Publisher: Electronic Arts
Developer: EA Games
Release Date: November 16, 2005
The first thing that I must get out of my system is that the PS2 version of Need for Speed: Most Wanted has no online play, which is very disappointing because I love playing games online. What frustrates me further is that the PS2 demo of NFS:MW clearly showed that online play would be an option; even the PSP and Xbox versions have online play. Could it be a marketing ploy by Sony or EA to try and get gamers to buy other versions of this title, or did they really not have enough time to implement it?
Aside from this missing feature, NFS:MW is a solid single-player game. You start off with a BMW M3 and test your skills in the new city of Rockport. Unlike NFSU, the developers brought back the original concept of NFS — the cops. Most of the fun that can be derived in the single-player mode is evading the coppers. In real life, when a car chase begins, there is only one police officer in pursuit, but as time goes on, more and more come and lend their support. The same occurs in NFS:MW.
The biggest sleeper cars (cars with insane performance under the hood but appear to be stock cars) out there are the Honda Civic and Honda Accord, neither of which make an appearance in NFS:MW. Instead, a different set of cars is available, and muscle cars are once again available. Not all muscle cars made it into this version, but they have put in some of the sweetest rides available at this time, like the Ford GT, Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren, and Carrera GT. For those who still enjoy the Japanese cars, the Mazda Rx7, Subaru WRX STI, Mazda RX8, and Toyota Supra are also available. The list of available rides is pretty large and diverse, so there's bound to be a car here for everyone (although a Shelby or Cobra would also have been nice additions).
After you watch the introductory sequence (which is magnificently done), you race around three battles to get an understanding of the NFS:MW system. Then, like NFSU2, you have been set up by your opponent, and your car breaks down during a battle against Black List #15, Razor (these Black List battles put your pink slip on the line, and because of this incident, you lose the BMW M3). The Black List consists of the top 15 racers in Rockport; these are the racers you work to dethrone. Razor has taken your car and become the #1 Black List rival. The goal of NFS:MW is to overtake him and reclaim your car, but before you can face Razor, you will have build up your rep and face each and every Black List rival. Facing the rival isn't as simple as going up to them and saying, "Let's race." You must prove your worth to them first.
To do so, you must complete a set of three goals. The opponent will set a target amount of races you need to win, milestones that need to be completed, and bounty points that must be achieved before the rival will give you a chance to race. Milestones are objectives you must achieve against cops, such as being clocked at high speeds, breaking specific number of road blocks, how much damage your little joyride has cost the state, and the amount of time in a chase. On the other hand, you receive bounty points from the joyride; for each violation and damage caused during that chase, the bounty rises (this is your worth to the police). You must use the entire city and try your best to run.
If you have played NFSU2 and used the free-roam system, you'll be mostly familiar with the NFS:MW controls. Previously, you had to drive to the race location, and it was sometimes difficult to find the event spots. In NFS:MW, you can now "quick jump" to the event locale so there is no need to find the events. You could drive there if you wanted, but there is no guidance system in place, so I strongly recommend the "quick jump" method because it's also easier to avoid the cops.
There are five different race events: circuit, sprint, tollbooth, drag, and speed-trap. If you played the last installment of NFS, you know about circuit, sprint and drag. Tollbooth is a form of time attack, where you clock in at tollbooths to try and beat a specific time. Speed-trap, on the other hand, is a race to see who can get the highest speeds at the speed-traps, or police cameras. The race isn't about finishing first but getting the highest speed at the traps, which is very tempting, but my favorite event is still the sprint.
Bounty is probably the best system implemented in this game. Not only do you have a radar detector to inform you of nearby cops, but you also can listen to the cops' APBs and hear when they call for backup or talk about the current bounty on your head.
At higher levels, more difficult challenges are presented. At level one, you contend with regular city cops, whereas you fend off state police in the second level. By level four, you're dealing with helicopter support and even faster cars (Mercedes SLKs, I believe); in level five, the police are driving Corvettes, and … you get the drift. To evade the cops, you have to either outrun them or create obstacles to slow them down. On the map, there are specific events that can be triggered to slow down the police officers, such as blowing up a gas station, knocking over large donuts, and much more. The best way I've seen is to destroy all cops that are chasing you. On the bottom of the head's up display, you can see the number of cars chasing you. Once it's down to one, they call for backup by a certain time (also at the bottom of the HUD). If you take out that final cop, going into hiding is a breeze.
Traffic is extremely light, objects can be broken, and all traffic lights seem to be malfunctioning and constantly blink red (which means yield). This isn't a hindrance in most race events, but it gets problematic when you're in a drag race because totaling your car is not the best way to move up the Black List.
Drag races are the only events where you can total your car, though; in other modes, even if you crash into oncoming traffic, buildings, or trees, the car hardly gets damaged. This is good for the bounty battles because when your car gets swarmed with cops, they keep trying to fishtail your car or box you in, you can still adjust and run, especially with the new Speed Breaker skill. The Speed Breaker is basically Bullet Time, slowing down time around your car so you can adjust to the cops, speed traps, or those nasty spikes.
With each accident, infraction, or damage done to public property, your chase meter goes up. If you remember NFSU there is a meter for the style of your car, but in NFS:MW, the meter measures how wanted you are by the local police department. The use of new body kits, paint, and spoilers are no longer for style or looks, but rather to change the appearance of your car to temporarily evade the police.
You can also shop for performance upgrades, visual upgrades, or vinyls; not all options are unlocked at the beginning, but beating specific Black List rivals unlocks new parts. There is no way to have a super car until you beat the higher-ranked Black List rivals, but choosing the correct bonus markers when you defeat a rival can also lead to their pink slip. Other bonus markers that you can get are performance upgrades, get out of jail free, one more impound for the car (each car can have three impounds), special upgrades and more.
The audio in NFS:MW is very unique and does not reuse tracks, like some of EA's other titles. The EA Trax are excellent for this title, but the sound effects still need work. Almost all cars sound identical to each other, so that IS300 sounds the same as the Viper or Ford GT, which is very unrealistic. The awesome vocal cast and talent used for the game more than makes up for this shortcoming, though.
The graphics in NFS:MW have taken a huge step; the background and surroundings have received a slight improvement, and the city has a new, lively look. Unlike NFSU2, where activity occurred in the night, NFS:MW takes place mostly during the day, which gives the environment a very lively feel. The cars are also quite detailed and look like their real-life counterparts.
Overall, Need for Speed: Most Wanted has all the makings of a great game, but its otherwise solid gameplay is tarnished by the lack of an online segment. The CG sequences and voice acting add a great deal of story to the game; it's still a little shallow in most situations, but the buildup in the main story is executed flawlessly. If you were a NFSU fan, NFS:MW plays quite similarly, but I think the game is trying to re-gain the old NFS fans who were lost in the transition.
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