I remember playing Need For Speed: Most Wanted at E3 and being incredibly afraid for the life of my scraped up Ford Mustang. I’d just finished competing with several other racers for the longest jump off of a ramp and had come out with the third highest score; the thing was, the guys who held the scores above me had been taken out and I’d be the winner if I survived. Soon after realizing that, I was rocketing across the glistening sunlit pavement of Most Wanted’s open world, crashing through fences and e-braking around corners as the timer ticked down and the surviving racers tore after me. They succeeded, but a flashing notification on the screen told us to race to the next meet up spot for our next event, a two-team race to the finish with bonus points for taking out other racers.
And that’s the short version of what famed Burnout developer Criterion’s take on Need for Speed: Most Wanted is like.
Criterion’s definitely continued on their way from 2010’s Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit in terms of making the NFS series their own. Like in Criterion’s Burnout Paradise, there aren’t any online lobbies or mission select screens; up to twelve players mingle and crash in the same city, with “meet up” events letting players know when the next challenge will start. Also, unlike the floaty and super responsive feel of the vehicles from Burnout games, the Ford Mustang I tried out during the hands on session had a very heavy feel to it, and I still couldn’t get the hang of e-braking around corners by the end of the demo. The full version of the game will purportedly have minor adjustments, like suspension, that will tweak how each car handles and interacts with the road and the other cars, be they heavy muscle cars or peppy sport rides.
Criterion said that the open world will have its own tidbits hidden for players. In addition to the familiar tropes of crashing though ‘x’ amount of gates and billboards, Most Wanted will have things like hidden cars (such as a Lamborghini) tucked into nooks and alleyways to add to the roster.
The game feels like it’s near its completion. The framerate never dropped a hitch during the whole demo. True to the developer’s track record (that pun was an accident, really), the crashes had a great crunch sound and split-second slo-mo camera to them that made me wish they were able to demolish those fancy licensed cars the same way Burnout cars used to practically fold in half. Oh well. All the same, it looks like I might get back into arcade racing if Criterion continues to make good on the big promises that Need for Speed: Most Wanted makes.
Check back closer to the October release date when we’ll have more.