Need for Speed: Most Wanted Preview (PS3)

June 7, 2012Written by Paulmichael Contreras

When it comes to racing games, few series have had the continuous success and longevity as Need for Speed. Heck, its first release was three years before the first Gran Turismo. Criterion Games, developer of the popular arcade racer Burnout, was given the chance to create their take on Hot Pursuit, to great success. They’ve now been given the helm for Need for Speed: Most Wanted, and we have our E3 preview for you right here.

Most Wanted could be summed up as a spiritual successor to the genre-busting Burnout Paradise, but it is quite a bit more than that. We were given access to a multiplayer round, which has been upgraded to allow for up to 12 players to group up. You’re in what is essentially Easy Drive from Burnout Paradise, free to drive around the massive city and take out others if you so choose. Once you’re done fooling around, you can head to a “Meet-up” spot with everyone else. Once all people in the “lobby” have arrived, the game picks an event, and in short order you’re off.

The events vary from straight races, to points battles, to longest jump, and more. In most of these events, such as the long jump contest, takedowns play a key role in your victory strategy. If you are taken down while in an event such as this, whatever your best attempt was during the session counts as your final score. So you are left with a couple of choices; do you go for a quick, good score? Or try to takedown other opponents before they can post a decent run? Perhaps you’ll wait it out on the sidelines, and then set up a perfect line and wait until near the end of the event to give it your best shot. However, each of these choices come with their own consequences. If you’ve been taken out before the event ends, you can still take other opponents out of the running once you’ve revived. So although that Mustang barreling towards you may have been knocked out of the contest, if you’re still in the contest you better clear out of the way or take them down before they do the same to you.

Before our multiplayer hands-on, we were shown the basics of the game with a Porsche 991. As the player drove around the city, you could slowly but surely see damage building up on the car as he knocked over light poles, traffic signals, and scraped past traffic. Eventually, he sped right past a cop, which is where the game’s Most Wanted lineage is tied in. Once the chase began, the real action started. Driving offroad, the 991 glided effortlessly over terrain and went airborne several times, hopping over riverbeds and freeways and eventually losing the cops. Mid-chase, however, the driver took a sharp left down a seemingly random alley, to find a hidden super car – in this case a lovely Lamborghini Aventador. By the end of the chase, that lambo looked like it had been through a tornado. One run through a drive-through repair shop, and it was good to go, and the car aficionados in the room began to feel much better.

Now, of course, a BMW coupe drives much differently compared to a Mustang, and so far it seems Criterion has the right idea when considering each car’s handling. Of course, this being the developer of Burnout, the driving is much more arcade than simulation, but this only adds to the game’s fun factor and playability. Graphically, Most Wanted is also one of the most impressive-looking racers Criterion has ever put out. Here’s how the game can play out: The city (or countryside) sprawls out before you, and when you are weaving in and out of traffic at over 100 miles per hour, you can feel and hear it. Cops in your rear view, you hit the nitrous, narrowly miss an oncoming truck, and regain control just in time to drift into an upcoming alley. A few moments later, you’ve arrived in a grassy lot, with a steep hill in the distance. This is your chance to escape the cops, who up until this point have followed you through the streets and up the alley. Launching up to the hill, you build up speed until you’ve jumped clear over a small riverbed. The police are seemingly afraid to attempt the same maneuver, so a few hundred feet later you are in the clear.

This all seems pretty exhilarating, and indeed it is. However, it seems that Most Wanted is going to face a bit of an identity crisis. Besides the addition of cops and licensed cars, the game really feels like an even more polished version of Burnout Paradise. Fans of either series will no doubt be pleased, but a few hardcore fans may be a bit miffed on either side. However, never forget that this is Criterion Games we’re talking about – they know how to made an arcade racer, and make it extremely fun. From what I saw at E3, this game is going to be another great addition to the stable of Need for Speed games.

Need for Speed: Most Wanted will be available on October 30th.