Review by serados
"A highly immersive arcade racing experience"
Wake up to the smell of burnt asphalt as the thrill of illicit street racing permeates the air.
With this sentence, the journey through the underground world of street racing in EA Games' latest offering in the famous Need for Speed series begins. NFSMW is a major graphical update from the previous game in the series, Need for Speed Underground 2. NFSMW takes out the tedious driving around in Underground 2, throws in the cops found in Hot Pursuit, and adds in a whole lot more arcade racing.
The first thing that hits you once you enter your first race is that the graphics have a sepia, slightly faded out look. These stylized images are very different from regular racers. A lot of browns and yellows have been used in the game's design, and if you have played Vagrant Story or seen Final Fantasy 9's Alexandria, that's the type of look NFSMW has. NFSMW stands out from other racing titles because of this. Also, when travelling at high speeds or after a burst of nitrous, the screen gets motion blurred, giving you the impression of tearing through the streets at really high speeds. Another very nice touch was water droplets appearing on the screen as it rains.
NFSMW does not disappoint in the car design aspect as well. The cars are all shiny when viewed in the garage. There is very little pixellation, and the cars look very similar to their real life counterparts. The range of graphical customizability, while falling short of NFSU2, is still huge in NFSMW. NFSMW has over 70 vinyl designs, and three types of paint (Gloss, Metallic and Custom) with different levels of shine, as well as different tyres and rim paint, giving you loads of fun customizing your own cars.
This game is definitely a feast for the eyes and you can almost feel that you are there, right in the car.
NFSMW has you working your way up the Blacklist, 15 of the best street racers in Rockport City, where the game is set. The game has one of the nicest starts in any racing game. You start off recounting what has happened in the past few days, starting from your meeting with racer Ronnie, to your encounter with the head of the Rockport Police's anti-Street Racing Unit Sergeant Cross, and finally to your rigged race with then-Blacklist #15 Razor. You find out that Razor has toyed with your car, causing it to fail halfway through the race, causing you to lose the race and your BMW M3 GTR. You then get arrested - but get released as "you can't prosecute someone for street racing if he has no ride". Now you have to get yourself a new car and storm up the Blacklist to win your car back, ending with a confrontation with Razor, who used your car to attain Blacklist #1 status.
You have to complete several requirements before you can challenge the next racer on the Blacklist, and build up your street cred. "Bounty" is a measure of how credible fellow street racers view you, and acts like your reputation. Bounty is built by taking on the police, who return in this game. You also need to complete "Milestones", such as getting caught by the speed cameras over a certain speed, or immobilizing 10 police vehicles.
Of course, finally, you have to complete some races. There are a multitude of race types in NFSMW. Particularly interesting ones are Lap Knockout (where you cannot afford to be last in any lap, as the last racer to cross the finish line each lap is knocked out of the race, until there is only one racer left) and Speed Trap races (where you race past multiple speed cameras, and the racer with the highest culminative speed wins - with a catch, as once the first racer crosses the finishing line, all other racers' speed totals decrease until they cross the finish line themselves). Drag racing also makes an appearance in NFSMW. Other than these more different races, there's also Circuit and Sprint (getting from Point A to Point B faster than your opponents), as well as Tollbooth (renamed Checkpoint races) races. Police cars may also be encountered while racing, and you have to shake them off after the race before you can return to your safe house.
Once all the requirements have been met, you can challenge the next person on the Blacklist. Usually, it involves two races and you have to win them both. These Blacklist races are the boss battles' of NFSMW, and have a higher difficulty level than regular races. They also make for some thrilling conclusions as you hit the nitrous to speed past your opponent 300 metres from the finish line, and win by a whisker, and the sense of accomplishment that follows puts you on a high.
NFSMW has a large car selection, ranging from imports like the Toyota Supra, Mazda RX-7 and RX-8, to muscle cars like the Ford Mustang and exotics like the Lamborghini Gallardo and Murcielago and Porsche Carrera GTs. You can further upgrade them by buying parts. However, new, better cars and parts can only be unlocked by progressing up the Blacklist, so don't expect a souped up Lamborghini right from the start.
In the race, there are several nifty features you can use. The Speedbreaker slows down time and slides your wheels, with several purposes. I often use the Speedbreaker to round sharp corners in a fancy drift (which looks really nice with the slow-mo and the smoking tyres). Other uses include buying time to break a police roadblock at its weak points, as well as swerving to avoid oncoming traffic.
The police chases which is one of the hallmarks of NFSMW are very well done. Each chase gives you an adrenaline rush, and the transitional zooming-in to the police vehicle looks straight out from a movie. The game pauses, blurs, and the camera moves to the location of the police vehicle. With high visual treatment, the screen takes on a bluish hue as opposed to the normal brownish tones. The police will try to use various tactics to force you into submission, and you get caught when the meter (split into three bars and says Busted on the left and Evade on the right) has Busted completely filled up. To evade, you have to speed through city roads, alleys and race the police vehicles on highways, as well as lure the police vehicles to crash into oncoming traffic. There are various Pursuit Breakers that are destructible environments that crash down in such a way that cars chasing you will be immobilized, and the sight of the famous Donut rolling down and blocking the entire road is referenced in the game itself.
NFSMW is easy to pick up and play, and there is no need to learn any special racing techniques - a true arcade racer with exotic cars. After the career mode is completed, your racing days aren't over. Although there really is no point playing the linear career mode again, there are other game modes to play. The Challenge mode is one of them, where you have to meet the requirements of the challenge, for example, completing a race is less than three minutes. There are over 50 challenges, with the Black Edition having an extra "Black Edition Challenge". Billed as the toughest challenge in the game, you must evade Heavy SUVs on your tail after massing large amounts of bounty. Further, there is online play capability, but I have not been using it much. You can use your career mode car online, and build rep - there is also a Blacklist #15 in the online world, with the 15 best players at the moment. There is also a Quick Race option, which allows you to take to the streets in a route of your choice.
NFSMW sounds superb. The cars' engines produce different sounds when you modify it, and the stock versions in the game sound very similar to the real car. How could I forget the chatter on the police radio? Each time a pedestrian calls the police, you will hear the dispatch radio the cops on patrol to look out for you. They will even call out your car colour and manufacturer over the radio. They will not be able to get an image sometimes, and the dispatch will say that she will call back the witness to get a confirmation on the car's appearance. The police chatter is one of the high points of NFSMW, and it is truly well done.
There is quite a large range of songs that are played in-game. They are mostly metal and hip-hop tracks which fit the style of a generic street racer. However, they get repetitive after some time. I suggest hearing them a few times to get the mood, and when you get tired of the tracks, disable them in the options menu and revert to WinAmp.
- Great graphics
- Highly immersive
- The CARS!
- Police chases give you an adrenaline rush, ditto for those very close Blacklist races
- Repetitive, especially when racing to meet Blacklist requirements
- Not really a lot of replayability after beating the Challenges and Career mode
- Could have used a multi-path storyline
Final Score: 9/10
NFSMW is a very atmospheric game - the graphics, sound and police chatter puts you right in the driver's seat of a car, and you should not miss this experience.
Reviewer's Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Originally Posted: 01/05/06, Updated 01/09/06
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