Need for speed

Published Date
01 - Jan - 2006
| Last Updated
01 - Jan - 2006
 
Need for speed
For two releases now, EA banished us from respectable society and sent us to the dark, dingy world of illegal street racing. While we did enjoy the night-time races in our mean machines, one thing still rankled. You see, the Dark Side isn't much fun without a good old-fashioned war with the goody-goodies, and this left an unnamed emptiness inside. We yearned for the days of yore when cops from all over would stumble over themselves trying to capture us. 

With Need for Speed: Most Wanted, EA brings some more sweetness and light into our lives. The racing is still deadly fast-and just as illegal, but now we have our friendly Boys in Blue to remind us, should that slip our minds.

The Script
The Career Mode reveals the plot (if you can really call it that) of NFSMW's story-you are a nameless street racer with a fine steed, looking for a race in the small town of Rockport. You bump into an degenerate named Razor, who is at the bottom of the Blacklist-a ranking of the best and most wanted racers in town. He gives you the race you seek, but sabotages your car, steals it, and hands you over to the cops on a silver platter. You get out of jail and find Razor has been using your car to get to the top of the Blacklist. You need revenge. To reach Razor, you must work your way up the Blacklist by defeating each racer on it. 

The story is told in stylised full-motion video cutscenes, and the acting is awful. So awful, in fact, it's actually hilarious-one wonders if EA did this on purpose. Helping you on your journey is Mia Townsend, played by Josie Maran, though you don't really know why she's helping you. Apart from the cutscenes she keeps sending you tips and news via text and voice messages. You are also helped by a mysterious guy named Rog, who also keeps sending you text and voicemail messages telling you what's going on in the racing world.

Making your way up the Blacklist isn't as easy as it sounds. These are elite racers, and you need to make yourself worthy before you take them on. You must win races and build a reputation among racers and the police as a wild menace to society. Naturally, as you move along, this is to become tougher, but not gradually like one would expect-your opponents seem to get a sudden revelation somewhere around the middle, and now the slightest error can leave you coughing up dust.

The story itself is quite cheesy, but grips you enough to make you want to see it through to the end. Do you get your car back? Do you get the girl? What will Razor resort to? Find out in the next chilling episode!

Enter The Cops…
… who are the real stars of the show this time. Every race carries with it the possibility of their suddenly turning up and adding some fun to the party. Looking for a chase? The Career Mode even lets you jump right into pursuits to get yourself better known in lawful circles. As usual, you can listen in on the police radio band, and this is when you let yourself be blown away by the AI-they sound like real cops having real conversations! They discuss how they're going to try to take you down, and are always chattering about your position. You start off at heat level 1, when you are just a naughty child to the cops. At this point, they're quite dumb and are as easily evaded as a short-sighted aunt. Bug them even more and you reach heat level 2. Then things finally start to get interesting-more cars will be on your tail now, and
you will have to thunder through roadblocks to avoid getting busted. By heat level 5 you are being chased around by what seems to be every car on the planet, a helicopter, police Corvettes, and you've got to deal with spike-strips.
Sights And Sounds
NFS: Most Wanted is a brilliantly orchestrated assault on your senses. The environment and lighting is wonderful. Road reflections are incredible-you have the dry, diffused reflection of sunlight or a slicker, more glossy reflection when it's raining. Lighting is more realistic now, thanks to the new Overlighting effect-now, if you get out of a long tunnel, the sun actually blinds you for a split second while it simulates the effect of your eyes getting used to the light. If you reach a high enough speed, you can watch the environment start to blur around you, and pump some nitro into the engine to watch the world fleet by in an incoherent haze.

Of course, we mustn't forget the most important part of the game-the cars. The car models in NFSMW are sleek, shiny, and quite close to the real thing. There is a prolific selection of cars ranging from the humble (read: hopelessly weak) Chevrolet Cobalt to the awesome Lamborghini Murcielago. The engines sound awesome, and with a good set of speakers, you can almost feel the machine throbbing around you.

In keeping with the whole 'underground' theme, the soundtrack (delivered through EA's 'Trax' system) is a hip-hop/rock combination which we didn't like at all, but which suits the bling-filled attitude EA is trying to incorporate. Thankfully, this Trax pestilence can be traded in for regular music.

The Heart And Soul
At the core of it, after all, NFSMW is about racing, and you get plenty of it. To challenge each Blacklist racer, you need to win a number of races, and the challenge itself is usually two races. On top of that, there is the Free Roam mode, which has you zooming all over town avoiding cops. To start a new race, you have to be out of the ever-watching eye of the fuzz, and as your heat level rises, this gets more difficult and hence frustrating.

The racing experience itself is unadulterated fun. The cars feel rock solid and are a joy for the compulsive powerslider. Little details like the shudder of a collision and the jump of gearshifts have been given due attention and do not disappoint. Freaks for realism will need to look elsewhere-this game is all about the adrenaline rush of full-throttle racing. Even car damage is practically non-existent-the most you'll ever see is a shattered windshield. This is not so for the police cars though, and you can have your fun watching turn into scrap metal.

Like so many other game developers, EA too has discovered the attractiveness of Bullet Time. Called the SpeedBreaker, this lets you stop time and try out new and dangerous manoeuvres like dodging the police by moving underneath trucks. If you are being excessively harassed by the Law, the game offers you Pursuit Breakers-structures across the city which you can destroy to keep them busy; the game camera switches to 'game moment cam' to show you just how much destruction you are leaving behind. This makes the game just that much more fun.

Even if the repetitiveness of racing about town and the eons it takes to finally complete the game are a pain, NFS: Most Wanted is a neatly packaged, well-styled bundle of fun. From hysterically bad acting to the pure thrill of racing, it is sure to be another winner.


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