Need for Speed: Most Wanted – Preview

In the motor trade, ‘cut and shut’ is an ugly term that draws only negative associations. Two clearly incompatible things crudely and cheaply joined together in a highly dangerous fashion, cut and shut vehicles are the My Big Fat Gypsy Weddings of the automotive industry.

So what then are we to make of Need for Speed: Most Wanted, the latest sleek and shiny looking speedster from arcade driving masters Criterion? An open word racer with a seriously uncompromising police presence, is it really just Burnout Paradise’s bodywork with the back end of Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit bolted on to it? And would that be such a bad thing?

There was, of course, a previous Need for Speed: Most Wanted, produced by EA Black Box back in 2005. An extremely decent and decidedly more traditional arcade racer, one of the high points in the somewhat unreliable past of the NfS franchise, it certainly seems to be a title Criterion has kept in mind during the development of its successor. But clearly, their main inspiration for what, in all likelihood, will be the game that ends the company’s interest in this console generation is the one that garnered so much attention at the beginning of it, Burnout Paradise.

For many players, Paradise was just that, a piece of horsepower-driven heaven where they were completely free to indulge in an eclectic range of automotive activities from serious race events to smashing through billboards. That hasn’t deterred Criterion, however, from trying to one-up its own utopia, with lessons learnt leading to important additions and improvements.

For example, while Most Wanted’s basic template remains extremely faithful to that of Paradise – a giant map chock full of every conceivable type of major and minor road and dotted with different types of races and challenges – a smart new fast travel feature now offers you the option to be transported straight to your chosen destination without the risk of delay or distraction. It might not seem like a huge thing, but one of the defining features about Paradise was that you had no choice but to constantly circumnavigate it.

For some, who are certain to embrace fast travel with open arms, this was a constant annoyance, but for many it was a stroke of genius as it encouraged a wonderfully explorative approach to play that a driving game had never come close to doing as successfully before. To try and tempt people back into recreating those Paradise days of just cruising around and seeing what catches your eye, Criterion has ensured that Fairhaven, Most Wanted’s purpose built motoring metropolis, is bursting at the seams with items of interest.

Along with the familiar destructibles, shortcuts and secret areas, Criterion has made searching an even more enticing pastime by hiding all of Most Wanted’s cars around the city – well, all apart from the most desirable ten. Even with this small but significant caveat, however, the decision to open up Most Wanted’s entire roster of vehicles right from the start and secrete them around the city once again seems the dynamics of play swing in another new and exciting direction.

The addition that’s set to add the most excitement though is, of course, the introduction of the Fairhaven police force who are set to stop at nothing to put the brakes on your freewheeling antics. Armed with high-speed, supremely sturdy police interceptors and a range of different tactics, various events will see the Fairhaven PD hot on your tail and lying wait at roadblocks ready to ruin your fun.

That’s not to say that Criterion has any intention of turning Fairhaven into some draconian police state. The cops will not be a constant presence and you’ll have plenty of opportunity to have unfettered run of the game’s around 100 miles of highway to push Most Wanted’s accessible and extravagant car handling to its very limits and also make full use of the new quick mods system that allows you to tinker with a number of interchangeable parts (such as tyres) on the fly to achieve maximum performance.

Just like Burnout Paradise, Most Wanted is also set to have its finger on the pulse when comes to online. In fact Criterion looks like it could be creating the most socially active driving game ever. The same kind of outrageously involving and destructive multiplayer races and challenges that added yet another layer of lasting appeal to Paradise are set to return here to cause even more mayhem; the game now even giving you the chance to race to the meeting point for each event.

The latest version of Criterion’s proprietary Autolog system will also be at the very heart of Most Wanted’s connected play, constantly feeding you updates on your friends activities so that you can instantly try and top their best efforts. But it’s not just the volume of information Criterion have been ramping up on, it’s the clever ways in which it’s presented. Land the longest jump after smashing through a particular billboard, for example, and a picture of your face will be plastered on that sign until someone literally smashes the smug look off your face.

It’s the way Criterion keeps coming up with ingenious innovations like these that make it almost inconceivable that it could ever put a clunker on the production line, especially with the spotless resume it’s built for itself. And the more you see of Need for Speed: Most Wanted, the more you’re convinced that this is less of a cut and shut job and more of a cut and dried game of the year contender.

 Need for Speed: Most Wanted is due for release on the Xbox 360, PS3 & PC in the UK on the 2nd November and in the US on the 30th October.

For more on Need for Speed: Most Wanted, visit the game’s official site, here:

http://www.needforspeed.com/en_UK/most-wanted#connected-open-world

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