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Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Review: Need For Speed Most Wanted - A Criterion Game (PC)

A Criterion game, unfortunately. Don't get me wrong, I love Burnout and I found their vision of Hot Pursuit to be quite a gem. Criterion really knows how to make a great arcade driving game. Their racing games have a certain trademark, a genuine imprint that's visible in the handling, the graphics and environment. What's so unfortunate about it? Their vision of Most Wanted is nothing like the Most Wanted we remember. If I were to play this game without knowing the title or that was ever in the remaking process, I'd definetely say it's the latest Burnout game. It's not The Run 2 (not a Criterion title), because this one is open ended and has no story, none whatsoever, and it can't be Hot Pursuit 2 because it's not as linear nor you can play as a cop. In fact, Criterion's Most Wanted has everything in common with Burnout Paradise. Bilboards to smash, scatered ramps, the exact same cop chase mechanics, service quick-fix and no story. I get that it's their own take on the old Most Wanted and EA knew for some time this was a fan favorite demand, but the only resemblance to it it's the Most Wanted part where you race and get cops to chase you until you reach "numero uno" on the list.
But it doesn't stop there, 'cause it's bigger than that these days, as producers tend to push mmo features into every apect of a game. Not only that you race against AI notoriety, you also race against the online comunity for the top title of being big cheese of driving around a virtual city in a limited amount of cars.
The cars? There are probably somewhere around 60 or something, I didn't stop to count. Okay, I googled and there's a pretty large collection of cars that you can ram into walls and other vehicles of sorts. But do expect downloadable contents. The handling is a bit awkward at the beginning, but you can get used to it after a while. I'm playing with an Xbox 360 wireless controller and it's the best way to play this game. The keyboard is too weird and abrupt, yet a wheel is too much of a chore. This is not a driving sim, neither does it want's it to be. It's pure arcade. Gravity has it's part making the car heavy and forces the car to the ground even when it's not that implied. Drivind physics feel a bit delayed and brakes are either too responsive, either too slick. Combine all those elements and you have a bobsleighing tank.
In a race, AI contestants aren't very bright, but if you choose the wrong car to a event it's not going to go well for you, as they are fast and they cut corners really efficient. On the other hand, stay away from cops, they're a cheating bunch. Cop cars spawn often and as near as your minimap can view. Once you piss them off, the best strategy is to take the road on full pedal or ram that solo coo car and run out of the red area while avoiding other police cars. When you reach level 5 or 6 heat, hold on to your skills and/or luck, cause there will be a lot of chasing, ramming and the whole patrol police force of an entire state. Remember that awesome police chase trailer of the game where our protagonist switches the car and the police just stands there waiting for him to come out, thinking he's cornered with a totaled car? There's no such thing in the game. It's more like in Blues Brothers, but with cooler cars.
You know what other thing might be a throwback to Burnout Paradise? Crashes. When you crash, it's exactly like in that game, only you hardly damage the car. Maybe the headlights will start blinking, maybe it'll have some nasty scratches, but the car will work like new. Now that I think of it, I don't know if you can total a car in this game. I might be wrong, but I haven't seen it yet.
Let's talk about the graphics next. This game looks and feels beautifull. Many make the mistake to believe this game works on the famous Frostbite 2.0, Battlefied 3's engine. It does not, even if the game goes far to look like that, from the specs of dust, little rainbows and flares on the screen to the blue-ish tint. The Run did, but Criterion had nothing to do with that. Criterion has it's own engine, namely Chameleon, and Most Wanted is developed on a modified Chameleon version. It looks incredibly awesome and resembles too much with The Run, yet the two have only the franchise title and publisher in common. The graphics settings are intuitive and simple, but you still have a sufficient amount of options to customize the game to your liking and PC capabilities. There's even an option for hd textures included. There are a few issues that I've notices: some textures look a bit too low res and theres a lack in antialiasing, just a tiny bit. I found weird that every citizen of Fairhaven City is tied to the steering wheel or locked inside their houses. There are no pedestrians anywhere in this town. I get that they didn't want a Carmageddon kind of game, but Driver San Francisco did a great job in avoiding that. But these are detailes that we can jump over with ease. Next we will be asking for stray dogs and mad cows in a NFS game.
The music is great, every car sounds as different as it feels, police chatter is entertaining and useful as always and there's no shortage of wub wub.
Fans of this franchise asked for a new Most Wanted game for a long time now. If you ask a gamer anywhere, you will get a different answer everytime. What was the best NFS game? Some will say Hot Pursuit (the original), others will say Underground 2 and some will say it's this one or The Run. After the whole bashing on The Run, I get the feeling EA said "Okay, you jerks, here's your Most Wanted! We'll still make sales, the franchise will not die. Now, you can play it or you can shut up!" and honestly I have to agree. The Run was a good game, but NFS fanboys want the old pimping back.
Lastly, I want to take this stone off my chest: I feel bad for the NFS franchise. I'm not a fan of any game, I don't buy and play games for the franchise name on the cover or the publisher logo, you know, like primadonas in a mall looking for expensive brands. A game is either good or bad, awful or awesome, there's also a grey aisle, but it's all that black and white. No matter who reviews a game, it's a subjective point of view. No matter if you agree with my review or not, it's your own opinion that matters the most for yourself.
So, this is it, I give this game a good 6 for the fun part and a bad 6 for the lack of innovation or diversity. In the end, Need For Speed Most Wanted is a Criterion game that you can play until you get bored and there's no reason to return to it because there's a new Need For Speed coming next year. Stay tuned.