Need for Speed is probably one of the best known and most successful racing game franchises in existence. But is that recognition deserved? With the early games I would say yes; they were new and clever and fun, but what about now? Last year Criterion Games released the newest NFS installment: Need for Speed Most Wanted. And I was not impressed.
I’ll start off kindly, though, as there were some things that I actually liked about it. First, the world and vehicles. Is this not gorgeous? The lighting (I’m a bit obsessed with lighting) is beautiful, I love the water on the roads, and areas such as Hughes Park are fantastic. Lovely.
I also liked the controls. It was nice that the acceleration button was a trigger rather than X (though it definitely took me quite awhile to adjust to it. I haven’t played a NFS since either the first or second so there’s a very good chance this is really old news). It was nice to be able to better control my speed, so props for that. It served my purpose in the game well (I’m not a constant speed demon). I also for the first time felt like I really enjoyed drifting. It worked well, felt fluid, and if you had the right vehicle, was quite a lot of fun.
There were two things I enjoyed about racing: the fact that you could get to your destination by any means rather than being forced to use a “track” and how fluidly you went back to just driving around town after races.
BUT…now for the not so good.
I really wish there had been a garage. It felt kind of weird that you had to either drive or “jump” to the location of your cars. I mean, if they’re your cars why haven’t you taken them to your place to keep them safe? Aren’t you afraid the other racers will nick them? It’s not like your opponents are the noblest of people…
My next gripe concerns multiplayer. If this is a bloody racing game, why the hell can I not race my friends at home? You mean I have to race against another person on another console? But what if I want to race my friends or siblings or anyone else who happens to be over at the house? This is what I was most looking forward to! I’m half hoping that someone will rage at me that I’m a blind idiot for not seeing that option, because I simply can’t believe this wasn’t included.
In Driver 2 I loved that the vehicles had turn signals. Go ahead, laugh. But it added so much more realism and was helpful when an NPC was about to turn and you’re flying down the road. Wouldn’t it be nice if, rather than randomly turning out in front of you, they used a turn signal to give you at least some heads up? Yeah. That might have saved me from a couple nasty crashes…
Speaking of crashes, this is one of the aspects of the game that I was most unhappy with. Are there no consequences in this game? I mean obviously if you lose a race or challenge there are consequences there, but what is the point of being busted by the cops? Sure, you lose out on Speed Points but…meh…big deal. Additionally, what is the point of wrecking your car to the point that they show you just how epically awful it was? I get that the wrecks slow you down a bit, but it didn’t feel like enough to ever be that much of a hindrance. My biggest complaint is when you combine wrecks and police chases. How is it that if you get wrecked and the cops close in on your car you’re not automatically busted? I mean come on, how are you getting out of that? It felt like it was harder to evade the cops, not because the difficulty had been increased, but because when you lost it didn’t recognize it as such.
Call me a killjoy, but I like consequences in games. Proper consequences. Particularly when you’re taking part in delinquent activity in the first place. It feels like once again games are catering to the sort of people who just can’t lose. You’re risking yourself big time to take part in street racing, why aren’t there suitable consequences to reflect that? And I know, I know, “Nobody plays NFS for STORY so STFU!” To which I ask, “Why not?” Why can’t there be an interesting story involved, a good backstory for your character, and a chance for the other racers to be more than just cars to beat? If you want to only run around racing, I’m sure there could be a feature that allows you to do nothing but race your friends or the game. If, like me, you get a kick out of wandering the map and tricking the police (though in this game that’s hardly difficult), there could be a setting just for that as well. Why put limitations on a game when a little more work could make it more interesting to more people? What’s more, why even bother pretending you have a story at all when you could easily scrap story all together and just have the game be a series of races with better and better rewards?
Finally: micro-transactions. This game is not free. Unless you’re renting or buying secondhand, you’re spending a pretty decent chunk of money. If in addition to that you want to get additional content, that’s up to you and there’s a shop button in the menu. But me? I don’t want to see cars in the game that I can’t have unless I shell out extra cash. I don’t want to see a zone on my map that I haven’t been to yet, get there, and realize that I have to purchase DLC to be able to get access. You want to put places and cars and new races in your shop? Cool, perfectly fine with that. But you cross the line by putting them into my game. Quite frankly it’s rude. You could maybe get away with this in a free to purchase and free to play game. After all, people haven’t already given you their money. But this is different. I’ve paid you once, and that’s all I need to do. You want to remind me on occasion that the store exists via messages when you start up the game, that’s fine. But blatantly putting things in the world and then telling me I need to go buy them? Nope. Not okay with that one bit.
Ultimately Need for Speed Most Wanted is a pretty good racing game if you just want to smoke rubber. As a brainless activity it’s great, and it’s fun. But if you’re expecting anything else out of it, you’re going to be disappointed. It’s not particularly difficult, there’s very little sense of achievement, there’s even less risk, and ultimately it’s kind of dull after prolonged playing. 6/10