Released in November of 2005, Need for Speed: Most Wanted was a launch title for the new Xbox 360 and was another title to show off what the new console was capable of doing. It was also one of three racing titles that were released at launch accompanied by: Ridge Racer 6 and Project Gotham Racing 3, but this was the better racing game at the time by far. I have always had a soft spot for the Need for Speed franchise from my early years, so this was a game for me to be excited about.
The central part of the game is its story campaign. The game opens up with a prologue cut scene in which the player (you) ends up losing their car to the main protagonist, Razor. With your help of a friend you gain, Mia, you’ll try to work your way up the “Blacklist”, which is a top-15 ranking list of the top racers in the city. At the top of that list is Razor, and you have work your way towards taking on Razor and gaining your car back.
The story is conveyed mostly through voicemail and text messages that you receive from various racers and your new mystery friend Mia. Through these you’ll get your goals on what you need to do and who you will be going up against on the Blacklist. The cut scenes are interesting in the way they are presented since they are a mixture of CG cars and environment with live actors.
The bulk of the career campaign is to make your way up through the Blacklist and to finally take on Razor, getting revenge for taking your car. You race each member of the Blacklist one at a time, but before you are able to race them you’ll have to complete various series of races or milestones. The different types of races you’ll be involved in are: Circuit, sprint, knockout, drag, speed-traps and tollbooth. Circuit and sprints are the basic races, with circuit just completing the standard race in the specified amount of laps, while sprints are a point A to B-type race. Knockout races will eliminate the last-place racer at the end of each lap until there is only one winner. Drag racing is as it seems and is similar to how it was in the previous Need for Speed installments. Speed-trap races have you race through various speed cameras on the track and your speed is clocked and is added to your total score, with the highest score at the end being the winner. Tollbooth races are checkpoint races against the clock having to get to specific checkpoints before the clock runs out in order to continue. It’s a decent amount of variety to keep you entertained throughout your time while playing the game and during my time playing I usually liked the Speed-trap races the best.
The AI in this game can be tough at times, but that’s what keeps the game interesting instead of getting bored with easily winning all the time. If you’re in the lead they rarely make a mistake and have you on your toes to keep your lead with one mistake possibly costing you the lead or win. Difficulty-wise the game isn’t too bad, but as soon as you hit the top 5 on the Blacklist it gets noticeably more difficult. You’ll have to be even more on top of your game if you want to win. At this point in the game I sometimes had to replay a few of the Blacklist races because of a small mistake costing me the win or just the AI being difficult in the first place.
What can really make the game hectic or fun depending on your viewpoint is the police in this game. Whether you’re doing milestone races or a Blacklist races they can start chasing at you any moment. The police AI can be very challenging and very dumb at times. The longer your “chase” goes, the higher the chase level goes up (1-5). Usually the tougher they become to out run because you can now have up to 10+ police cars after you and helicopters, but it can still be possible to get away.
In terms of car variety, there isn’t a vast amount of cars to choose from, but still enough to keep it somewhat interesting. You can start out with basic cars such as a; Chevy Cobalt, Lexus IS and even a VW Golf. With the completion of races and getting more money you can acquire better and faster cars such as a; Ford Mustang GT, Toyota Supra and other high-end cars from BMW, Lamborghini, Mercedes and Porsche, among others. As you progress through the game you can also upgrade each of your cars if you so choose. You’ll be greeted by the option to add anything from performance upgrades to cosmetic upgrades. If you decide to change your visual look of your car it can also lower your heat level that the cops have on you making it less likely for a police chase to occur.
Graphically the game is by no means an eye-popping game based off today’s standards, but it still is a visually appealing game, especially taking into account this was released back in 2005. The cars look very good and even the light will bounce off them giving it more of a realistic look. With the dynamic weather the game has it will still look good. One nice touch is when it’s raining you can see the reflection in the puddles of rain adding a nice touch. There are a few instances while playing that the background of the game can suffer texture pop in while trying to load the scenery, especially at higher speeds. All in all, it’s still a very visually entertaining game for something that is ten years old. The sounds in this game are really good, and there is a noticeable change in-car sounds based on the upgrades you choose to add. The voice acting in the game is decent most of the time, but can get a bit campy, especially with the main “villain” of the game. Music variety to the soundtrack is quite good, ranging anywhere from rap to rock/metal and is sure to appeal to just about everyone. Although the music can get a bit repetitive towards the end of you playing time of the game since there aren’t a lot of tracks.
Need for Speed: Most Wanted is probably one of the better NFS games in the series. It doesn’t try to do too much and lose focus of what it’s trying to accomplish. This game can be quite a ride that can keep you coming back to at least complete the story. If you’re into racing games and even if you liked the earlier entries of the series like NFS: Underground, then you’re sure to have fun with this entry in the Need for Speed series.
- Police chases are fun and exciting
- Sounds of the cars are realistic
- Decent amount of vehicle customization
- Difficulty takes a jarring jump towards the end of the game
- Sub-par graphics, but it is ten-years old
- Tasks can become stale towards the end