EA's Need for Speed series is going from strength to strength on the back of the recent popularity with tuner cars, night racing and movies which exploit both of them. EA would be counting the millions this change of direction has made for them, and yet despite this, they have decided to take the series back to its roots once again with Most Wanted. Those who yearn for the good old days of NFS would be making a mistake by not checking this one out as EA really has given the fans what they want.
Need for Speed Most Wanted revolves around a nameless character, who is played by you. The interesting thing about the story presentation is that the actors and actresses talk directly to the screen as if they are looking at you which adds a small amount of immersion to the game. The story itself tasks you with gaining your wheels back after they are sabotaged and lost in a pink slip only race. The story begins with you starting off with a slow car, and with fifteen others to beat.
NFS Most Wanted hasn't changed from the norm too much, but it has returned many things from the earlier games. The most prominent being the police chases. Generally you will find modes revolving around car races and street drag races but these aren't the most impressive or interesting parts of the game. That comes from the modes where you have to cause damage to the local area, smash cop cars or outrun them. This is how you build a bounty and become more wanted on the black list.
There is also another section to the game known as free roam. This mimics NFSU2's roam mode where you can drive around picking up random cars for a race, or visit shops and buy new cars or upgrade parts. When you get bored of this, and you will, you can skip from race to race via the in-game menus. There is also a GPS built in to help find the areas you need to get to.
The city itself is divided into three sections and, as expected, they don't unlock until certain conditions are met. These conditions are based on the blacklist. For instance, once you reach a ranking of 12, the second section will open up and you will be able to race there. Eventually the whole city opens up, but our impression is that it doesn't appear to be as big as the Underground 2 city which is a shame. Also most of the races take place in the morning and EA even take the mickey out of themselves with comments such as "lets see how you go in the daytime" emanating from rival drivers.
EA has also somewhat gone back to the series roots for the car selection. Unfortunately though they still have failed to get some of the more famous cars back such as the Ferrari's and the Lamborghini's, but have instead decided to focus on European and American muscle cars. You will find a smattering of Japanese imports to choose from as well. You can also upgrade cars and their parts throughout the game but the AI tends to follow suit. If you get stuck, pretty much the best way to progress is to upgrade or buy a new car with higher top speeds then rival cars.
Visually the game uses the 360 hardware quite well. When the first lot of cut scenes appear, you will be amazed at the detail level of the cars and graphics, especially with HDTV enabled. The cars are highly detailed but as expected only take damage aesthetically. The sense of speed is not really that great with the first cars you get hold of, even with the souped up cars it doesn't seem to play or flow as well as the PS2 version we reviewed last year. The sound and music remain the same as the normal consoles and the cut scenes return in all their hilarity.
Need for Speed Most Wanted on 360 is probably worth a burn around the track if you haven't picked the game up for Xbox or PS2. EA has succeeded in taking the game back to its roots, but in other ways not as far as some may have liked.