Need For Speed: Most Wanted – E3 Preview
After revitalising the Need for Speed franchise at the end of 2010 with Hot Pursuit – to date the highest-rated entry in the series – Criterion looked across the history of the racing series and turned their eye towards one title in particular. The 2012 version of Most Wanted isn’t a sequel or a follow-up to the 2005 title, because “we don’t make sequels to other peoples’ games”, the dev explained as we sat down to try out the multiplayer. Instead, they were fascinated by the idea of being the ‘Most Wanted’, which inspired them to make the first open world Need for Speed since Undercover.
First we were shown some of the game’s open world, as Criterion revealed that dotted around the map would be several little secrets as a reward for exploration, and proved this by driving down an alley where a supercar lay in wait. A button press and a short blackout later and the player was speeding off into the distance again, only arousing the attention of the police as the car alarm was still going off, prompting a short chase sequence. We were also told that billboards were being bought back from Burnout Paradise, only this time the objective was to smash into any billboards from DICE, Visceral and other second party EA companies in order to change them into Criterion billboards. These weren’t the only pseudo-collectables, as, along with the hidden cars there’d also be multiple cool-down spots to discover and lie low in when the fuzz were too hot to handle.
Fans of Burnout Paradise will be right at home with the multiplayer, which seemingly combines all of the best elements from that title and puts them into the Need for Speed world. Players are rewarded for reaching the meeting spot first and further rewarded for taking down other players with speed points. Speed points are payment for everything in the game, from winning races to takedowns and even racking up extensive property damage. Completing challenges and acquiring more speed points both help unlock more content, as throughout the demo more vehicles were unlocked for the player to use, as well as open up more races on the map and raise the player’s rank higher on Autolog. Once everyone is inside the meeting point, the challenge begins with a countdown and sends the players off on their way; there’s no starting grid for races, but leaving the meeting point before the countdown runs out will be counted as a false start, shutting off the guilty party’s engine for several seconds as punishment.
Once the first race was underway (and my punishment for skipping the start was over), I noticed how clean the HUD was, with the timer only showing up under each checkpoint necessary to pass through in order to complete the race. You could skip each checkpoint and continue on, but you’d be unable to actually finish the race until you’d passed through each waypoint. This doesn’t mean that players are locked onto a forced path during races, as the open world means that you could take alternative paths and experiment with your route, much like you could in Burnout Paradise. However, Most Wanted will suggest a path for you, as I discovered when trying to make my way to the meeting points before each challenge was underway.
Autolog is back better than ever, and Criterion have made sure that it permeates throughout the entirety of Most Wanted. Rather than track the specific race at hand as it did in Hot Pursuit, this time around Autolog tracks pretty much everything, from the furthest distance travelled at that jump, to the fastest speed past that camera. Even the Road Rules from Burnout Paradise return and are recorded via the Autolog, allowing you to compare and compete against your friends. Even if you choose to play through the game without ever touching the multiplayer, Most Wanted will still be an intensely social game.
As we attempted to set the farthest jump distance over a particular ramp, it was revealed that during non-racing challenges, anyone taken out by a competitor would be unable to record another attempt and their best previous effort would become their de-facto one. Anyone taken out wouldn’t just be told who eliminated them, but what car they were driving and the mods that they had equipped, as the ability to install mods and customise your car have made a return to the series. Those taken out of the challenge aren’t forced to sit it out until it’s over, as being taken out of the equation doesn’t mean you can’t still participate. Instead, anyone eliminated is free to smash up anyone left remaining, and we were actively encouraged to do so if we couldn’t compete anymore.
This pseudo-harassment was perpetuated throughout our time in multiplayer, as those who’d finished the race were encouraged to turn back around and try impeding those yet to cross the line, and during the team race that ended the demo, other players were even trying to take their team-mates off the road just so they could earn more speed points. Once I’d finished the race I tried to explore the city at large, only to be discouraged as a good deal of it hadn’t been rendered yet, with only the road being present. Whoops.
Despite that, it was hard not to be amazed by Need for Speed: Most Wanted. Criterion haven’t just rebooted the Most Wanted property, they’ve completely reinvented the Need for Speed franchise and provided what could potentially be the best open world racer ever made. The graphics are absolutely beautiful, the way that Autolog is implemented guarantees that evenings will be lost from the “one more go” factor, and I was finding myself distracted on the way to each meeting point trying to take down billboards or find secret paths.
What I found most interesting was that Most Wanted didn’t remind me of the original 2005 title or Hot Pursuit, but of Burnout Paradise. Everything I witnessed in the demo, from billboards, the way challenges are set out and even how takedowns are performed screamed ‘Paradise’. That’s in no way a bad thing either; Paradise was perhaps the ultimate racing experience for several years, and the fact that Most Wanted feels like a much more refined and superior version of the last Burnout game has me massively excited for how the final product will turn out. Not only was Need for Speed: Most Wanted one of my top games of E3, I have no doubt that it’ll be one of the best games of 2012 and the ultimate open-world racer.
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