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Already aware that the series was undergoing a fair few changes for the up and coming release of Need for Speed Most Wanted, I wasn’t sure which direction the developers, Criterion Games, were taking. Having last been the developers for Need for Speed in 2010, it seems to me that Criterion Games have taken quite the U-turn in terms of development, with Most Wanted now appearing to be in the same vein as Burnout, a series of games previously developed by Criterion Games, where takedowns and pile ups were a primary aspect of the title. Being thoroughly excited to play the next entry into the Need for Speed series, I anticipated seeing whether the developers had improved on what the series is all about, which is heavily based around modding cars and police chases, or had Criterion games lost touch with the core roots of the game.
The section of Most Wanted that was playable at the event placed 4 players against each other in a three round playlist, featuring some of the different competitive events throughout the game. Rather interestingly, players were to drive to each individual event before it could start, meaning that players had ample time to gain a feel for the playstyle throughout Most Wanted. With each event taking only a few minutes, it was a great idea to feature this much within the demo as rather than simply dropping players at the starting line, it allows for a brief moment of getting used to the controls.
The first thing I noticed when I got behind my Chevrolet Camaro’s wheel for a quick drive around Fairhaven, was how heavy the car felt when driving and as such continued to fail when attempting to navigate through use of J-Turns and donuts. Aside from the weighted feel to them, the majority of the cars seemed to be the same as previous titles in the series, with very few undergoing any sort of paint job or underhood changes.
Within moments of the game starting, the first event had appeared on the map, and it was a race to the start. The controls hadn’t seemed to change from its predecessors, and as such I had no difficulty in successfully navigating the car. The first event we were presented with was a speed test, and much like in previous Need for Speed games this mode pitched drivers against each other to see how fast they could get through a speed camera. This gave players a chance to control the car at high speeds through traffic and, inevitably, showed the wipeouts that I had been expecting. Surprisingly this still managed to impress me, however it seemed surprisingly hard to avoid wiping out, with even the slightest crash.
Next was a race, with the start just down the road from the speed test, and the way Criterion Games started races was like nothing I had played before. Instead of having a start order, players waited for the count down, and then simply, the race was started. However should a player cross the start line before the countdown is finished, the racer has to face a false start and be penalised by having to start later than the rest. This created a battle for the start a different gameplay compared to the normal start line grid structure like other driving games. The race had some tight turns and long straights which gave players a great chance to push the car as far as they can take it, with the pre-described heaviness disappearing. Whilst racing, I realised that players can gain more points by wiping out other drivers, which is where the burnout takedown’s I had expected came into play. Although something I originally felt would take away from the game, I began to understand that this had only made the game more interesting and try to ruin other players races by taking them out is something that I found added to the game in more ways than one.
The final event we played in this playlist was the longest jump, which is something new Criterion Games had brought to the popular driving game. In this mode, players are pitted against each other to try and score the longest jump over a highway. I feel that this mode in particular was improved upon greatly by the addition of takedowns, which made the game all the more frantic knowing that you can spoil other players jumps in a heartbeat, or that they can spoil yours. The jump also had a billboard, which would have the profile of the longest jump out of your friends in-game, which I feel is a great addition the developers brought to NFS, as it creates more for players to do in-game and online. The jump was surprisingly fun and I found myself wanting to jump further and further, and starting at greater distances, in order to build up more speed. Jumps like this will be scattered around Fairhaven with the best jumper posted on each billboard amongst your online friends, making for a new level of competitivity.
Overall, I was pleased with what Criterion Games have done to change NFS, and add more to the playstyle other than run from police, modify cars and race, with the addition of longest jumps amongst your online friends with Most Wanted focusing a lot on the multiplayer aspect of the game. At first I wasn’t sure about the game as I felt it would be too much like Burnout, however after playing, I found that Burnout features had been added, like takedowns, but I believe this will heavily improve the gameplay style and players have much to look forward to. I know that I will be pre-ordering this game for release and will be surprised if this game doesn’t sell as good as previous games in the Need for Speed series.
I playtested Need for Speed: Most Wanted on Playstation 3.
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