• Need for Speed Most Wanted is out and will have you racing through Fairhaven trying to beat your friend’s time while simultaneously trying to avoid the cops.  This is Criterion’s latest entry into the Need for Speed franchise and it is another great effort.  I don’t know if it is possible for Criterion to make a bad racing title as they always seem to hit it out of the park.  Autolog makes its return bringing your friends into your game in a world that is totally connected.  There is nothing like racing down a street and seeing a picture of your friend’s avatar because they might have the top spot in a race and then, once you beat their time, it is replaced by your picture and they get to see in their game that you topped their score.  This level of social connectivity will keep you playing for a very long time as you try to be above the rest of your friends and at the top of the Most Wanted list.

    Need for Speed Most Wanted is an open world game.  You can drive any car you want at any time, once you find it in the world.  Each car comes with its set of challenges and races to complete.  Completing (and winning) these events will give you Speed Points (SP) as well as modifications for your car.  Modifications for your car include your tires, nitrous, chassis, body and transmission.  Having trouble with a particular race or event?  Leave it for now and go through other events to acquire tires that work better off-road or a body that can stabilize your car during impacts instead of having you fly into that wall after the A.I. sideswipes you.  Once you earn a modification you are immediately given the option to apply it with a single button press or you can wait until later if you so choose.  You can also change the car you are in at any time.  As you begin to find more and more cars in the world your car list will grow from Alfa Romeo to Ford, Lamborgini, Porsche and much more.  Once you select your car you can either “jump to car” or simply set your destination and let your GPS guide you.  You will want to explore this world as much as possible to find all of the collectibles, cars, billboards to crash through and more.

    As I mentioned above Autolog returns this year and it does an exceptional job of keeping you connect with what your friends are doing within the world of Need for Speed Most Wanted.  As I write this review Autolog is recommending that I race one of my friends and try to take down his time on a specific race.  It tells me what car my friend used to set that time and any modifications he used so that I know what I am dealing with.  You don’t have to use the same car your friend did but if it seems like you can’t beat the time you might want to reconsider the car you are using.  It will even tell you how many times he has played that race over the last day.  The connectivity of the world works in other ways too such as the many billboards you find throughout Fairhaven.  If you drive by a billboard where your friend has claimed the top spot on the leaderboard then it will feature a picture of his avatar.  If you happen to own the top spot then they will see a picture of your avatar in their game.  It is a great way to keep the game competitive if I am racing through downtown and all of a sudden I see my friend’s avatar picture proudly displayed somewhere.  More times than not I hit the brakes on the car and race over to try and claim the top spot for myself.

    There are of course races to go through as well and the “campaign” has you going through different races to earn Speed Points.  Once you earn enough points you will earn the right to participate in a race with one of the Most Wanted cars.  Think of these races as essentially “boss fights” for the game and they come in two parts.  First of all you need to beat the car in an actual race.  Once you cross the finish line in first place you then need to concentrate on taking down that Most Wanted car.  Once you successfully accomplish that you will now be able to drive that car and you will take his spot on the Most Wanted list.  Obviously the goal is to move up this list and become the Most Wanted in the game and amongst your friends.  The Xbox 360 version also features Kinect support where you can control parts of the game with your voice.  If you are engaged in a high speed pursuit (or perhaps you are the one being chased) it is much easier to verbally say a command then it is to take your hands off the controller to push another button and risk crashing into a wall.  It seemed to pick my voice very well and it is a nice addition to the game.

    Then of course there is the multiplayer itself.  When you first start multiplayer you’ll find yourself in Free Drive Online.  You’ll want to quickly change to your preferred car before you get in to any competitions or any challenges.  Everything you do in the game earns you speed points whether you are playing multiplayer or in your own little world with single player.  Criterion has done an exceptional job with the multiplayer.  Once the playlist has begun you follow your GPS and drive to the meet up and wait for everyone to get there.  Everything in the multiplayer mode is a competition.  Getting to the meet-up point first will garner you more points, taking out your opposition you will gain you more points, completing the challenges you are given will gain you more points and so on.  One of the interesting things is that some of the events are team based and some of them are individual.  If you forget what the challenge or task is at any time you can also look down at the ticker on the bottom of the screen and it will remind you what you are supposed to be doing.  It should be noted however that the cars you unlock in multiplayer will stay in multiplayer.  You won’t get to play any of the cars in single player that you unlocked online in multiplayer.

    The development team over at Criterion have done a good job in keeping the online multiplayer full of non-stop action.  The gameplay is set up in SpeedLists – sets of five events designed to challenge you.  You’ll have team races and challenges, speed tests and much more and each event will begin by meeting up at the Meet Up location I mentioned before.  If you are in a game with a bunch of your friends you can also create a custom speed list so that you can experience the multiplayer how you want to.  There are a variety of milestones that you will earn both online and off as you play this game and one of them is different license plates.  You can earn license plates to show off to other players online by completing milestones and other challenges.  Additionally, once you reach level 15 you will be able to edit the eight letter license plate number to make it your very own.

    As far as the complaints I have for this game, well, I really don’t have a lot.  There were a few instances when I thought the A.I. might be a bit overly aggressive, however, I adjusted my strategy accordingly and was usually able to beat the challenge in front of me.  There were a couple of times where my car would crash into a wall even though I thought I had enough room to get through cleanly.  It didn’t happen often and it was a really small space I was racing through but it looked to me like I had enough room and ended up crashing anyways.

    Overall, Need for Speed Most Wanted is another great game by Criterion.  The multiplayer is going to be where a lot of spend most of their attention and I had a lot of fun competing with others.  The way development team approached it felt really fresh and I enjoyed every aspect of it.  In terms of the single player I really enjoyed moving my way up the Most Wanted list and getting a chance to outsmart the cops whenever I could.  I really like how I can simply pause the game and I immediately presented with my Most Wanted list so I can see where I am as well as where my friends are.  Criterion is obviously well known for their Burnout series and in my opinion they brought over a lot of what made Burnout Paradise so great and put it into Most Wanted.  If you are a Need for Speed fan or simply a Criterion fan you really should add this game to your library.  You won’t regret the decision and you’ll be surprised how addictive it can be to try and not only keep pace with your friends but surpass them on all of the leaderboards.  Need for Speed Most Wanted is another great entry into the Need for Speed franchise and I can’t wait to see what Criterion gives us next.

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    The TotallyGN Verdict
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    • An open world that is connected to your friends list.
    • Fluid, non-stop multiplayer action.
    • Some people might have problems with the aggressive A.I.

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    Summary:

    An open world racing title that connects to your friends list which will either highlight your achievements or taunt you because your friends are ahead on the leaderboard.

    [note class=”alignright”]9[/note]
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    • Format: Xbox 360
    • Developer: Criterion
    • Publisher: EA
    • Release Date: October 30, 2012

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