Review by mwmorph

"Great game that needs some more polish"

You start with a semi interactive movie game experience in pretty much the best car in the game. You lose it pretty early though because of a story turn. Then you must work your way up back to the top with some help form Rog and Mia.

Physics: 10/10
Nice blend of real world and arcade physics that dials up in realism as you progress in the game. In the beginning, your car is pretty much glued to the road and you'll never break the tail end loose. It provides a great learning curve. Toward the end, everything ends up as a power slide unless you brake into a corner and tap the accelerator only after you have passed the apex of the curve. Great mix of realism and arcade physics.

Graphics: 9/10
Great implementation of bloom lighting on even Direct X 9.0/Pixel Shader 2.0 technology(I played it on a Radeon 9800xt). Frame rates may seem low but it doesn't vary much and is stable throughout mostly (there is a bug, ill touch up later on). This makes it 100% playable at say 3fps average. The shadows didn't work right for me though. With shadows on low or high, the shadows are horribly blended and pixilated. I just turned it off. The game has shadow maps so if shadows are off, it still looks pretty nice. Everything else was set to high when I played except for anti aliasing at medium and the resolution at 1024x768.

Sound: 9/10
The sound is nice. Engine noises are great and so are environmental noises. The music gets tiring though since it has only 26 tracks, most of which are nu-metal, which is not my favorite genre (think Linkin Park). Very annoying since at the end, you're positively sick of all 26 songs. I think you can use mp3 files on your pc as the soundtrack too so all is not lost. I didn't try that though.

Playability: 8/10
Great variety in race types and challenges. It provides nice action and sense of speed. Nice controls, but drag race is unplayable in Game pad mode. In Need For Speed Underground, it would automatically change the controls to manually shift in Drag mode, but in Need For Speed Most Wanted, you have to either change the controls manual by remapping every time you drag race, or use the keyboard. There just isn't enough buttons on a 2 analog stick, 1 dpad, 4 face buttons, 4 trigger, game pad to map all the keys for drag races and all the other races. You have to choose every other race type or just drag.

Polish: 8/10
You start noticing what's missing as you play the game. If I hit something last lap, it reappears in the original position whole, to be hit again the next lap which is annoying. The first time I found this out, I hit a row of trees again and this slowed me own enough to lose the race. It aslo obscures shortcuts you may have revealed last lap and many times since they are hidden by obstacles, you'll forget about it next lap. Also, there is a serious problem with frame rates about every 45minutes to 1 hour, frames will drop drastically for a few minutes(around 5 minutes), slowing it to a crawl, usually, I get 36fps or so, when this happens, 2-4 fps is the average number. This is obviously distracting and has gotten me busted by the cops and losing races more than once. For the Record, my system vastly exceeds the minimum and recommended requirements. I have 2.4 GHz (3400+ rated) Athlon 64, 1GB ram, 9800xt, 280gigs hard drive space, 100 gigs free. I'm running Windows Xp with Service Pack 2.

Options: 8/10
There are a good number of options, but some are oddly missing. There is no difficulty selector for some reason and the visual upgrades are for the most part too radical and ugly for me. Most of the body kits look horrendous and there really aren't enough cars. No Ferraris, any of the excellent Holden vehicles, no real Jaguars, Hondas, etc.

Drivers AI: 6/10
The AI is a major weak point. It's just bad. Serviceable but still bad. It has the dreaded "Rubber Band AI" of many bad racing titles. If you are ahead, the opponents will speed up. If you are behind the opponents will slow down. This seems like a good idea until you figure out there are no limits to how fast the cars can go. There is no feeling like early in the game, when you hit your top speed of 160mph and a slower car blows by at 200mph at the last leg of the race to take a tight 90* corner at 190mph and win the race. This will happen multiple times. When you slow down though to say, about 90mph, your opponents will slow down as well and drive more erratically also. I have seen cars careen into a barrier halfway down a straightway or barrel right into the back of a truck while you run slowly. Overall the AI is pretty bad at driving.

Conclusion: 8/10
Despite its faults, it's a fun game and deserves a play through. That is if you can get past the shoddy ai and general lack of polish. Give it a try.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.0 - Great

Originally Posted: 12/19/05

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