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Need for Speed: Most Wanted (Windows)

86
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3.5
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5 point score based on user ratings.
Written by  :  Sam Hardy (76)
Written on  :  Jan 26, 2006
Platform  :  Windows
Rating  :  2.86 Stars2.86 Stars2.86 Stars2.86 Stars2.86 Stars

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Summary

It still needs....something.

The Good

I have a bit of a dislike for driving games. Logically I should not, cars run in my family, my grandfather was a second hand car salesman at one point, and his place has loads of VW remains. Other members in my family like cars, but I don't. I ended up deciding a computer was a far more entertaining and less dangerous investment to your life.

Along that line I encountered "The Need for Speed". Back when you're twelve, Ferrari means "fast" and it being red makes it faster. I sucked at that game, the first go I spent five minutes grumbling that the Ferrari was slower than my mum's 20 year old BMW, and then I was informed I was still in first gear.

Then the years went along, and so did the newer versions of this game, I played them out of nostalgia rather than the fact that I actually liked the game. Everything was fine up till the Underground series. When that game arrived, despite being a non car person, I knew well that this game franchise had fallen.

EA's marketing plan is a main cause for this. A market filled with sheep who think Tupac is still alive and that baggy saggy pants that show off your underpants are really awesome. Then couple that with the emergence of the "Emo" lifestyle, bad hair and worse songs, and couple that with two movies focusing on street racing.

What was produced? Two shallow games, that highlighted that materialism is the king. The goal of the game was to evidently wreck up an import car to the point where the designers could not recognize it. Now certainly there's a novelty in seeing a hummer modded with hinge doors, blinking neon, glary paintjobs and more stickers over the windshield than the average Ute. But the fact of driving was turned into an arcade game, drifting was king, gaining points for losing control, there was no finesse in those games and I never got into it.

Then word came for Most Wanted. Well, there seemed to be some hope, and then I read the press release. It sounded like Underground 3. Mentioning in big splashy writing that you were against black listed drivers! Had to be the best! Tune your car up with glam! I really wasn't looking forwards to this, and sort of avoided most news concerning this game.

Then out it came. Yep there was the grunge artwork, the spray paint, the gothic font and a painted up BMW. Interesting - a BMW, I hadn't seen them in a Need for Speed game in a long time. Investigations revealed that there were no imports, and a lot of nice old names like Lotus, Aston Martin, and Porsche were sitting in the game. I took a gamble and got the standard game. Well four CDs and one patch later I was double clicking on the icon and starting it up.

It didn't enthrall me. Intro movies of a hot chick introducing herself, clich├ęd slow mo car chases and of course the game's onset plot of street racing. Nothing seemed to have changed from the previous game, and I wondered if I could refund.

But then witchcraft happened. I noticed that despite trying to garner its old audience some of the roots from the older games had crept through the cracks. Modding had been reduced to visual appearances only, while stupid spoilers and carbon bonnets and other junk were still there, they weren't needed for the game. The cars were fast, new and most had been on Top Gear, so I was somewhat attracted to what this game had for me to drive. Behind the wheel was something I had been missing. This game was surprisingly fun.

Now let's stop a bit and explain a few things. A lot of naysayer (fourteen year olds) have been deriding the game saying it's hardly realistic and, well kiddo you were most likely five or four in 1997. Time for a history lesson.

The Need for Speed (the first one) is the ONLY game in the whole series (exception being Porches Unlimited) to have attempted realism. And that was because Road & Track sat down with the developers and got a game to the point where even the gear shift sound was correct. Since the second game, realism has ALWAYS been out the door for the Need for Speed games. And the latest is hardly sitting on realism.

The idea of the game is, speed. But then enter politics; a lot of the car manufacturers are precious about their cars, utterly precious. This meant that damage was not allowed in the game, Ferrari reportedly wasn't in here because they don't like seeing their cars in a cop chase, and of course they want their respective cars to be accurate.

Accuracy is a mixed bag here. What you get are more or less dramatic representations of the real life cars. You could drive a Porsche 911 in life, then in the game go "well" there's something Porsche about it, it's on the right track". But needless, you aren't buying this game as a simulator of driving, Gran Turismo 4 is a far more accurate representation, but even that's got some downfalls.

See you're steering a car using keys. If you drove along in life just jerking the steering wheel left and right and expecting the car to follow, you're not going to get anywhere. The game has to draw the line.

But aside from the faux fur, this game does offer loads of fun. The tracks are more reminiscent of the older Need for Speed tracks, but this is a far more realistic representation, no fantasy volcano temple lands here just open lanes of freeway and city streets, some forest tracks and so on. The game is set in the fictional city of Rockport and when you're not tearing after a badly painted Audi, you're free to roam in this city, and get chased by the police.

Yes the cop chases are back! And oh they are so fun. Relentless, irritating, road spikes and all, the insanity of having six SUV cop cars after you as you smash through shop windows and the like is a breath of fresh air in the stagnant game play of the NFS series.

Also making a sort of return are the destructible environments. Littered are road signs, markers and lamp posts that are all destructible with the help of the front of your car, and occasionally this is used as a bit of a hazard to players, taking a shortcut, you find out that it's littered with debris intent on slowing you down. Of course realism takes a back seat as the cars are quite happy to plow thorough several light posts and other things taking no more than a scratch of paint (the car makers don't want their babies in pieces).

The Bad

But some things irritate me in this game.

Firstly multiplayer is sadly too limiting. Just three modes, where are the police catching races from the old games, where are the police in multiplayer? Just racing or performing drags get old.

And while the car choice is brilliant, it's a shame that the bonus cars are more or less as they are, no modding can be done on them. Also the AI seems rather hard. And this seems to be on the unfair point. The AI seems able to take corners at impossible speeds and is often irritating and loves to shove you out of the way.

Also as a bit of a pet peeve, the whole aspect of grunge and power modding your car seemed somewhat of a leftover, stuffing a top line Mercedes into an ugly body kit isn't really adding much. Now I'm aware the older Need for Speed games did have upgrades, but still the game feels too much like it's stuck in the middle of trying to cater for everyone. Bring back the good old videos of the cars, bring back the ability to have a in-car dashboard! Give more appeal to car lovers.

The Bottom Line

If you are looking for a game that is fun to play and good for a five minute lunch break tear around, then get this game. If you want something realistic, there are far better games out there. If you want imported cars that look like junk, stay with Underground 2.

In the long run, this game's appeal is really for a quick LAN race break or something to do on a Sunday afternoon.