Need For Speed Most Wanted PS2 Review

As we enter the month of December it is nearly time for the festivities to commence. Christmas will soon be with us. Almost as regular as Christmas these days is the Need For Speed series. Having topped the Christmas charts for the past two years with their Need For Speed Underground series, EA return this year, looking to repeat previous success with the newest instalment in the Need For Speed series – Most Wanted. Most Wanted sees the series returning to its roots, back to the good old days of cop bashing. EA will no doubt hope their new baby does well, and it is hard to see it not. Being released across six different platforms, including a special limited ‘Black edition’, which features some extras, like more cars. Surely only a brave, or really stupid, man would bet against it doing well. In last year’s version, EA went down the road of a more story-oriented game, which obviously featured racing, but mixed with a story – which consisted of you racing various people, while hooking up with your lady friend, Brooke Burke. Much of this is present in Most Wanted, but EA have simplified the story mode, making it nice and easy to see what you have to do. With various other racing games currently on the market, like the Burnout series, which focuses on sheer speed and destruction, and the Midnight Club series, which is all about pimping your ride, EA have borrowed different elements from other games in order to create their own series. With Need For Speed Underground 2 having sold over seven million copies, Most Wanted has a lot to live up to.

Most Wanted, like its predecessor, is set in the underground which is made up of lots of silver coloured buildings and neon lights. New for Most Wanted is the ability to visit rural areas, in particular golf courses. The views in Most Wanted are rather good. I often found myself staring into the skies. It is nice to see that the game features good draw distances, as not only is it important for all the scenery nearby, it would not be much of a racer if you could not see in front of you. The sense of speed is good, not on the level of Burnout of course, but you do get the sense of travelling quickly. This happens visually with the aid of some lines moving at the back of the car, giving the impression that it is blurry as you are moving such a speed. Important to every racer is its frame rate and I am happy to report that Most Wanted has a steady frame rate. The Playstation 2 has the worst frame rate of all, but it is still locked at 30 FPS , the Xbox and PC are obviously the quicker versions of the game, with the Gamecube also being quite nifty.

The game features some impressive lighting, especially at night where the reflections can be easily seen on the bonnet of the car, or when the rain is splashing down. Some of the graphical effects are also impressive; you can easily see the details of grooves on each car tyre, and the slight indentations in the bumper. The textures used in the game are also of high quality, the cars in particular have been given a lot of work, and each one is beautifully detailed down to the last lick of paint (don’t lick paint, by the way, it tastes bad). The textures are also high quality for the majority of surroundings, such as the overlooking skyscrapers, or the golf course. Some of the textures used on the carriageways can be a little bland and fuzzy, but how many people really pay attention to the motorway while playing? The load times of the game are very impressive, especially given how much the game has to render and load before levels. There are not even any during the change of cities. Load times are almost not there in the Xbox and PC versions, with the longest times being caused by saving your progress.

During the story mode, the game uses some very stylish FMV sequences to fill in the story. During the FMV sequences, the characters do look very life-like; with faces sometimes appearing as if they had been stuck onto animated bodies. Another nice graphical effect occurs just before a race starts. As the screen loads up the progress, all the city and backdrop appear to drop into screen from above, followed by the car. As the loading sequence finishes, the finished picture then becomes the actual scene, taking you into the beeps at the start of the race. Overall, Need For Speed Most Wanted impresses in the graphical area, with EA using some impressive techniques in order to implement the real life feel.

The gameplay in Most Wanted is essentially the same as featured in the Underground series. The main change comes in the story mode, in which EA have added depth to while following similar lines to that of Underground 2. The game also controls identically to Underground 2, with the right analogue stick acting as the accelerator and brake. Pushing up accelerates, while back brakes and reverses. If that is uncomfortable for you, you can also use the ‘X’ to accelerate and the Square button to brake and reverse. The left analogue stick is used to control the direction in which you drive in. The Triangle button is used to gain a view of behind you, while the ‘O’ button is used for a slow braker. Pressing it slows down your car, allowing you to make hard turns quite simply. The L2 and R2 buttons are used to shift up and down gears. R1 is used for the handbrake, while L1 is used for nitro.

The career mode sees you trying to become one of the big weights down on the street. It begins with you racing some hotshot known as Razor, after he has tampered with your car, so that you lose the race. Razor takes your car and leaves you without a ride. Enter Mia, a nice young lady that hooks you up with a new car, and a way to get back at Razor. This consists of the main career mode known as ‘Blacklist’. The Blacklist is made up of the top 15 drivers in the underground; these people stand in the way of you having a shot at Razor. To be able to race each one, you must first fulfil a set number of tasks. These tasks involve races and milestones. Milestones are different objectives, such as destroying police cars, or avoiding a police pursuit. The number of things needed to do in order to unlock the racer gets bigger the higher up the Blacklist you go. Once unlocked, in order to defeat the Blacklist racer, you must beat them in at least two different races. If you manage to do that, you will then be allowed to pick two tokens from six, at the end of the game. Three tokens allow various upgrades for your car, while the others are random ones, that could either be cash, get out of jail tokens, or even the car of the racer you beat. Once beaten, the car is unlocked for you to buy, just in case you failed to pick the correct token. As in the previous game, you can still select random races on your map, and can visit the shop to purchase new upgrades and looks for your cars. In Most Wanted, you also have a new option known as the ‘safe house’. This is your home in the city, it’s where you get all the info you need on the Blacklist, and what challenges you must complete in order to unlock Blacklist racers. It is by far a better story mode than last year. However, it can be repetitive with all the challenges and races.

As mentioned earlier, the other big addition to Most Wanted is the return of cops. They feature heavily in the game, especially in milestone challenges, where they are directly involved. After attracting the attention of the police, a bar at the bottom appears. This judges how far you are between being busted and free. As you draw away from the cops, your bar will slowly fill towards free. Once it is full, you will then enter a cool down period, in which you have lost the police. Once the cool down bar is full, you have completely evaded the police presence. If you are pursued for a long period of time, a ticker will appear at the bottom, and when this reaches zero, more cops will be on your tail, making it harder to escape. If you are busted by the cops, you end up in the station where you either need cash or a get out token to be free. If you have no money, your car will be impounded. The game also features other usual race types; drag, tollbooth etc. It also features an online gaming in the Playstation 2 and Xbox versions.

As you would expect with a game set against an urban backdrop, the EA Trax is heavily influenced by R’n’B and Hip Hop. The majority of the tunes are easy listening, with some providing a nice laidback atmosphere to the stresses of trying to win. Some of the tracks can become annoying, especially with the hard beats. When playing, I prefer to have some music on over the top and the game sound turned down. As with every racer, the game employs a lot of sound effects, from tyres screeching to the sound of crashes. EA have done a good job in this department; all the effects sound very life-like. The voice acting in the game is also quality work. Some of the male characters can be a little cheesy in the things that they say, but for the majority of the time are mostly fine. The hot lady Mia is well acted, and she tends to help you out a lot with her sound bits of advice.

Most Wanted has the ability to last for a fair while. Even if you only complete the Blacklist story, that is a good 15 hours or so of gaming. Whether you will want to depends though. The game can be hugely repetitive, as it can take an age to progress up the Blacklist. The majority of the races and milestones are easily beaten; some are just very boring. It is a shame EA did not add more depth to this, as it is the one blight on a very well thought out and constructed story mode. If you complete the Blacklist and are still looking for things to do, you can compete in the various other races, which are waiting for you out on the world map. You can spend time trying to raise the funds to purchase all of the cars in the game. You may also waste an hour or two in upgrading your car, whether it is the performance or the design. If you have broadband, you can take advantage of the online part of the game, which features many of the multiplayer modes in the main game. Most Wanted is not a quick experience, and the time taken for the Blacklist will be enough for most.

Need For Speed Most Wanted is definitely the best entry in the series. EA have taken an already solid game and tuned its gameplay and graphics slightly. All the changes in the game are for the better. The improved story mode, the return of the police and the improved city. EA will no doubt have a winner on their hands again. If you are wondering, whether you have space for another racer, between games like Burnout and Project Gotham Racing. I would say you do; Need For Speed Most Wanted takes parts of each game and fuses it all together, to create something different from the others. If you are a racing fan, you will no doubt be checking this out. If you are new to the racing genre, this could be right down your street. An easy difficulty level, together with simple controls makes it the perfect choice for newbie racers. Whatever your situation, I encourage you to give this a go.

8.4 out of 10

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