Review by Toad_004
"Most Wanted: A refund from EA."
EA and Criterion made a great game in 2010's Hot Pursuit. Sure, it makes no sense that they didn't just call it Hot Pursuit 3, but it's a great game. It captured what makes Hot Pursuit so fun - Cops, Weapons, Cops, Cars, Cops, and did I say Cops? It truly was a "modern Hot Pursuit". It took the best of the old and the best of the new. So when I heard they were going to make Most Wanted, I'm sure more than a few fans got excited. Most Wanted, generally considered best Need for Speed game of all time, being remade by the same people that made Hot Pursuit? Where do I sign up?!
Obviously, if you read this far I can assume you read the title and know I'm not happy (to say the least) about this product. So how did EA and Criterion manage to mess up Most Wanted? They didn't. They didn't mess up Most Wanted because this isn't Most Wanted. I think Criterion must've mislabeled some games they developed, because this is clearly Burnout Paradise 2: Now with Cops!
So everything you loved about Most Wanted? Gone. Car Customization and winning races to buy new engines to upgrade your car? In this game, upgrades are given out for winning races - there is no money, and there is no store. Furthermore, there are only a few upgrades - the tire choice are "on road" and "off road". Just oversimplified, bullet point options. Forget spending hours in the garage getting your car just right. You can't even choose your car's color. I have more control over the visuals of this text than my car in "Most Wanted".
So how do you obtain new cars if there's no money and no stores? Do you unlock them as in Hot Pursuit, getting gradually better and better cars as you progress through the missions? No. You unlock them by finding them. With the exception of the cars the "bosses" drive (more on that in a minute) all the cars in the game are available right from the start, you just have to find them around the city. In fact, the city is littered with ridiculous collectables lifted from Burnout Paradise such as speed cameras, billboards, and "jack spots" (spots where you find cars). In fact, there are roughly 3 times as many Jack Spots as there are cars in the game, just to give you more pointless crap to find. "Collect-a-thon" type games haven't been in style since the N64 era, yet here we are in 2012 preforming extra fetch quests... in a racing game.
And what of the famous Story from Most Wanted and it's sequel, Carbon? The interesting characters, the backstabbing gangs and the bounty hunter constantly after you? All gone. The "story" here begins with you driving towards the city and a narrator explains that you're trying to become the Most Wanted. That's it. Seriously, that's all there is - that makes The Run look like a masterpiece of storytelling. There are no other characters - no, not even the bosses - the final boss is literally named "Most Wanted #01".
Let's not forget that Criterion apparently stole some design secrets from Zynga - this game constantly badgers you to badger your friends to buy the game. The autolog is here, but unlike the previous 2 games where it was a nice extra to the racing, this game seems to be an extra to the autolog, rather than the reverse. You are annoyed by the game to add your friends to such an extent that you might as well be playing Farmville EA, if we wanted to play a "Social Game" (PR speak for "Bad Single-Player") we'd go on Facebook.
But what of the actual events? Well, before you start an event you need to drive to it. That's right - it's just like Most Wanted... if it lacked the "Jump to Event" feature. You need to have played an event once before you can jump to it. EA tried every trick in the book to pad their game, didn't they. At least the game gives you a way to set your destination, so you know where you're going. Every car has 5 events set up to it. But when you realize there are 40 something cars and only 60 something events, you realize that yes, EA wants you to race the same events again, that you have already defeated, using a different car.
Once you actually get there (if the cops don't stop you) there are five different events it can be - Circuit Race, Sprint Race, Ambush, Speed Run, and "Most Wanted" (Boss). The races are Burnout style - with takedowns and crashes. The races aren't as fun as Burnout Revenge or Hot Pursuit because of one mistake - the racetrack. There are checkpoints on the course to tell you where to go, but it can be quite easy to get lost during a race. Keep in mind that in these races, crashing costs you a few seconds, but a wrong turn can assure you last place. What happened to the "arrow barrier" present in every other Need for Speed and Burnout title? It only shows up when it wants to. Yes, it's in the game, but it's not on every turn. It's like they didn't even finish the game yet.
Ambush is simply escaping the cops - the longer the chase goes on, the more the cops bring on - such as spike strips, SUVs and eventually, SWAT team vans that are literally invincible. The cop chases are actually pretty well done, and are one of the few bright spots present within this gaming experience. Taking down cops can help you escape, but that also causes your heat to jump much faster. They are basically like the ones found in Hot Pursuit, although things don't get quite as crazy here (no EMPs for you). But the immersion of the chase is ruined if the cops actually manage to catch you - there is no penalty for being busted.
Speed Run is thankfully not the dreaded time trial events that have plagued both Burnout and Need for Speed for ages (those are actually absent! FINALLY!) but more like the movie Speed - you are graded based on your average speed throughout the course. If we must have an event in our racing games where we compete without other cars present, this is about the best you can have.
And finally we have the Boss events. It's you vs. one of the 10 "Most Wanted" drivers - you need to defeat them in a 1 vs 1 race, then get a take down on them, all while avoiding high-heat cops (those cops sure want to arrest the dreaded "Most Wanted #04" so they can not punish them at all). It's actually a pretty fun event - why they have so few of these in the game I'll never know. If you manage to win the race and takedown the boss, you'll unlock their car. It's awesome, but it leaves you wondering why can't you unlock ALL the cars this way, rather than darting randomly around the city hoping to run into them.
The sad fact here is that EA and Criterion might've actually made a pretty good game if they took out all the padding - sure, it wouldn't be Most Wanted, but it would be a well-designed game. The Races, Cop Chases, and other fun events would be fantastic if they stood alone. There is fun to be had within this game, but it's buried under mountains of tedious collecting, "Social" pestering, and events you need to drive to. It's the equivalent of me adding another 5 pages to this review, but there's nothing but gibberish on them.
Reviewer's Score: 3/10 | Originally Posted: 12/07/12
Game Release: Need for Speed: Most Wanted - A Criterion Game (Limited Edition) (US, 10/30/12)
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