reviews\ Dec 1, 2005 at 7:00 pm

Need for Speed Most Wanted - 360 - Review

Out of the 18 Xbox 360 launch titles that hit store shelves November 22nd, 11 games are sports titles and 3 games of the racing genre. This speaks loudly to Microsoft's new marketing plan to making gaming mainstream and breaking away from the "nerds-only" stereotype video games they have been known for. I feel the need to release 3 racing games during a console launch to be a little much. But I digress, as Need For Speed: Most Wanted has been overheating in my console from the many hours of play time I have spent with the game. It is safe to say that though many Xbox 360 owners will immediately buy the long-awaited Project Gotham Racing 3 to serve their racing hunger, Most Wanted deserves its place in any car fan's collection.

There are three parts of the game: career mode, quick race, challenge series, and online multiplayer. The bulk of the gameplay is in the career mode, which mixes realistically fast-paced races with an over-the-top storyline. You are a new racer with very little "street cred." You make up for it by owning a BMW M3, what is considered in-game to be the fastest car in production (what a great guerilla marketing-scheme BMW has cooked up to promote its car). Wanting to prove yourself to the illegal street racers and add your name to the Blacklist, a list of the top 15 racers in the city of Rockport, you try to take on Razor Callahan, a cocky S.O.B. who messes with your ride causing you to lose the race. More importantly, you lose your car and end up in jail when caught by the police. Now, with the help of a new friend, Mia, you must work your way up the food-chain of the racing scene, buying faster cars to win races, and eventually take on Razor again to reclaim your M3. This storyline is faintly reminiscent of the first couple scenes from The Fast and the Furious, but we'll move on.

You don't just get to start back in the game competing against the Blacklisters without some victories in lesser known races. The game offers a variety of racing types including circuit races and sprints, knockout races (the last player at the end of the lap is eliminated), drag races (dodging through traffic), and speed trap (which depend on an accumulation of points during specific stretches of the race to add to your total score). Everything you would expect out of a racing game's AI is in here, whether you like it or not. If you fall behind in the race, your opponents will unrealistically slow down for you to catch up and you can bet that when you are ever in the lead, your opponent is always one step behind you. I can understand the reasoning behind this AI system as it makes up for sudden events like accidentally crashing into a wall, but I just feel it can be executed better for added realism. The game features an impressive array of licensed cars from Chevrolet to Lamborghini. Obtaining pink slips from rival racers (or buying them legitimately for top dollar) is the only way to progress through Most Wanted.

One of the best parts of NFS: MW, which unfortunately isn't present in the game enough, are the cop chases that lead you through the same tracks of the race with only one goal in mind, RUN! Suppose, for example, you are enjoying a small lead ahead of the other racers in a circuit race and corner a right turn going 90 miles per hour. Any cop that spots you while enjoying their morning donut will put it aside to bust you. The game switches from a simple race to an all-out road battle with the P.D. You have a "heat" bar that is similar to the star system in Grand Theft Auto that determines what level of trouble you've gotten yourself into. Losing them gets a lot harder when fleeing a dozen "red 'n blues," road hazards like spike stripes, and helicopters flying overhead. It's important to not allow yourself to get in a sticky situation like entering a dead end. One false move and the squad cars will be on you..

Quick races are self-explanatory and take little time getting into. I did notice the lack of a "cop mode" that would allow you to race against police like Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit which is extremely disappointing. With challenge series, you are given a car and a task to complete so as to progress to the next car and task. It's a little boring and adds nothing to the game's replay value. Online mode is just like quick race with four Xbox Live users and offers a ranking system to measure your race performance for the online Blacklist. Compared to Burnout Revenge, easily my favorite racing game this year, Most Wanted is simpler to get a game going but lacks in gameplay modes like playing against other gamers as cops.

The storyline is primarily told through computer generated cutscenes that are similarly to Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. Graphically, I have never been more impressed with a racing game (although I have yet to try PGR3). When I played the game on HDTV, the car models looked incredibly real and Rockport City is very detailed. The blurring effects when at high speeds as well as the reflections and shadows of the cars really help the believability factor. There are some glitches in textures and some items like signs and bushes don't pop up until you get closer to it, but everything else is presented great. The sound is also put together nicely, featuring authentic car noises like engine roars, tire-to-road squeals, hilarious voice acting, and radio communication between cops that detail every move you make during the chase. EA continues its streak of music tracks in its sports and racing games, mixing hard rock with hip-hop (which you may or may not like).

The name of the game is Need For Speed: Most Wanted, which is befitting of a racing title such as this with so much emphasis put on police chases. Although I expected a chase mode outside of the main game which didn't exist, Most Wanted proves once again why the Need For Speed franchise is still as solid as ever and is definitely worth checking out.

Review Scoring Details for Need for Speed Most Wanted

Gameplay: 8.5
I expected more out of this game than it delivered, like police chases in quick races and online, but the Most Wanted is still very fun in career mode and features a nice assortment of vehicles.

Graphics: 9.0
One of the best Xbox 360 games currently out and the best racing game I have ever seen.

Sound: 9.0
The audio portion of the game is incredibly authentic.

Difficulty: Medium

Concept: 8.5
Finally a street racer that brings the thrills of the chase to life.

Multiplayer: 8.0
Besides the lack of police chases and other types of races in Most Wanted, Xbox Live is quickly becoming a must-have for Xbox users everywhere.

Overall: 8.5
Based on what I have seen, Most Wanted is easily the most fun racing game currently available on Xbox 360.


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