Need for Speed: Most Wanted Hands-On at E3 2012

Criterion's Latest in the Series Needs More Speed

June 16, 2012 by

Being a huge fan of the original Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit and more recently Need for Speed: The Run, I was pretty excited to see that a new Need for Speed game, a remake of its vastly popular Most Wanted iteration, had been announced at this year’s E3. So excited that in between scheduled meetings, I waited in line an hour to get my hands on the game and check out multiplayer. That excitement quickly fizzled out once I started “racing” against a group of other players in Most Wanted‘s new competitive mode. Never had the title of the series been more fitting. I needed more speed, and I never got it during my time with the game.

The Need for Speed series has become one of the best looking franchises on the market after switching to the Frostbite 2 engine and blowing everyone away last year with its spectacular graphics. Most Wanted picks up where The Run left off in terms of stunning realistic visuals, but plays very differently like a spiritual successor to developer Criterion’s Burnout Paradise by allowing for more freedom across open cities. This is where the latest in the NFS series is at its best, when you’re racing through cities against other cars to a finish line and then forced to make use of the open city after a race in order to ditch an entire fleet of cop cars chasing after you.

While waiting in line for the multiplayer, I actually had fun playing the game’s singleplayer. If you’ve played any of the past three Burnout games by Criterion, then you’ll be happy to see that the developer has seamlessly integrated its trademark cinematic crash sequences into the singleplayer. If you haven’t, brace yourself because they’re a beautiful sight to behold.

Unfortunately, the multiplayer was a very strange experience with Criterion moving away from straight-up racing and focusing on objectives that players must compete to outscore their competition and place highest on the Most Wanted leaderboard list. Instead of just racing and avoiding the cops (a major part of singleplayer) like I had hoped, in the multiplayer we only spent about 50% of the time actually racing, and most of that was just trying to get to meetup points.

The rest involved us competing in annoying tasks like seeing who could get the most air over a jump within a two-minute time limit or coordinating everyone to park their cars on some nearby arches. Like some of the multiplayer objectives in Burnout Paradise, it was completely ridiculous and boring because nobody felt like cooperating.

What’s worse is the system in which players are forced to work together in order to start objectives that then pits them against each other. For example: The game will set a meet up point that everyone must race to, the race rewards players with points based on who gets there first, but then the game throws in a stupid side objective that involves gaining extra points for crashing into other cars in the meetup spot. Since the next main objective can’t start until the everyone is within the meetup area, Criterion thought this would be a good way to help players who come in last rack up some extra points and kill the boredom for those who finish first and sit around waiting instead of racing.

I’m all for crashing cars like in Criterion’s Burnout series and used to love games like Destruction Derby back in the day, but here the idea is just terrible. Because nobody is supposed to leave the small designated meetup area in order to start the next task, players just drive around no faster than 10 mph bumping into one another and “totaling” opponents’ cars for bonus points. I can’t begin to describe how annoying it is when you finish a race in first just to sit around as idiots bump into you repeatedly when you simply want to race and see some real crashes and real destruction. It’s a troll’s dream, because not only can players just grief others by crashing into them, but they can stay outside of the start zone and force everyone else to wait.

Hopefully, Need for Speed: Most Wanted will offer a multiplayer race-only mode for fans who just want to go fast and outrun cops all while side-swiping their opponents and creating massive pileups as I suggested to their lovely PR who asked me what I thought of the game afterwards. The idea of adding objectives to switch up the generic racing is nice and worked in Burnout Paradise as long as you have willing players, but from what I experienced, it turns into one silly task after another and an annoying game of bumper cars before each “race” starts.

If you’re tired of straightforward racers and are looking for a change of pace, Need for Speed: Most Wanted is something you’ll definitely want to check out, but if you’re looking to just race against opponents online, you might want to stick to last year’s The Run. Criterion’s Need for Speed: Most Wanted is set for release on October 30, 2012, for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and PC.