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Need for Speed: Most Wanted (Black Edition) (Windows)

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Written by  :  Steve Hall (322)
Written on  :  Dec 29, 2005
Platform  :  Windows
Rating  :  4 Stars4 Stars4 Stars4 Stars4 Stars

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Summary

Not the best NFS game - but still a great arcade racer.

The Good

Where to start? Well, firstly, it looks amazing. Seriously! The graphics are top notch. The car models are damn near perfect and the scenery looks superb as you flashing by it (or through it). There's also a real sense of speed too - 150mph through town feels really bloody fast (until I crash). There's a nice motion blur too, kinda like San Andreas, but much better done. It's certainly looks better than any other race game I've played in a while. Needs a fairly hefty PC, but these days most games do

It sounds damn good too. The cars all have deep, throaty roars, accompanied by appropriate shifting, braking, squealing and crashing noises. And with the levels up high, the vibrations from my sub-woofer really adds to the sensation - although I have to wait for my wife to go out shopping to try that. Can't comment on the music, 'cause I turn off at the first opportunity.

There's a nice choice of cars too. 32 to choose from is a decent choice, all the way from a Fiat Punto to Porsche GT2, including some NFS classics along the way like the Toyota Supra and Dodge Viper. And best of all - no Hondas (unlike Juiced which had about a dozen too many). Each car be modded with a wide range of performance parts, which you have to unlock as you progress through the game. You can also mod your cars with a really wide range of body parts, but (and here's the best bit) - you don't have to. You can keep your car looking completely stock if you want to.

There's a pretty compelling storyline (for an arcade racer). I wont spoil the details for you, but I was quite impressed with the depth of the plot (again, for an arcade racer.) Anyway, it takes about 15 minutes or so to go through the various cut-scenes and 3 races, which all must be won, before you actually get to the game proper.

The cruise mode is excellent. The city is well set out and quite believable, and it can be cool just driving around and admiring it. Kept wanting to get out and walk about GTA style. In cruise mode you can reach all the actual game features like races and challenges which is a nice touch, although you can just use the menu in your garage if you prefer.

The best feature of the cruise mode is the ability to start a pursuit. Sure, you have to work at it at first, but once you get one cop on your tail more will join in as you keep breaking the law. A good pursuit can easily last 20 or 30 minutes or more, but as it goes on, your 'heat' level rises and the the cops get more and more aggressive. They're pretty good at taking you out too, trying to box you in with 3 cars or ramming you head on with an SUV (which I've still to identify 'cause I only ever see it from the side for split-second as I swerve out of its way.)

The keyboard controls are very responsive, and make it real easy to drive the car with them. I usually use a steering wheel for driving games, but sometimes I can't be bothered to set it up so it's nice to know there's a decent alternative.

The Bad

Some minor niggles. There's an auto-handbrake feature that comes on below about 20mph. This is damn annoying if your trying to creep around avoiding the cops, or just out for a gentle cruise. It means you have to floor the gas to get it to move from a standstill, which invariably leads to wheel-spin. This can really hurt when trying to escape the police when they box you in. What you want to do is turn and move off, not spin doughnuts in front of them.

The controls for navigating menus and such seem very console-ish, which is unintuitive for a PC user.

The rear-view mirror is useless. I prefer to drive from the bumper camera, and rely on the mirror to see behind what's behind me. But this mirror appears to be vertically convex - lots of road, sky and nothing inbetween.

I've heard some people complaining of a rubber-band style catch-up feature, but quite honestly I haven't seen any evidence of it. I guess I'm just not good enough to get that far ahead.

Damage. I could go on for ages about the lack of damage in this game, but then I keep reminding myself, "it's an arcade game, it's not real". The trouble is, it looks and feels pretty damn real, so it's actually quite disorientating to fly down a street sending lamposts, small trees and bus shelters flying with barely a drop in speed - like using the granite-car cheat in Driver. But, a realistic damage model wouldn't work either - the car would be a puddle of molten metal within about 3 minutes, or less with the way I drive. NFS 5 (Porshce 2000) and Juiced had pretty good damage models, which affected your car and bank balance - something like that would have been cool, but then the pursuits would have always ended pretty quick. So best to just enjoy it for what it is - a damn good arcade racer.

The Bottom Line

Firstly, let me state that I'm a huge fan of the Need For Speed series. Mostly. I have the first 6 games, but the last 2 didn't appeal to me at all, so I skipped them. But this one did.

To me the best NFS games were the original and Posrche 2000. All the others (including this one) are arcade games, but damn good ones. Accept that this is an arcade game not a driving sim, you'll be fine. If you want a sim, check out Live For Speed or rFactor. But play this when you want to hoon around the world at ridiculous speeds smashing cop cars.