Need for Speed Most Wanted - Review Xbox 360
The 360 is now out and sold out all over the country. However good the machine may be it is always the games that really make or break a console. This is why Sony has had so much success with the Playstation consoles. The games library is huge and there are always great games from the get go. In some respects this is how the original Xbox started life with Halo but the exclusive titles didn't keep rolling in. The Xbox 360 hasn't had this serious launch title, all the games are slightly updated versions of old Xbox games or just ports of PC and PS2 games, there has been nothing original available. That said all new consoles need a great driving game that looks fantastic to show off the potential of new hardware. I'm not sure if Most Wanted looks like it is a leap to the next generation or just half of a generation.
Most Wanted has multiple modes and sections to the game but the largest, and certainly the best, is the career mode. You are a newcomer to the town and you have to start at the bottom of the food chain and you have to work your way right up to the top. The path to glory is the black list which contains the top 15 street racers in the city of Rockport. The beginning of the game you will drive against the number 15 ranked driver. Unfortunately he tampers with your car, you loose the race and to finish it off you get arrested and loose your car. When you come out of jail you are helped by a woman called Mia.
Now you have a chance to get back on your feet you have to go out and buy a car and start racing again. This is a long task as you will have to take on each one of the 15 blacklist racers in turn. To actually challenge each racer you first need to complete some races and milestones. To challenge the first opponent (15th on the blacklist) you must win three races and complete a number of milestones.
Races come in a number of different guises. There are the normal circuit and sprint races that you would expect plus elimination where the car in last place will be knocked at the end of each lap. There are races against the clock which are called tollbooth races. Drag racers focus on gear changes and dodging traffic and lastly there are the speed trap races. Speed trap races are not so much about racing but passing speed cameras at the highest possible speed. Each time you pass a speed camera your speed will be added up, the player with the highest total will be the winner. This calls for a completely different strategy to the other events as winning doesn't mean you have to cross the finish line first.
As the police are a major part of Most Wanted they also serve a purpose to progress through the game. This is incorporated in the Milestone challenges which, if completed, will increase the bounty on your head. Most of these challenges involve destroying police cars, evading the police and speeding. In general, driving like a lunatic while trying to loose the numerous police cars on your back.
After you have finished you will usually find the police on your tail and sometimes police can often get involved mid race, which really makes the racing far more exciting. It's this part of the game, the kind of free roam where the Milestones are completed that is the real fun part. During the early stages of the game you will find a small number of police cars chasing. As you progress chases really start to heat up as you can have anywhere up to 20 police taking chase and a helicopter over head. When the police start driving corvettes and laying spike strips and setting up road blocks things get very interesting. At this level loosing the police is a very tricky business, if you don't loose them all within a certain time frame the back up will arrive and you'll have to do it all over again. Then there is the helicopter which is probably the hardest thing to shake off.
The only way to loose the police is to get out of sight and try to stay there. If you have managed to evade the police you will have to calm down some and wait for the "cooldown" meter to disappear. If you get spotted by one police car at this point you will have the whole job to do again. Another tactic to use is to have a few cars. If the heat is particularly high on your current car, go and swap it for one of your others. Beware though, if you get caught too many times you run the chance of getting your car impounded.
Most Wanted also had a decent range of cars on offer. You will start off with a pretty slow car such as a Fiat Punto or Lexus IS200. Later you have the chance to upgrade your existing car and purchase new cars. Don't be too eager to buy new cars though, as you start to make your way up the blacklist you will have the chance to take the other drivers car, which means you can jump into a highly turned car straight off, rather than having to buy a new car and tune from scratch.
Apart from the career mode there is also the Challenge Series. You are given a car and a specific goal. As before with the career mode there are races' which just involve winning and then you have pursuit challenges. The pursuit goals include smashing a number of road blocks or damaging a certain amount of cars or property. If your going to venture online you will find the game is fairly limited. You can only race. This doesn't really sound very "next generation", you will just have to imagine what it would be like to team up in a police chase with a number of human players. The racing isn't actually that much better either as races only accommodate four players. There is an online version of the blacklist which is a nice touch. Basically the online game is extremely standard and not what I would expect on a new console.
Most Wanted looks very nice, in fact the visuals are probably one of the best elements of the game, especially on a HDTV. I played the game with the normal composite cable to start with, then I switched to HDTV mode 1080i which was incredibly clear. I found the best resolution was 780p. The "p" stands for progressive scan which means there is no flickering as the screen refreshes each time. The cars look good but the real stars of the show are all the backgrounds and the effects. The rain is probably the best I have seen in a driving game. The streets will reflect street lights, scenery and the red and blue lights from the police cars really convincingly. Rockport is a pretty big place consisting of built up city, small towns and country side. Most Wanted is also a pretty fast moving game so speed blurs and lines are used to good effect which really portray the sense of speed. There is a problem though, the frame rate constantly stutters, when you turn into a corner you will see a larger "jerk" in the frame rate. There is another problem too; occasionally you will find objects will pop up after everything else on the screen has appeared. When I first played Most Wanted it was hugely noticeable, as the game progresses and the races and chases get faster the stutter is less noticeable, but the occasional large jerk in the frame rate does still occur. I can't believe that this game has been released on the 360 with such a large error that undermines the power of the new console. The main thing is Most Wanted is still very playable even with these problems.
The sound is very impressive especially the engine noises. They will change depending on which car you are driving and then they will change again when you start to tune up your car. The second best aspect of the sound is the police radio as they chatter away planning to take you down. You can hear all the orders, although they are coded, but after a while you will be able to work out what a roadblock is as opposed to a spike strip. It's incredibly realistic.
Need for Speed Most Wanted was surprisingly good. Admittedly I wasn't so impressed when I fist started the game, the stutter and slow feeling really put me off. After sticking with it for a short while the game speeds up and the stutter doesn't seem to be as noticeable, if at all. The racing is not the best part of the game unless the police decide to get involved mid race. The police chases are fantastic fun and challenging too, they are sure to keep you coming back for more. It's not going to show off your new console as well as some other games might, but you're sure to have many hours of enjoyment out of Most Wanted.
8 out of 10