E3 2012 Hands-On: Return to ‘Paradise’ in Need for Speed Most Wanted

Back in 2010, EA rebooted one of the most prolific racing franchises the gaming industry had ever seen, Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit. They even entrusted that franchise to Burnout creator’s Criterion. It was one of the best arcade racing games that I had ever played. I know when Criterion made the move to Need for Speed from Burnout, many fans (including myself) were upset because there was no chance that we would see a Burnout Paradise 2. Well, it seems that fans will get their wish, just in a different skin.

At first glance, the easiest way for me to describe the new Need for Speed Most Wanted, is that is pretty much the NFS franchise set in the world of Burnout Paradise. Visually, Criterion has revised the game engine from Hot Pursuit and has made the world of Most Wanted pleasing to look at. One of the first things you’ll notice making its return, is the Autolog from Hot Pursuit.  For those that don’t know, Autolog was a social networking type of system that EA implemented allowing players to see different achievement’s and challenges on their player “wall.” If a friend happens to beat your time or score on a particular challenge, you are notified, which then heightens competitiveness to try and beat the new benchmark.

This time around, it has been greatly improved, as it tracks almost every piece of stat possible. From time spent evading cops to who has the most takedowns, Autolog records and compares it to everyone on your friends list. Obviously, with this comes leaderboards and Most Wanted has lots of them. Just because you may not be the best racer, doesn’t mean you might not make it on the leaderboards. You can have anything from the longest jump to the biggest air, Most Wanted has you covered.

Different from Hot Pursuit, is that you don’t play as the cops at all, it’s the law-breaking racers all the way. When you enter the world, it may seem a bit ominous at first, but you’ll soon realize that winning races isn’t everything. You earn points for everything, doing donuts, takedowns and getting air to name a few.

Driving around is pretty standard compared to previous titles, and car control hasn’t really changed. The biggest change actually comes from the multiplayer. In Hot Pursuit, after each race you went back to a lobby having to wait for the next race. And if you wanted to change the gametype, forget about it, you would have to start a new lobby and wait for people to file in. In Most Wanted, they have updated this into what they call the PlayList System.

All racers that are in the game must go to a “Meet Up” point that is indicated on the mini-map as well as labeled in the distance in large letters.  Events won’t start until all players make it to the Meet Up, but if you’re one of the few to get there before anyone else, it’s open game for takedowns, etc. This will add to your overall score that is being tracked on Autolog. Once all players get to the meeting point, an event begins. Events range from basic racing to trying to catch the most air on a jump.

Once an event is over, instead of going back to a lobby, another Meet Up point is designated and after that, a new event starts. In our playthrough, there was about 7 different events queued up, which definitely keeps players focused on the game. Once all the events are over, point totals are tallied and a winner is named.

Another thing I noticed, is that you have the ability to eliminate opponents from events. What I mean by that is, let’s say you’re in a race and you finish at a higher position. You can turn around and try to do takedowns against the other players that have not finished. On an event where you had to get the longest jump, taking down other players will eliminate them from event, giving you a better chance to earn more points. Obviously this will make players not only work on their offense, but their defense as well.

The game is looking very promising and with how well Hot Pursuit did, I think Criterion has another winner on their hands. Need for Speed Most Wanted drifts into stores on October 30th for Xbox 360, PS3, PS Vita and PC.

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