Need For Speed: Most Wanted Xbox 360 Review

The time has come for the next generation of gaming to commence, first to the table are Microsoft, with their Xbox 360 system. The giant of the publishing world, EA have been busy in preparation for the launch of the 360 – providing no less than five launch titles, one of those titles is Need For Speed Most Wanted. Supporting greatly improved visuals and High Definition, Most Wanted is one of the nicest looking racers ever seen. It will have tough competition however, launching along side Project Gotham Racing 3. The fact remains to be seen though, if you have an Xbox or Playstation version of this game, is it worth getting the 360 one? Let’s find out.

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 Xbox 360 version has by far the best frame rate of the lot, although it occasionally stutters in places, not really enough to hamper your enjoyment though, it runs comfortable somewhere around 50 FPS

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 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. One of the biggest improvements in the 360 version are the textures used in the surroundings. Some of the building and the motorway are incredibly detailed. So much so that you can actually see the little cracks and indentations on the roads and on top of that, the Xbox 360 version features hardly any noticeable load times at all, not even saving your game takes that long – it is all a seamless experience.

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. The Xbox 360 version’s FMVs are absolutely breathtaking, far improved from older gen versions. The lighting on the characters’ faces is quality, the muscular work in the faces is also very life like. As is the norm for all 360 games, Need For Speed Most Wanted supports High Definition, in the forms of 720p and 1080i. I reviewed this game using a normal SDTV and I easily noticed the updated visuals, so do not worry, if you don’t have an HDTV, the game will still look beautiful. 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 brake; 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. EA have improved the lobby system for the Xbox 360 online version, it is now much easier to navigate through and on the whole the online experience is a more refined one than in other 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 bites 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.

So the next generation has well and truly kicked off. EA have given as just a glimpse of what is possible with Need For Speed Most Wanted. The graphics are beautiful in everyway, the advanced lighting used, the more detailed textures, improved FMV sequences, EA have made a good effort to pull the stops out for the new console. It has to be asked however, is there enough here in this version to warrant any buying it, if they already have it on an older gen console. It really depends on how much you care about graphics, if you can’t get enough of breathtaking visuals, then I suggest you wait until this game drops in price. Sadly, EA have added no new content to the game whatsoever, it does not bode to well for the future, if all we are going to get are slightly improved ports. If you have picked up and Xbox 360 and are looking for a racer for it, I suggest you give this a try, The graphics are beautiful and the gameplay is fun, if you already won this game however, I suggest you look at Project Gotham Racing 3 instead.

8.0 out of 10