Reviewed by DowntownJimmy | 12.23.05
Electronics Arts popular 'Need for Speed' series returns under EA Black Box to shake things up with a tighter, , more adrenaline fueled experience. It's always fun to run from the law, even if we don't have a orange Dodge Charger.
'NFS Most Wanted' plays heavy into the cinematics, as you will notice right off of the start. Greeted by some "Blacklisted" street racers (lead by a dude calling himself "Razor",) you end up getting tricked into loosing your wheels. Rewinding you head back in time to rebound on the path of revenge. Revenge is never easy, but with the help of hottie "Mia" played by Josie Maran (Victoria Secret Model) you work your way back up the Blacklisted ranks to get another shot at Razor Callahan. It's all very bubblegum, but it gets the job done. Luckily the gameplay makes up for the cheese so you can get on with it.
In your mission you will be tasked with taking down 15 blacklisted racers first, although it will take some work before you can just race one of these chumps. A set of objectives will be listed from winning races, to making the law go on a wild goose chase. After you rank up the points, and complete the objectives the main race will commence. Of course it starts out easy and progress harder Blacklisted members. Each person on the list will have a better vehicle then the prior member, so upgrading is curtail. You'll have to save your pennies too, because 'Most Wanted' is a little stingy when it comes to the cash flow.
Taking the law for a ride is the most exciting objective, and is easily done by perfroming an illegal driving act in front of an officer. The more you run -- the more reckless you drive -- the more the law will be gunning for you. These cops aren't push overs either and will do their best to stop your savage ways. Having the 5-0 on your tale is where the adrenaline comes into play. These police chases are more intense then the normal races. Trust me; my nerves where shot after a couple memorable runs, this is one you'll need to cool down after. The "heat" factor or gaining a bad reputation with the cops is a nice new feature to the game that has you hiding or changing your rides appearance so the fuzz wont get on your tail. This highlight, the pursuit feature is exactly what 'Need for Speed Underground' was lacking and what makes Most Wanted above average.
Another nice switch up in 'NFS Most Wanted' is that you don't have to drive to each challenge on the map. It was a little tedious in Underground when you had to find hidden garages, race points and such. Now you can just jump into the action, or do it the old school way. The streets are pretty barren with life, so you most likely will be jumping to each objective, everyone in Rockport must drive because they aren't walking. Although the navigational feature works 100% better streamlined, the new bundle customization doesn't. Certain add-on parts for your car come bundles instead of straight part-by-part upgrading. This is good for the player who just wants to breeze through the game without getting too deep into the customizing aspect of Need for Speed. It might be quicker, but it's not as fun, and not good for modding enthusiasts.
All together, 'NFS Most Wanted' is a welcomed and needed change from the "Underground" series. It has the perfect balance of features while keeping the rubber-band arcade racing mechanics we are used to. It is what it is, and the license knows its audience, so don't expect much more. All your importing needs are met and the multiplayer is a lot of fun. One feature I hope EA adds in the future versions of Most Wanted (assuming they keep this brand name) is the ability to play as both the police and the street racer. Even if it's only in multiplayer, I think it would be a blast.
Graphically, 'Most Wanted' uses mo-cap for a majority of its cut scenes, which a departure from the norm. I guess the full motion video works, but it seems slightly out of place. Its strange to think pixilated animated characters would be better then actors, could its true... or is it just the actors Black Box used. Besides the questionable casting, 'Most Wanted' looks great, the best of the series, and holds up on both the audio and visual ends. The soundtrack is pumping with some great artists licensed to EA trax. There isn't much to complain about, except maybe the lack of life in the city.
In a head-to-head battle with the Xbox, the Xbox and 360 version are really close, and should be looked upcon as a port with upgraded visuals. The shadows, textures, and car models all look a step up from its little brothers console versions. So if you have a Xbox 360, it's worth the extra ten dollars for that finer shine and achievements to unlock. Otherwise, It is the same deal accross the board.
If you like racing games 'Need for Speed Most Wanted' should be on your wish list. This street racing franchise still has lots of life and 'Most Wanted' proves it. EA Black Box is definitely on the right track and has proven themselves once again. The verdict -- pick this sucka up!