Criterion bring their “A” game…
As much as we love the last game to sport the Most Wanted name, mostly because Clarence “Razor” Callahan, we had to admit that we’re disappointed when we heard Criterion was the developer working on this year’s Need for Speed. Make no mistake this isn’t any kind of “diss” against what is possibly the UK’s finest racing game developer, it’s just that…well, we’d prefer them to be working on another Burnout.
Burnout Paradise in particular is still one of our favourite crash, bang, wallop games of all time, so imagine our surprise when we discovered that Need for Speed: Most Wanted feels just as enjoyable and jam-packed with content as that multiplayer-focused racing game, albeit with the benefits of Frostbite 2 and Autolog 2.0.
Sure Most Wanted uses only real-world cars in true NFS tradition but the entire game revolves around its open-world, with events your can drive and warp to, a devastating damage model and cars you unlock by simply discovering them out in the wilderness. That’s Burnout Paradise folks! Oh sure, you don’t have to ram freshly discovered cars off the road in order for them to appear in your garage, but still the lineage is clear.
Incidentally causing enemy cars to crash is still called a ‘Takedown’, and the game does everything it can to keep you racing by having car selection, event choices and online play all accessible by a menu in the top left of the screen, brought down by pressing the d-pad – simultaneously allowing you to keep racing.
We’re beginning to sound like a broken record, so we won’t say that this is like a certain noun with five syllables, but you know what we mean. We’ve not sure why Burnout Paradise has become a dirty word over the past half decade but Most Wanted takes the majority of its good ideas and expands on them, culminating in a new and incredibly exciting experience.
Progression in the single-player component is driven entirely by exploration, with events introduced by increasingly bizarre cutscenes. We saw an ‘Ambush Race’ event where the player car spawns inside a multi-storey car park, surrounding by cop cars, some suspended from the walls in true David Fincher fashion. After the cinematic to set the mood, the objective requires the player to race away from the cop cars any way they can, this particular escape involved racing to the top of the car park, jumping off and heading to the one of the many cooldown spots spread throughout the city.
Next up it was our turn to grasp the controller and rather than doing the same experience twice, we took part in some multiplayer which again felt very reminiscent of a certain game from 2008. Basically us and six other players were placed in the same game online and were all directed to a certain spot on the map, where we all took part in a ‘Speedtest’ event. Here there’s one speed camera on the map and you have the entire game-world to clock the fastest time in 90 seconds, with as long a run-up as we liked with the ultimate winner being given more Speed Points than any other.
Unlike Burnout Paradise (hurray!) there are two separate progression mechanics in Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit, one for single-player and one for multiplayer. In multiplayer Speed Points are king, all of which govern which cars and respective mods you unlock for vehicles whereas in single-player everything is unlocked from the get-go; you just need to go out there and find it.
The Speedtest mode was a blast, with players jostling for position and the fastest racers hunting down others to ensure they don’t beat their score. The handling model in particular has a really accessible and enjoyable feel, with cars more than happy to be put into tail slides, although we only got to drive the beautifully sporty BMW M3 Coupe. As soon as that event ended we were requested to all drive to another spot on the map, the location of a drift challenge. Again this activity inspired a healthy amount of competition with everyone pulling drifts underneath a cooling tower with extremely slick surface thanks to being covered by fetid rainwater.
Both of these activities took place in quick succession and were bite-size enough that you felt compelled to keep playing, especially as there was no way to know what what task was going to come up next. It’s worth noting that any billboards you smash or driving feats you perform, be it impressive jumps, drift, top speeds, or anything of that ilk is tallied up and reported on by Autolog 2.0, so you don’t need to do anything twice. This melding of both single-player and multiplayer makes the separation of car collection between the two modes come across as even more bizarre, but hey Call of Duty has shown that players need a palpable feeling of progression to stay interested so perhaps the deliberate withholding of content is our fault due to buying Modern Warfare 1, 2, and 3 in droves.
The more we think about it, Most Wanted and Burnout Paradise share a lot of attributes whether, so perhaps the combining of the two core in this latest Need for Speed is natural. Mixing great intense police chases with an open-world that’s just begging to be explored – sounds perfect to us. We’re immensely excited to play some more of Criterion’s take on the best Need for Speed in recent memory, and we’re certainly more interested to play it now then we were before, with our play-session going ridiculously quick.
If you’re looking for a new driving paradise, we strongly believe Need for Speed will be your ticket this November. We’ll be counting the days until we can play more….
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