Posted on November 6, 2012 AT 09:47am
The Need For Speed franchise has new drivers behind the wheel. Criterion Games, late of the Burnout franchise, have taken control of these cars, and it definitely shows in a game that’s more Burnout Paradise than Gran Turismo. Does a Criterion-produced Need For Speed combine the best of both worlds, or is it a off-track diversion from a franchise with a long history of it’s own?
Need For Speed: Most Wanted brings Criterion into the fold, and with it, much of it’s Burnout-stylized gameplay, which is all very simple. Driving through an open city, you can start races or other challenges to earn points and upgrades. There’s no story to bog you down, very few menus to interact with, only the open road (and a controller, or steeling wheel) lies in front of you.
Kinect controls are primarily vocal based; instead of having to take your left thumb off the analog pad (steering, obviously) to move to the d-pad to control menus, you can tell your Kinect to “Open, next, next, confirm” for placing route marks on your GPS or to start missions, upgrade your car, and the like. It basically replaces the d-pad in a game where you want to keep your thumb on the wheel, but at the same time, it’s such a slower and unnecessary diversion when you could just crash a car into a wall (no real problem with that when you’re not in an actual competition) and control it with the d-pad slightly quicker. If anything, Kinect’s super-sensitive nature will pick up audio commands when you’ve not explicitly given any, such as if you’re watching a show while racing. The Limited Edition also offers “four hours of double speed points” and early access to two cars,
If you’ve played Burnout Paradise, many of the concepts in this game will ring (or honk, as is the case) familiar. You drive around a massive open world (to the extent of openness a car can enjoy; hit the water and you’ll drown, drive onto something intended by the programmer and the same happens) to certain intersections, where you’ll spin your wheels to start a race or challenge. Progression is point-based, garnering points every time you finish a race, take down a competitor, run through a checkpoint, defeat a rival, smash a billboard, and so forth. Everything in the game seems to warrant a point, even outside of the actual races, leading players to dilly-dally around town completely avoiding the actual missions. It’s fun and beneficial to explore as such, finding signs, gates, and brand new cars for the ride. Every once in a while you’ll be seen by the cops, and be quickly put in pursuit. Cops can defeat you by takedowns or, simply, surrounding you for an extended period of time.
Does the game control well? Of course. A good decade and a half into the 3D racing genre, and things are primarily bolted down; gas, brakes, nitrous… if you’ve played a race game, you know how it handles, even if you’ve never mastered drifting. That’s part of the game’s problem; if you took out the GUI from this and many other modern racers, you wouldn’t be able to tell one from another. The visuals and audio are all amazing, but don’t stand out in any particularly style or fashion. It’s as realistic as the game can look in this day and age with this hardware. Everything is accurate, from the cars appearance to the sheen of water on the road, and rarely will you see repeated items, but then it’s limited to intentionally-repetitive things, like speed cameras, billboards, and such. Blur added Mario Kart-like action items to the car racing field (and having a notable neon glow to everything), Burnout added the large modern worlds (eschewing the typical race tracks of past). It’s disappointing, but Need For Speed: Most Wanted covers no new real ground, as almost evidenced by it’s name: it’s the second Need For Speed: Most Wanted in the past decade. Online multiplayer consists of hopping into a world with friends or random strangers, and taking on tasks of the moment. Connectivity is nice in that you’ll see your face (or your friends) on signs and such, depending on who’s done the best action in that area, such as hitting the sign the fastest.
Is the game fun, solid, well-built? There’s not a single flaw found in what’s presented. The problem is that the game doesn’t offer much new to the table; it’s a generically visualized, competently done, racing games, and not the only one out there. If you’re looking for a new map to race a bevy of new cars across, you’re set, but if you’ve not been a fan of the genre before, nothing will sway you to the title.
The Good: The gameplay is solid.
The Bad: Nothing really new is brought to the table.
The Ugly: Stagnation
Score: 7 out of 10
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