- 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.
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.