Need For Speed : Most Wanted Review
Cart: Need for Speed Most Wanted
Cab: Xbox 360 / PS3 / PC / Wii U / Vita
Coin: Criterion Games
“To err is human; to forgive divine”
So said the 18th century English poet, Alexander Pope, who was perhaps best known for his satirical works. A fact not without a sense of irony when taken in context with Need for Speed: Most Wanted, a game that is not averse to regularly making a fool of you.
A reboot of the 2005 game of the same name, which was arguably the series’ high point, this is the second outing with Burnout developer Criterion at the helm. And I can’t decide whether or not the degree to which they’ve married the best of both franchises a testament to their tremendous skill and experience or a sad indictment of the lack of variety in the ever dwindling gene pool that is arcade racers.
Either way: there’s no disputing the pedigree on offer here and right from the start you know that you’re in for an intense ride. Strapped immediately into an Aston Martin V12 Vantage with the thumping, soaring beats of Muse blasting through the TV, you’re sucked into the ferocious experience like an addict getting a much needed fix. Such is the intensity of the game that it’s near impossible to take your eyes off the centre of the screen for so much as brief glance at the HUD as you roar through the open-world streets of Fairhaven at quite insane speeds.
NFS has long been a bit of a one-trick-pony and Most Wanted does little to buck that trend. Variety is limited to a small range of point-to-point or lap-based events with the vast majority being against opponents. And whilst it’s nice to not feel as though any irrelevant padding has been employed, it’s painfully clear that this game has no intentions of deviating from the well-trodden path of its forebears. It is what it is and it’s not ashamed of that fact in the slightest.
So it’s a good job that what it does do, it does extremely well. At its best this is pure, unfiltered gaming pleasure. You’re left with no room for thought or for question and no quarter is ever given. It’s relentless: the car, the road, the speed and your opponents. Well that’s not quite everything to be fair. There’s the traffic, oh and the walls. And therein lay the rub. You see for a game like this to work there has to be a degree of unpredictability. There has to be the sharp intake of breath as you see the oncoming car at the very last second, the sigh of relief as you narrowly avoid it and the next sharp intake as you’re almost slammed off the road by an opponent and so on. And it’s within this delicate balance that pure joy can be found, but it’s a balance that’s upset rather too frequently.
It’s the Mario Kart blue shell syndrome: no matter how well you think you’re doing, there’s always a good part of the equation that’s completely beyond your control. Now a more generous gamer than I may find that perfectly acceptable but my problem is that if a game demands of me such precision, such sustained focus, awareness and such emotion, it’s totally unacceptable for it to kick me in the teeth and demote me from first to last in the blink of an eye with no hope of salvaging the situation because of a single ‘act of God’. But to take away such interventions would make this a completely different game and it’s clear that Criterion have done their best to make such annoyances limited, but they can’t remove them altogether and for that fact alone, I can’t altogether recommend this game quite as highly as I would like to.
I may err, but, no: I won’t forgive the game for doing so.
If, however, you already know that this is going to be your cup of tea, there’s absolutely nothing here to suggest that you won’t find Most Wanted as thrilling and compelling as the best the genre has to offer. The integration between on and offline is completely seamless and the game’s been structured in such a way that will drip-feed your habit at an expertly crafted pace. I was very pleased to see that the process of acquiring new vehicles has been distilled to the act of simply stumbling upon them and jumping right in as opposed to the rather laboured mechanic of buying them. I did, however, feel as though the 2005 game’s albeit threadbare and clichéd story, told through heavily rendered cut scenes, actually held the whole thing together quite nicely, much more so than the dispassionate narrator in this 2012 reboot. That minor misstep aside, nothing has been lost in translation and if any arcade racer ever deserved a reboot, it was Most Wanted.
With the competition dropping like flies, however, and the rubber marks snaking off into the distance once more, I am left wondering where the genre could possibly go next to avoid being impounded.
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