Reviewed: December 6, 2005
Released: November 15, 2005
Need for Speed Underground was a kick-butt series during its time. Despite its excellence for the underground, racing society, Need for Speed Underground was always missing one major real-life aspect: cops. Need for Speed Most Wanted fills the hole, bringing the dreaded 10-94 back into the scene.
Underground has its tuner customizations, introducing body kits, custom rims, vertical doors, split hoods, and a wide range of other bolt-ons. Hot Pursuit brought you exotics and cop evasion. Most Wanted combines aspects from both games to bring you a new underground league with sport compacts, exotics, and the black-and-whites.
Once again, EA has created another spectacular game involving sweet rides. The Blacklist is out, and the police have a bounty on your car. Avoid getting busted while taking on some of the fastest rides around and become the "Most Wanted".
You are the newest street racer to enter the city of Rockport. Your first day here, and youíre already being hated on by the local authorities and fellow street racers. You are unfortunate enough to meet Sergeant Cross, a Rockport officer, while driving through the city. He makes it well known that he doesnít like you or your car, and he wants both out of his city. He almost gets his way with your car until he is called away on a high-speed pursuit. He is nice enough to give you a new pinstripe free of charge.
As if Cross wasnít bad enough, you soon run into Razor, a local Blacklist racer. Being new to the town, you definitely arenít going to be getting his respect anytime soon. He wants you out of his town like Cross, but just you. Your car, he doesnít mind. Heíd actually like your nice little Beamer for himself. Filled with an evident jealousy, heíll do anything to get what he wants.
Your bad luck just keeps going. Your first week in Rockport, and you lose your pride and joy to an act of sabotage. Itís bad enough that youíre watching the most important thing to you being towed away for Razor, but you get to think about the whole ordeal behind bars. It seems like the only good thing to happen to you in your first week is Mia Townsend.
Mia is the beauty of Most Wanted and your one and only friend in Rockport. Playing the role of Mia is the young, aspiring actress/model Josie Maran. Known for her work with magazines such as Glamour and roles in movies as Van Helsing and Little Black Book, Maran somehow manages to complement the street-racing scene better than Brooke Bourke. Sheíll help you get hooked up with a new ride, seeing as how your old one was basically stolen right from under you. Now you need to somehow get it back.
Youíll get to start off with a Chevy Cobalt SS, Lexus IS300, Fiat Punto, or Volkswagen Golf GTI. I chose to go with the IS just because I wanted a familiar import. The whole goal is to climb your way up the Blacklist, taking out each racer one by one. The catch: none of the Blacklist racers find it to be worth their time to race you. You have to prove yourself to be notorious enough for a race by winning other races and increasing your rap sheet.
First on the list is Sonny. Youíll climb to Izzy, Jewels, Ming, Ronnie, and all the way up to Razor, who sits at the top with your M3. Not only will the Blacklist racers become progressively harder, so will the cops as they step up their tactics. Youíll start off against passive Crown Vics and move your way up past aggressive C6ís.
Navigation is much more user-friendly in Most Wanted than in Underground. The map layout is basically the same. However, now you can freely move the cursor around the map to get a better idea of where things are. The layout of the streets isnít nearly as complicated as Underground 2 either. Getting around the city wasnít as much of a headache. You can also jump to a race if youíd rather not drive between points on the map.
The races that you can participate in are roughly the same as before, except now you have pursuits. EA also decided to cut out the drifts and street x races. It makes sense, though, since practically every race seems to have an imminent threat of a police pursuit. Street X and drifts are fairly closed circuit competitions, leaving you without any options if a bust occurred. The sprint, circuit, and drag styles have all returned to satisfy the lust for illicit racing.
Some of you may notice, and if you do, may be disappointed, that neither Honda nor Nissan decided to be in Most Wanted. Possibly not wanting to instigate import fans from racing their Civics and Zs, youíll also be missing the all-powerful Skyline. The SUVís have also been removed, thankfully. Granted, SUVís are pimped out all the time, you really donít find any that are built to race. They are meant to be decked out for show, not speed.
EA didnít just cut the car list, though. They did manage to add a few, quite a few actually. Welcome some exotics, such as: Mercedes SL500 and SLR McLaren, Lotus Elise, Aston Marton DB9, Dodge Viper SRT 10, Ford GT, Porsche 911 Carrera S and Carrera GT, and Lamborghini Gallardo and Murcielago. Other new additions include the new 2006 Mitsubishi Eclipse, Chevy Cobalt SS and Corvette C6, and Pontiac GTO.
You can still tune your vehicles in this game, which has always been a nice touch to the Need for Speed series. You lost some freedom in Most Wanted, but also acquired personalized body kits for the cars. You can still change your paint, hood, tints, rims, and spoilers, but youíve lost the ability to customize your side mirrors, headlights, neons, and exhaust tips. Also, performance changes now come only in packages, eliminating the installation of individual parts. After changing the look of your car, you can get a better idea of what itíll look like through the improved preview abilities. You can zoom in and rotate the camera to achieve better camera angles than possible before.
The controls of the game are the same standard layout as the other Need for Speed games. The biggest difference is the addition of the speedbreaker. It makes the environment slow down to a near standstill. It makes it easier to control around tight turns, under trucks, or through tight squeezes. It can prove to be useful when faced with a barrage of squad cars approaching head on.
The graphics used for the cinematics is gorgeous. The cars and people are shown in an amazing beauty. Although the actual gameplay doesnít display this wonderfully, you know the cutscenes are richer in detail than the actual gameplay. Despite the fact, the cars still look stunning during gameplay. You no longer have the comic-strip presentation of Underground 2, but a full motion video presentation intermixed with spectacular CG.
The vast assortment of cars has been drawn with a lot of attention to detail. From the small decal to the fine contour of the body, you could easily look up a car online and see the game cars as being nearly identical.
The HUD is as simplistic as always. If you donít care about the rearview mirror or you know youíre always in first place, you can remove these from the display. You have four viewing modes: close-up, bumper, hood, and far view. The only issue with the view is that you canít change it on the fly. If you want to go from bumper to far, you need to pause the game, go into the options, and change it there.
The people at EA must not know what type of music is listened to during a street race. They used some well-known names for their soundtrack, Static-X, Disturbed, The Prodigy, and Juvenile to name a few, but they kill the feel of speed with a lot of their songs.
There is nothing wrong with alternative or hard rock and such, but it isnít upbeat. Fast cars and fast tempos go together. Techno, electronic, rave, and so on have high-paced beats. EAís choice of music tends to go more along with the part of the game where youíre merely cruising the streets of Rockport and exploring, not racing.
The sound effects arenít radically new or anything. The exhaust still possesses the low-tone rumble as you press down on the throttle. The nitrous retained its hiss as you boost. Turbochargers were still come with their intimidating sound of spooling and the blow-off valve discharging pressure. Hook this system up to your surround sound, and youíll get a nice feel of being in the driverís set of the cars.
I would comment on the bad acting, but it does play out to be amusing for the most part. So it has a trade-off between the bad and the funny. Another sometimes-humorous part of the game includes the radio chatter you hear when the cops are chasing you. You can hear their frustration as you weave in and out of barricades.
As with the former Need for Speed Underground games, Most Wanted offers a lot of playing time and replayability. Just beating career mode takes a few days of playing. The Blacklist includes 15 racers. Each racer has his or her own requirements that you must meet before he or she will even consider racing you. Those requirements include at least 6 events. These events are only the ones you have to complete, too. There are numerous optional races on top of this, giving you hours of more gameplay in career mode.
I could spend hours merely building up various cars for my garage. Once you complete the career mode, youíll probably want to continue to build up other cars. The multiplayer also throws in the action for heads-up races. It is missing the online aspect, though. Itís a shame you get to build up these supercars without being able to test them against other racers across the country, but the rest of the game still does a wonderful job.
Every now and then a racing game comes out that is actually worth its $49.99 face value. Fortunately, Need for Speed Most Wanted happens to be one of them.
At first, I was expecting an Underground 3. To be honest, I was actually a little disappointed at first that Honda and Nissan were missing from the slew of cars. When I thought about, though, and realized that this wasnít really meant to be Underground (if it was, they probably would have just named it that), I saw the game differently.
Need for Speed Most Wanted may not be what I expected, but it is still a fun game that will provide you with hours upon hours of gameplay. It offers things that both Underground and Hot Pursuit lack. Nice visuals and an amazing array of tuners and exotics to choose from could possibly make this the ďmost wantedĒ racing game for the Playstation 2 this season.