There’s no menu when you launch the game, a title screen asking you to press start is all you get. After the initial load screen you get a fancy stats screen telling you the percentage complete, time played, etc. It’s a cool touch. Right before this, you jump into your first vehicle after a little cut-scene explaining your objectives.
NFS: Most Wanted is an open-world driving game from Criterion games, creators of Burnout: Paradise City and Hot Pursuit. You race, perform tasks and escape capture from police to earn speed-points, which tie into the single-player and the very different multi-player. The whole point of the campaign is very similar to the original Most Wanted, there’s a list of 10 cars you have to beat to become the notorious driving master of the city. The problem with this is it made sense back then, it was complete with a story-line and characters. This 2012 game, however, lacks any of that stuff. It’s just a list of cars, that’s all. I don’t exactly have a vendetta against this. While the game remains to be fun, it’d be better with characters for depth.
The gameplay feels very familiar, drifting, driving fast, manoeuvring immediately feels like a breeze. The objectives include some Burnout stuff like crashing through fences, jumping into billboards, performing take-downs and more. The new goals include speed-traps & “jackspots”, which are just finding hidden cars, therefore allowing you the ability to use them. All these objectives get sucked into the autolog, and if you have friends playing this, it can be a blast. My want to top out buddies’ top speed, jumping further and finding more jackpots or fenced off areas is oddly addicting. Not only that but it also let’s you know your friends’ results in races, police pursuits, stunt runs and other objectives and give you more speed points if you defeat them. The autolog was a great addition to the NFS franchise back on Hot Pursuit and it remains to be awesome in Most Wanted.
The EasyDrive menu is a fantastic new addition to Criterion games, it’s so simple and yet does so much. All you need to do is press right on the d-pad and you’re in it. It pops up from the upper left corner, and allows you to change and upgrade your car, find races, go online and more. There’s also a pause menu, that allow you to see detailed stats, the map, options and more. My only gripe against it is its refusal to work while the game is loading.
The catch-up AI is where the single-player goes wrong, it makes it so frustrating at times. Especially with the police, and they are not the best part of the game to begin with. More often then not, you’ll think you are eluding the cops only to see them magically go 1000mph on the mini-map and be on you immediately. It doesn’t happen as much with the AI racers, however they are immune to the spike-strips, leaving only your tires vulnerable to them. It’s not fair and it’s very annoying.
The campaign is also on the short side for a Criterion title. If all you want to do is complete the Most Wanted list, you could do it in around 4-6 hours. To 100% the game will take a bit more time, although it’s no where near the amount of time I spent with Burnout: Paradise City.
The multi-player shines through but it’s not without flaws either. It’s just a great idea, I love how quick it is to just drop into a game. Once in the game, you are just free-roaming until the speedlist activates. The speedlist is a list of 5 events that players will be put through, it could be races, team objectives, car specific goals and more. When this occurs though, you don’t get whisked away to it, you must drive to a “meet-up” where the objective starts. The first person there gets a bonus, so it can be fun to try to take-down opponents and screw around with them. If the mission is not a race, take-downs actually eliminate opposing racers, those taken out can still participate in trying to mess up your game, but their scores won’t count post elimination. The major flaw in the online is people can just quit whenever they please, be it they have an appointment or they rage quit, they do not get punished at all. The game also doesn’t feature drop-in/drop-out, so quitters fundamentally break the game. Another problem is the EasyDrive menu doesn’t pause the game, so you could be trying to change cars or perform upgrades, but you can’t do it when someone takes you down, which will happen a lot. All of this is such a shame as well because the game is so much fun.
The game is really good looking, from the car models, to the traffic, to the buildings, to the sense of speed, it’s all super nice. The cut-scenes are also super well done, some have cool colour filters, some are just straight up crazy and feature things such as a tornado made of cop cars. They are all a cool watch and make you want to find all the cars and perform all the missions. The menus all show off well, give you the info you want and transition into the screen nicely. The only minuses I could give the graphics are the crashes, sometimes they look great, but cars don’t crunch up or deform at all. The frame rate is also unsteady and dips more than I’d like it to. It’s minor gripes in a fantastic graphical presentation though.
Lastly, the sound effects and music are all fantastic. The way the crashes, small scraps and scratches and rubber burning resonant is all great. I have zero complaints in the sound effect department. The soundtrack might not be stuff I’d normally listen to, but it really does get you in the mood to drive recklessly and that’s what you want. The only minus I could give it, is you cannot see the full list and edit some off of it, but the game does support custom soundtracks.
Overall I’m giving this a 4/5, only because of the problems. It’s extremely entertaining, and I will be addicted to it for the foreseeable future. If my concerns were to be fixed via patch or addressed in the next title, it’d easily bump up my score but unfortunately it’s hard to over look them.