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Let’s get one thing straight, despite anything else that we might say further on, Most Wanted is probably the most fun racing gaming we’ve played in a long time and while racing purists might turn up their collective noses into the air at the admittedly arcade nature of the game, Criterion have, at the very least, done one thing right and have managed to do exactly what is expected from any game studio, create a game that is an absolute blast to play.
What Criterion have done is that they’ve taken the original every NFS title since the original Most Wanted, stripped them of (almost) all their shortcomings, taken the best features of every game, and cohesively merged and enhanced them into one game to create Most Wanted.
The game has no narrative or story and doesn’t even pretend to have one. You’re given a car, given 10 targets, and then let loose on the road to have fun, race, wreak havoc; whatever takes your fancy. There are over a hundred cars scattered throughout the world and you can drive up to any one of them and take them for a spin. You’re not restricted to any car and if you find it, it’s yours. There is no more of that hierarchy where you go from bad cars to better cars to superlative cars.
Each car has about six races specifically tailored for its type and you can have fun, competitive racing with any car you like and find. Each race win nets you upgrades that add essential features to your car, such as nitrous or off-road tyres, etc. This focus on pure arcade-style fun even extends to the cut-scenes; every race has an intro that is, from an aesthetic and design stand-point, really cool. They’re not realistic, you’ll see cars floating in the air, or emerging like a growing crystals and it just looks fantastic.
There is a lot to do in this world. Racing past speed cams chalks your name up on a leader board that you and your friends can see and compete against, the same goes for the hoardings that you smash. All these, coupled with the races and police chases net you points that add up, eventually allowing you to take down a “Most Wanted” rival when you get enough points. What sets this game apart from the previous game is the socializing that goes into it. Seeing your friends smash one of your speed records would make you want you to pick yourself up and take back what’s yours.
In fact, multiplayer is where this game shines. If you are unfortunate enough to not have a good internet connection, you’re really missing out on something special. This game needs to be experienced online and while the single-player is fun, it just isn’t what this game is all about.
Single-player does have its issues. It’s very frustrating that something as basic as nitrous has to be earned in a race for every single car that you find. Would you want to play a time-consuming, but really easy race, over a 100 times, just for nitrous? We would have liked it much better if there was just a single race that would unlock nitrous for all cars at once. Another frustrating aspect is the fact that you have to teleport or drive to each car that you found. It would have been far simpler if we could just switch cars on the fly rather than have to drive (or teleport) halfway across the map just to find a car that you want and then drive all the way back to a race you want to participate in.
This must be the first open-world NFS game that we actually felt like exploring. Towards the end of the game, we found ourselves picking out the slower vehicles (trucks) and slowly driving around the city, peeking into every alleyway, nook and cranny that we could find in the hopes of unearthing a new car. The true sense of speed that you get in this game is staggering; the crashes are spectacular (expected, given Criterion’s Burnout heritage) and the cop chases are a lot of fun. We will say, however, that the Cop Chases in the original Most Wanted were more fun, and there was a greater penalty for getting caught, which made them more intense.
The game is not pretending to be something it isn’t and Criterion has made sure that you are very aware of that. It is an arcade racer and an exceptional one at that, nothing else. The developers have done a superb job in polishing this title and making sure that the game is fun. It is a very polished game that looks gorgeous and plays well. Beware though, this game is a graphical powerhouse and unless your system is up to the challenge, you will be hard-pressed to get playable frame-rates from the game. There are very few games that can fulfil your need for speed the way this game does and is, quite surely, a must-play for any racing fanatic out there.
SKOAR: 4.5Developer: Criterion gamesPublisher: EAGenre: Racing, Open WorldPrice: Rs.1,499