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Q4 2005



- Beautiful graphics improve on already impressive visual presentation
- Plenty of exotic cars to unlock and take to the streets



- Real-life cops are much smarter than those chasing you around these streets
- Don’t play online unless you have a totally pumped-up car



Review: Need for Speed: Most Wanted (360)

Review: Mario Kart DS (DS)

Review: Midnight Club 3: DUB Edition (XB)



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Need for Speed: Most Wanted

Score: 9.1 / 10


need for speed most wanted         need for speed most wanted


The Need for Speed franchise found its most success when it took to the nighttime street racing circuit with Need for Speed Underground and its sequel. But the newest in the series, Need for Speed Most Wanted, brings the franchise up from the underground into the daylight, along with upgraded graphics, a more open racing world, and new gameplay that focuses not only on race events, but a new strategic element of police evasion from the cops racing around in hot pursuit of you and your tuned-out high-performance car.

Instead of racing around the night streets as was the gameplay of Need for Speed Underground, this time around Need for Speed Most Wanted breaks the franchise out of its nocturnal nitro-fueled street scene. You’ll be racing during the daytime in Need for Speed Most Wanted, as you compete against the Blacklist, the who’s who of street racers that fear nothing – including the police. The twist that Need for Speed Most Wanted brings is that with the daytime racing comes more police pursuits. But the Blacklist is brazen enough to race during the day instead of under the cloak of night, with the threat of heavier police presence. Not only are you competing against tough competition for props as the best street racer, you’re trying to avoid the cops patrolling the same streets you’re racing through in the




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many racing events including drag races, timed events and first-car-to-the-finish-wins races.

And unfortunately for you, they’ve got an A.P.B. out for your car, so anytime you encounter a police cruiser, they’re going to pursue you and bust you hard if they happen to corral your car. With the police-infested streets, you will be constantly racing away from the law-enforcing officers


intent on collaring you and your high-powered automobile. It’s a great new addition to the Need for Speed gameplay, but unfortunately there’s a letdown in the challenge that these particular cops-in-cars present. We’ve all seen an episode or two or “Cops,” and seen how efficient that the police are in capturing culprits using cars to evade them. I mean, practically no one gets away.

Here, in Need for Speed Most Wanted, these cops have a severely difficult time capturing you. You’ll be racing away from police cruisers, busting through roadblocks without much of a hardship. The only time that Need for Speed Most Wanted’s police start to get challenging and more aggressive is during long chases. If you can shake your police tail within one of two minutes, there’s practically no challenge at all. Longer chases, however, bring out more and more police cruisers in pursuit, more roadblocks, and generally more ornery and aggressive cops, one’s willing to smash into your car with the ferocity of a pit bull.

Although the Need for Speed Underground games were regarded as having visually striking graphics, they can’t match the stunning beauty of Need for Speed Most Wanted. The game uses real-time lighting and mapping effects that enhance already impressive visuals, especially the cars, which include some of the most sexy and sophisticated road machines around today such as the Lamborghini Gallardo and the BMW M3 along with street-muscle monsters like the new Ford Mustang GT, There are 36 cars in Need for Speed Most Wanted, and all have a photorealistic quality, all shiny, smooth and spectacular. And, of course, with this being a street racing game, you can tune your car and modify it with street kits that turn already sweet-looking rides into one-of-a-kind beauties. Along with Gran Turismo 4 and Burnout Revenge, Need for Speed Most Wanted has some of the best car graphics in a current-generation game.

Environmentally, the game sheds its nighttime racing shroud and uncovers a sunshine-drenched industrial and urban landscape with a mix of pastoral country roads connecting them. Cities are still around, but just as often, you’ll find yourself careening around the curves of docks and warehouses, or golf courses in suburbia. The world of Need for Speed Most Wanted is expansive, although not as varied in its appearance. There are plenty of déjà vu moments if you happen to pay attention to the scenery whilst escaping the cops. But a few cop traps marked by special icons you can set off to slow down or disable the police following you in hot pursuit (like a large doughnut that crashes down from a policeman’s favorite hangout onto their car) and shortcuts and hiding areas break up the familiarity somewhat. The further you get to completing the game, more connected parts of the environment become drivable. A free roam feature allows you to test out the roads before taking on a racing challenge. Overall, there is a realistic look to the environment wherever you go.


need for speed most wanted          need for speed most wanted

You’ll feel a real sense of speed racing around the scenic world. This is a fast-moving game, When you hit top speeds, you’ll feel that you’re really zooming around, both from the crisp-moving frame-rate and visual clues, including a “wind” effect, where there’s a noticeable, seeable “wind tail” on your car as it rips through the winds of the road. Tack on slow-motion, highlight-reel moments when you make a big jump and Need for Speed Most Wanted’s graphical package takes the checkered flag.

But the awesome nitro-fueled visuals wouldn’t be worth much if the game didn’t provide a solid control schematic for you to drive with. Most Wanted isn’t technically correct in how cars handling like Gran Turismo is, instead employing an arcade-style schematic just like Burnout Revenge. There is a forgiving-yet-sometimes-confusing collision control that keep you on the road despite smacking into other vehicles, guardrails and buildings. If you spin out after hitting into something you shouldn’t be ramming your car into, Need for Speed Most Wanted tries to straighten you out, and that leads to you sometimes practically driving sideways as you’re trying to right yourself at the same time the game’s attempting the same thing.

However, besides that minor control issue, the cars hug the road well with control that is instantly responsive to your needs, including breaking, hard-turning and drifting techniques that get you around the corners and away from the cops. You can also put into play a short “Matrix”-type slowdown control, which will decelerate your car a la the “Matrix”-style suspension of real-time movement. It’s a strategic element that can help you avoid crashes or police roadblocks at a more manageable speed pace without losing control.

Online, Need for Speed Most Wanted doesn’t overwhelm gamers with excitement. Races can be a bit stuttering, but mostly you’ll experience solid online gaming. However, my recommendation is to make sure you have a super-charged vehicle (like the Lamborghini Gallardo) with every possible upgrade, including some nitro boost). Otherwise, you stand no chance of winning a race against the majority of players that come to the starting line with asphalt-eating beasts that will leave you and your less powerful car in their wake.

EA made the right decision in avoiding the temptation of sequel-itis with Need for Speed Underground 3 and instead steered into a fresh-yet-familiar direction for one of the best racing franchises around. Need for Speed Most Wanted is an exceptional racing game, with stunningly awesome graphics and a solid gameplay, albeit somewhat lacking in the A.I. smarts. Online success requires a tuned-to-the-max car, but if you have the requisite vehicle, can be a lot of fun. Street racing gamers will once again fulfill their need for speed and vehicular mayhem.

- Lee Cieniawa

(December 28, 2005)


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