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Need For Speed: Most Wanted PS3 Review

About.com Rating 4 Star Rating

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Need For Speed: Most Wanted

Need For Speed: Most Wanted

Image © EA
First and foremost, the new racing hit "Need For Speed: Most Wanted" is an arcade game. It's not designed for realism. Don't complain about the lack of believability in a game in which slow-motion crashes happen every 40-50 seconds. Don't get overly concerned with the lack of believable physics in a game in which you can literally drive through a garage and change your paint color without stopping. Don't get overheated about the lack of a manual transmission in a game in which you can swap cars in the middle of the road while being chased by what looks like an entire police force. "Need For Speed: Most Wanted" is silly, ridiculous, and unrealistic but it's also one of the most surprisingly enjoyable and addictive games of the year. Just as I was completely exhausted with the racing genre, EA and Criterion prove there's still life behind the wheel.

Game Details

  • Publisher: EA
  • Developer: Criterion
  • ESRB Rating: T (Teen)
  • Genre: Racing
  • Pros: Non-Stop Action, Incredible Open-World Gameplay, Hundreds of Races
  • Cons: Some Repetition, Sometimes Inconsistent Driving Physics

"Need For Speed: Most Wanted" features a dynamic, open-world style of gameplay in which you drive from street race to street race, picking up new cars or attracting legal attention along the way. It's a wonderful and expansive environment complete with hidden tunnels, jumps, and billboards to smash. It's also a world that's been designed for the new social gamer, the player who wants to compare his scores to his friends at every turn and climb the rankings around the world. Like so many great games nowadays, "Most Wanted" is designed to appeal to your individual needs -- your car, your racing style, your friends, and your need for speed.

Gameplay

Need For Speed: Most Wanted

Need For Speed: Most Wanted

Image © EA

It's real simple. Win the race. The better you do at a race in "Need For Speed: Most Wanted," the more points you get to spend to upgrade the cars that you've found around the city. Most of the cars you drive, you will literally stumble upon, and each car has its own set of races in which to compete. As you progress through the car-specific races, you'll earn points to climb the "Most Wanted" list in which you take down the other toughest racers in town.

You're not alone in Fairhaven City. There are other drivers to weave around but there are also hundreds of cops who will do their best to keep you off the road. Speed past a cop either in a race or outside of it and prepare for a chase. As races intensify and you knock cop cars off the road, they'll get tougher, bringing out spike strips and setting up roadblocks. There's something ridiculously thrilling about crashing through a roadblock to win a race or swerving around a spike strip as your enemy hits it with all four tires. The police presence aspect of the game is one that has been overly used in past games and sometimes to distracting degrees but it works great here, amplifying the action instead of detracting from it.

The "NFS" social technology of "Autolog" returns, which allows players to challenge each other across their social network at any time. The game is constantly refreshing itself whether it's through new cars, challenges, or just the desire to explore a world in which you could drive around for hours. In fact, "Need For Speed: Most Wanted" is that rare racing game that actually gets better as it goes along. Most racing games merely get more repetitive but the world of "Most Wanted" is so vast that it only gets more interesting and addictive.

To be fair, I do wish some of the mechanics were a little more refined. The physics are sometimes a bit inconsistent. A tap on a fellow racer might do nothing or it might send them spinning. And the rubber-band aspect of racing in that challengers seem to catch up just to keep the race interesting no matter what can be frustrating.

Graphics & Sound

The world of Fairhaven City is one of the most interesting in race game history and Criterion has wonderfully recreated the natural world conditions in that rain, blinding sun, etc. will play important roles in your racing. "Need For Speed: Most Wanted" can look a little cartoonish, especially in the slow-motion crashes that go on way too long and can detract from the pace of a race, but it's a consistently interesting look. "Need For Speed: Most Wanted" has visual personality and that's not something that can be said about a vast majority of racing games.

Overall

Need For Speed: Most Wanted

Need For Speed: Most Wanted

Image © EA
I approached "Need For Speed: Most Wanted" with a heavy dose of skepticism. As more and more race games hit the market in recent years like "Blur," "Split/Second," and "Motorstorm," my tolerance for the common pitfalls of the genre had been lowered. Even the "Need For Speed" franchise had left me cold in recent years (such as with "Need For Speed: Undercover". Given my love for "Burnout: Paradise," which was also created by Criterion, I should have known better. This is the best racing game of the year.
Disclosure: A review copy was provided by the publisher. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.

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