Need For Speed: Most Wanted
If there is one thing I have consistently needed throughout my entire life: it must have been speed. Obviously, I am not the only one because street-racing boomed over the last few years. Luckily Mia, the sexy girl who gives you a helping hand in this NFS-episode, reminds us to always wear a seat-belt. Okay, because she smiled so sweet, looked so sexy and because I always do anyhow, let’s listen to the lady. Telling me to keep the racing within the game however, isn’t something I am prepared to do now that I tasted a real sense of street-racing in a power-tuned ride. She doesn’t mean what she says anyhow because for the rest of the cut-scenes her body language speaks for it self: “if you are a fast, reckless driver you’ll get to fuck good-looking girls like me.” That only means one thing though: it is a realistic story! Every racer I met had a lovely looking, sweet and supporting girl on his side and they all enjoyed it just as much as their lovers. Naturally, I know that it is all about looks but that is part of the show and besides, keeping up appearances is key in every social group.
So, does that mean the story is okay? Well, it is quite rudimentary: your not so honest opponent tampered with your mechanics so you lost the race and your ride which was at stake. Unable to flee from the cops, you get busted and lose everything … everything but the friendship of a mighty-fine looking woman called Mia. She is waiting for you at the police-station and hooks you up too so you can start battling your way up a blacklist until you have enough ‘rep’ to win your ride back and get even. All in all, that is very standard and it doesn’t keep me motivated for more than an hour each time. I had appreciated some variation like you being a getaway driver or being falsely accused of murder so you have to shake the police off your tail in an epic chase across various states but no, it has to be The Fast And The Furious once again. However, I guess that will work very well for most of its fans for which this game is just an extra way to live their way of live.
Unfortunately, Most Wanted leaks innovation like a thirty-year-old pick-up truck. If you peel off its skin, you’ll find out that it doesn’t play that different from the two Underground-series. In fact, they just applied the Hot Pursuit basic concept (car-chases in exotic, day-time locations) onto the Underground-engine (free-roaming world, tuning, talk-the-talk). In fact, they could have just called it NFS:Above Ground because this game does not deserve to be presented as if it is a new one. Agreed, having to loose the cops after you’ve won a race adds an extra dimension to the game but all in all that doesn’t really change the gameplay-mechanics to drive a car.
The graphics haven’t improved spectacularly although I must admit that once you’re driving everything goes so fast that the scenery does look quite smooth and the cars always do look terrific too. Although I cannot really blame the game for its looks on the ever aging PS2, I did expect more from it, probably because they kept releasing Xbox360 screens and movies. The console does have enough power to put an entirely different complexion on the game but after all, I remain convinced that graphics can never make or brake game. So, don’t get me wrong: MW does look mighty good after they squeezed the last drop out of the PS2 but it is still no match for the powerful, new machines and that got me thinking. If you are planning the purchase of a next-gen, then perhaps you might want to save this game for then.
In the end however, the gameplay remains the same. As I said, there are some interesting new modes and the core mechanics are elaborated just as good as any previous NFS but not much better and it certainly is not as innovative as some of its predecessors. I must admit that it all works but it does not have anything to keep it going. It’s very much like with a movie: if it exists out of one explosion or chase after the other, the audience will get bored rather quickly. If on the other hand, they were smart enough to work it up to several climaxes and a big, surprising end, eyes won’t wonder off for a second. And it’s not that I don’t like some good old arcade action but flooring it down all the time just isn’t all that fun anymore. Choosing a good breaking-point, sliding into the corner and putting the pedal down again halfway through is so much more exciting and above all more satisfying than sliding across fast lanes at two-hundred miles an hour. According to me that is its fatal flaw: you don’t create a thrilling lasting sense of speed by giving somebody five-hundred horse-power on a wide-open, six-lane road. And even when you leave the highway and drive into town, every 90° degree corner seems to have a big triangle of pavement which you can use to cut through it at high speed. To put it simple: a little bit more of Gran Turismo needs for driving-skills would have made the game more attractive and challenging.
All that mountain-biking taught me one thing: going downhill on a fragile bike, which make you vulnerable ass well, at a speed of thirty-five miles an hour with the knowledge there might be a big rock or tree around the next bent, gets my adrenaline-level sky-high every time over again. However, driving back home in a powerful car at a constant rate of hundred-twenty miles an hour, becomes just as boring as doing Christmas-shopping, in under five minutes.
Perhaps I am a bit negative because Most Wanted does have all the features to be a magnificent game: a lot of modes, decent music and surround-sound, adequate graphics, working gameplay, beautiful cut-scenes, … but it just feels as if they took an sixty-year-old prostitute and spent a few millions of plastic surgery on her so she looks as if she is in her twenties again. Okay, they may get her to look like that but she won’t ever fuck you like a teenager again. Wait a minute, this is going the wrong way here. The looks of a young woman combined with the experience of an old tart, that might just be the everything you could ever dream of. Hmm yes, so unlike some wines, women or movies, games don’t get better as they age. You’ll still have to go on to the following conclusion if you want to read a working concluding metaphor.
It is as if the devs kept adding new chewing-gums in their mouth over the years until they reached HP2. They started a new bubble-gum to kick off with the Underground-series and gave the first ball of gum some time to rest. Once that only the basic residues remained, it was small enough for the developers to chew both balls together: result a nice, big mix on which you can chew endlessly but without a real intensive boost of new flavours that won’t stay fun for long. Obviously, for those of you who haven’t had a taste every time the gum got bigger, NFS:MW will feel like a little piece of heaven. Hardcore gamers on the other hand, won’t be to excited about this latest adition to the series because, altough it is a very decent game, it primarily focuses on a non-gaming audience which doesn’t mind/know that it is not as new as they suggest.