NFS Most Wanted First Hands-On
NFS Most Wanted First Hands-On
The telling moment in my Need for Speed: Most Wanted hands-on came when our E3 hosts explained the numberplate system. "It's our twist on Battlefield's dogtags - you'll be able to take them from people in a number of ways, through special takedowns." When the various station's numberplates came up - each one representing a different era in Need for Speed history - mine was different. Instead of HotPrsuit or MstWanted or something like that, mine simply said Paradise.
The real world cars, the performance enhancing modifications, the Autolog 2.0... these are Need for Speed elements attached to a different game... Burnout Paradise 2. Criterion's open world smash (har-har) is still a staple for many racing fans - not least because the only Burnout game released between then and now was the arcadey (but still extremely fun) Burnout Crash!.
The influence is clear - but this is still a Need for Speed game. The car my numberplate sits on is a red BMW M3 - it's gorgeous now, but that won't last. The multiplayer session begins and just like that we're off - we're already racing.
Every person playing has been tasked with racing to 'the meetup' - it's an informal sort of race where the reward isn't a trophy but Speed points... and I guess you might say you have a need for speed (points). Upon arrival at the meetup - an isolated area on a pier - there was nothing for the speedier among us to do except smash into each other, over and over.
This might prove to be an issue in the long run, of course - online gaming is rife with 'griefers' who will thrive on denying other people a full game experience by taking their sweet time to arrive at the meet-up - but I have faith that Criterion will find a solution.
Instead of sitting with my head in my hands waiting for the less competent racers to arrive I took it upon myself to build up my boost meter while I waited - I spent as much time drifting around the pier's circular building area (it was also helpful in that it helped me get used to the game's handling system).
Suddenly the last car arrived - and like that, the countdown to the race began. No warning was given, no grid positions assigned - wherever you were on the pier was your starting spot, and once the word GO flashed on the screen, the race was on.
And racing is good.
Once you hit the road, traffic clutters up your path, providing constant threats as you speed around corners. Other racers present a constant threat thanks to the ever robust takedown system - and naturally things get worse as you go faster.
There didn't appear to be any sort of catch-up logic in play as we raced, which meant a racer who managed to eek out a lead and not crash would win - I got stuck in a takedown battle with one of the other racers and as a result wound up barely coming third.
Takedowns, by the way, are just as wonderful as they always have been. The Porsche 911 Carrera S - a beautiful reminder of EA's stranglehold over the Porsche licence - looks even better twisting through the air after a slow-motion collision with oncoming traffic.
The racing doesn't end there though. At the end of my hard fought battle of wills with the Porsche driver - the pair of us crossing the finish line still trading paint - there's little respite before our next task is issued... after we lose the cops we're to head to the next meetup area.
My plan for ditching the police is to hit up a garage along the way - a new paintjob and my M3 is now white instead of red - and luckily the garage was in the direction of the meetup area already. It's a short drive for me before I make it to the next area, and by being first I get a Speed Points bonus - as you do.
Eventually everyone makes it - the wait is once again quite lengthy - and with zero warning we're thrust into the next task... a competition to see who can jump the furthest over a highway.
Tall dirt ramps sit on either side of what our North American hosts would call a freeway, allowing competitors to make their jump from either side... in turn allowing players to hilariously collide midair.
Added to the challenge was a particularly evil rule - if you got taken-down you were no longer allowed to post a score... though true to the MP philosophy of NFSMW this didn't preclude you from continuing to participate.
I sensibly waited five seconds after everyone else careened out of our impromptu starting gates, but my decision was punished moments later - I skipped across the freeway and collided with one of my competitors on the way down. We were both out before we'd even posted a proper jump.
Now I set about a different task - I was waiting at the bottom of the ramps, hoping to catch other players as they landed, hoping to end their efforts as well. I quickly realised that the threat of a head-on collision only existed for people still hoping to win, and so my attempts to crash became more active (and more self-sacrificing).
When we moved on to the next event I realised where my strength lay - and it wasn't in driving faster than others. Our challenge here was to post the highest speed through a speed trap - and once again a takedown would put us out of the running.
I instantly set about boosting up alongside the racer who had won the previous challenge, and before either of us made it to the speed camera I rammed my BMW into his Mustang, just in front of the rear wheel - sending him ploughing into the wall. I boost through the camera and posted a meagre time, but my plan was already in action. Each run back I took down another opponent, but soon the flaw in my plan became clear - everyone was gunning to take me down now, and each new pass saw me make another enemy.
I took advantage of the varied nature of the city streets in Most Wanted to outlast everyone - there are overpasses and shortcuts galore, if you have the eye to spot them - and I managed to post the best speed before a pair of racers put me down.
Thanks to the hectic nature of E3 my playthrough came to a close here - meaning I didn't get to check out any of the team races on offer - and to be honest, I was gutted when they told me time was up. Most Wanted looks gorgeous and the multiplayer - a free-flowing mixture of races and activities - is brilliant. They need to sort out how to deal with potential time-wasters during meetups, and I think there's probably a tad too much understeer at the moment - but Most Wanted was one of my favourite showings at E3 this year by a long shot.
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