Two years ago, Criterion hoisted the derailed Need For Speed train from off the gravel path and put it back on the tracks. One year later, Black Box crashed The Run into the Need For Speed train and essentially derailed the franchise once again, frustrating gamers and damaging the good that Criterion had done for the franchise. At E3 2012, Criterion stepped up to the oche once again as it looked to get the franchise back on course for the second time in as many years. The initial signs were more than positive and with that in mind, the Guildford-based developer looked to take that into Gamescom and build some more momentum. And that they did!
While the focus at E3 was multiplayer, multiplayer, multiplayer, the focus at Gamescom was single-player, open-world racing and open-world gameplay. Oh, and some more multiplayer.
Criterion’s aim with its re-imagining of Most Wanted is “open-world, open gameplay” and thanks to Autolog 2.0, everything you do in the world is tracked. As shown in EA's Gamescom press conference, you can pretty much access any car from the get-go. If you can find it around the open-world environment, you can jack it. And if you can find it, you can boost its performance – sorry, folks, that’s about as deep as the customisation goes. That does mean that you’ll be able to upgrade tyres, nitrous, chassis, etc. to make the car handle how you want. If you want some off-road tyres, just equip them and head off-road.
One of the neat additions to Most Wanted is Criterion’s quick access menu, meaning that you don’t need to leave the game to rifle through menus for anything trivial. That includes selecting events, upgrading your car, and so on. Kinect owners will be justifying their purchase of the device once again with Most Wanted, as Criterion has integrated voice control into the menu navigation system. Instead of messing around with menus to switch tyres when you change road surface, you can do it on the fly with the Kinect voice controls. This is what Kinect was designed for! Sort of.
The single-player portion of Most Wanted will be like any other Need For Speed game, and more importantly, like the previous Most Wanted game. That means you’ll partake in a series of events, whether jumping to them via the mission select or just driving to them, as well as Most Wanted showdowns, but there’s so much more than that. Because Criterion tracks everything, and everything goes towards your score against your friends, you can spend your time smashing billboards, decimating security fences, jumping freeways, finding cooldown spots and so on, if you so wish – some of them making various events easier too i.e. finding the cooldown spots.
And yes, it is a Most Wanted game, so in the single-player you’ll find yourself battling against the game’s Most Wanted players. It’s a simple case of beating them in whatever event is chosen, and then moving onto the next. You’ll have to be careful though, as once they're beaten they’ll start to spawn around the city and try to hinder your progress. The one shining light with this though is that once they’re beaten and you take them down, you get to have their car added to a jack spot which you can use as you see fit. The usual array of cop chases feature heavily too, with them interfering with races and what not, around the city. The system is largely similar to Hot Pursuit, with them having a radius that you must escape. Break the line of sight, visit a cooldown spot and then you’re free… Or you can simply out run them. The higher the heat level – between 1-6 – the more they’ll throw at you. This is what Need For Speed games are all about!
Then there’s the multiplayer. Again. The Gamescom code was more of the same, with the whole meet-up and engage in chaotic activities mechanics taking the centre stage once again, but this time in a different part of town. The first activity was the standard speed-camera affair – clock the fastest speed at a certain section of the track – but due to the placement of the speed camera, it was more chaotic than usual. The checkpoint was in the city’s LA-like storm drain, at the end of a bloody tunnel. Mental. Then it was a team race, just like at E3, before ending with a drift event under a cooling tower at a nuclear power station, where the longest drift wins. Once you jump into the number one position though, feel free to sabotage everyone else. We did. And it’s completely kosher too! All in all, top stuff, once again.
What makes a Need For Speed game a Need For Speed game though? Usually, it’s cops, exotic cars and chases galore. Check, check and check. What makes a Most Wanted game a Most Wanted game? Races against a list of Most Wanted adversaries. Check. So for people that call this a spiritual successor to Burnout Paradise and not Need For Speed: Most Wanted, well, you’re wrong. What it does have though is everything that makes a Burnout game great thrown in for good measure. In other words, it’s the best of both worlds, which makes us very happy bunnies indeed!
Need For Speed: Most Wanted is scheduled for an October 30th and November 2nd release in North America and Europe respectively.