Need for Speed Most Wanted SP First Look
Need for Speed Most Wanted SP First Look
At GamesCom I was given the opportunity to play more of the fantastic multiplayer I got hands-on with at E3 - and it's still amazing.
Still, there's only so many times I can tell you it's awesome fun before it becomes more efficient for me to breed some sort of albino shouting gorilla - instead we'll talk about the singleplayer game - they weren't letting us play it, but I was definitely happy with what I saw.
First things first - those of you with a PSVita can dry your tears for a second. A game from this generation is coming to the Vita and it's going to be fantastic. The hands-on time they gave us with the handheld showed off exactly what they wanted - the game on the smaller screen looks like the game on the TV.
Better still - Speed Points earned in the PSVita game contribute to your tally across all the games, so smashing out a few races when you're on the train will get you a few steps closer to being the "Most Wanted" (and should help you remain ahead of your friends).
Anyway, the reason you want to be the Most Wanted is all related to the "Whitelist" (a play on the original game's Blacklist). In Most Wanted every car is unlocked from the get go - all except the 10 hottest cars (they haven't named any names yet.) As you earn more Speedpoints (and more notoriety) the Whitelist cars will find you in Fairhaven and challenge you - if you beat them, only then will you have access to their car.
Everything else though - from the zippy little Ford Focus, through the beefy Hummer H3 and into the gorgeous range of Porsches - is available from the very beginning, as long as you can find it.
This is a risky move for the Criterion team, as it flies in the face of how we understand game progression to work - especially racing games. It's typical for a player to start in an 'average' car - like a Golf - only to build up to the Koenigseggs and the Lambos - to be able to 'Jack' an Audi R8 immediately is a huge gamble... and while it seems like it will pay off, there's still risk there.
If Most Wanted faces any challenge, it's that players might get too bored too quickly. I know that when I play the GTA games a countdown begins as soon as I enter the 'give all' cheat - and once it ends, I'm bored with the game. Most Wanted's trial is to make sure players continue to feel challenged when they can jump in almost anything.
Luckily, there is some sense of progression about the game. As players win races they'll unlock upgrades for their car based on their success - third, second and first all award different upgrades - which is something of an olive branch, as you'll find that some of your cars simply won't be as competitive as you need without boost.
The races you do change with your car it seems, but that doesn't mean there aren't static challenges available to you. Speedtrap challenges are always around - and if you post the fastest time past one your name will creep to the top of the wall.
The best implementation of Autolog 2.0 that I've seen though, is the Billboard system - throughout Fairhaven are billboards, and whoever gets the longest jump (on your Autolog) when smashing through a billboard will have their face (or whatever their avatar picture is set as) plastered on it when it's rebuilt.
Another great feature is the ability to quit a race whenever you like. Say you're coming fifth in a long race, the cops are on your tail and you get taken down - setting you back to sixth and probably out of contention (from what I played and saw, there's not much in the way of catch-up logic). Instead of hitting Start, Restart Race and being forced to go through it all again you use the game's dynamic style menu system to quit the race and you leave.
Once you deal with the cops, you're ready to start a new race. Dealing with the cops is interesting - it seems to be a combination of Grand Theft Auto's 'lose them' system and a strange 'cooldown spot' system, perhaps best described with Assassin's Creed. Think of the cooldown spot like a bench with people sitting on it - you enter this zone in your car and the police should leave you alone.
To me Most Wanted seems like a wishlist of great features - elements Criterion had always wanted to slot into a game. It's still right up there as one of my most anticipated games - and it's the first time I've been convinced that a racing game has a real shot at Game of the Year. I'll be playing it on every platform I can get my hands on.
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