging from Porsche, Lamborghini, Ford, Chevrolet, Mercedes, Mclaren and more obscure manufacturers like Catheram, and Ariel. Each car has its own set of races, limited only to circuit and sprint races, pursuits and speed traps, which kind of excludes the classic tollbooths found in previous games. With each event won, you gain an upgrade specific for that vehicle only. You will earn SP (instead of the original's bounty) with each win, and with enough you get a chance to race against a Most Wanted.
Unlike the original, there is no need to complete a specific amount of races, and you are free to race against a Most Wanted whenever you want, meaning you can practically keep racing until you have enough SP to race the no.1 most wanted without finishing off the 10th, and similarly starting from the strongest, without having any restrictions like which order to race against them or which kind of vehicle to use at all. But new city Fairhaven is pretty open, and the amount of races (though fairly repetitive) is sheer. It drives really well, though don't expect an improvement over Hot Pursuit… Racing isn't as solid and feels more arcadish, there isn't enough emphasis on driving well and avoid crashing, takedowns feel as easy as done in Burnout Paradise, rather than having big, robust cars. The exclusion of takedowns reply sucks, as it is so often it gets boring, but seeing your own car crashing is as satisfying as before. One thing that truly sucks though is the pre-race cinematics. These exaggerated cinematics present unrealistic views of the racing game, which make no sense whatever and will make more than a few impatient players skip them. At least the Most Wanted's ones are pretty good and are worth watching.
Like mentioned, the open world structure allows you to find your vehicles as you free roam to the next location. There are some distractions like the Burnout Paradise classic of destroying billboards. To make it even more fun, Criterion has put logos of EA owned studios, so you will be destroying logo with Bioware (Mass Effect developer), Visceral Games (Dead Space developer) and good old EA on them. It is quite a nice addition, though strangely no Criterion one. Last main thing is the cops. The cops are back against you and your opponents, not allowing you the opportunity to drive as the chaser, and excluding all weaponry such as EMP, Jammers, Spike Strips, and Turbo which were so essential in Hot Pursuit. Police chases can get downright infuriating with extremely tenacious opposition which offers a satisfying and challenging level of difficulty, but the lack of realistic hiding spots allows them to easily find you, and making it difficult for you to outrun them. There are no pursuit breakers like in the original that keep things more intense and realistic. You need to get out of their sight and radar. It can be quite a thrill in the fastest Bugatti, but quite an ordeal in a Ford pick-up truck.
The only menu that stops the immersion from the open-world is the pause menu where you can check your states. Otherwise, in order to start a race or change your car, or even change a Most Wanted racer you only need to press the right arrow button. This allows you to continue driving while deciding what to do next. Autolog returns and it tracks your friend's times and SP, even putting them on the Most Wanted list. An aspect EA have developed is the need to purchase in game content…and in the game you will find vehicles you can't drive at all, unless you purchase, and even an extra part you can't access. This was found in both Burnout Paradise and Hot Pursuit (from what I could remember).
Visually Most Wanted looks pretty good. Of course the car models look shiny and impressive and with the sheer variety on offer. The city is open and varied, though the races are heavily repetitive, aside from the lack of race types, even some races are recycled, using the same exact pattern. What sucks is the soundtrack. You have pretty generic soundtrack, contrasting the original's superb soundtrack, and not only that, this feels your typical Burnout soundtrack. The lack of change in music in car chases incredibly decreases the impact and intensity, which Hot Pursuit had done so expertly. Also long few second waiting of loading after finishing each race can be a minor irritation. If you crash, you'd have to wait a few seconds before you can drive again.
Most Wanted (2012) is less of a wonder and more of a blunder. But no means, this is a great racing game that needed more time in development. The disappointing exclusion of any form of story already signifies that this isn't Most Wanted, and the lack of replies and spectacular camera angles of takedown is quite a loss… Perhaps it is time for EA to rethink of spending more time tuning Need for Speed for a few months, which is highly unlikely but this what might be needing to put Need for Speed back on the winning track.
Graphics = 8.4
Sound = 7.1
Presentation = 7.4
Gameplay = 8.3
Level of Difficulty = Easy
Not particularly difficult, when you have the right car. Even the Most Wanted can be a breeze if you have a fast car and have memorized their races. Pursuits can be challenging and a bit frustrating.
Recommendation Level: Medium
For me, it's a step backwards from the impressive Hot Pursuit like I've repeated many times in the review. I've been a long-time Need for Speed fan and I'll probably always be since this series launched me into the racing genre. And the Most Wanted title was a sure buy despite the critics. It is still a fun and ambitious racer with its ideas, just not fully fulfilled as you would have expected from Criterion…
OVERALL = 78 / 100
It's not the expected reboot it was supposed to be, but Need for Speed Most Wanted (2012) is a great, fast racing game nonetheless.