Need for Speed: Most Wanted PS2 Review

Publisher: EA  Developer: Criterion Software  Genre: Racing  Players: 1-8  Age Rating: 12+  

Other console/handheld formats: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PlayStation Vita, Wii U

Whilst we have always held the Need for Speed: Underground games in high regard, we have frequently thought that there was something missing. When going back to play earlier Need for Speed titles (namely the Hot Pursuit games) it’s easy to see what the Underground series so badly lacked, and that’s the people who want you off the road and locked up in a cell! Most Wanted takes the series back to its car chase roots and reintroduces the cops, whilst retaining the formula that EA have built in recent years.

It’s good to have another challenge apart from that of your racing rivals whilst flying through the streets in your “souped” up motors, and the cops present that to you in abundance. The boys in blue are an aggressive bunch and will go all out to make sure your race ends with you in a pair of handcuffs, and will probably drop the key down a drain just for the sake of badness. There’s some good AI on display here, as you find yourself forced into walls and even surrounded by a squad of wailing police cars as soon as they see an opportunity to do so.

Most Wanted isn’t just about racing, it’s also about the thrill of the chase and it’s not surprising to learn that most of these chases take place outside any race events. As a cat and mouse pursuit, it’s very enjoyable and is all a game in its own right. There’s a few neat ideas to be found in any chase, when losing any tail for instance you enter Cooldown mode, and during this period you are able to scarper into a hiding place, granted the law doesn’t notice you as you make haste to the many potential spots handily shown on your radar. The pursuing police cars can also be taken off your hind by bringing stuff down on top of them, which is a useful tactic if the relentless cops start to annoy like an unreachable itch that requires a good scratch.

The career modes opening race ends in disaster as your motor is tampered with, thus becoming a mere shell of the racing car it used to be, and leaving you to eat the dust of the scum responsible. All is not lost though as the guy who put your motor out of commission is sitting proudly on top of the Blacklist and by systematically beating each of the 15 listed rivals you’ll gain your revenge.

To meet any of the rivals on the streets you’ll have to prove yourself beforehand by meeting certain conditions, this includes winning a number of races and completing milestones (hitting certain speeds, smashing through a required number of roadblocks, tagging police motors, enduring chases and then fleeing etc) as well as increasing the amount of bounty on your head. Once all achieved you are seen as capable to go up against the next rival, and when you win you take their place on the list. Simple.

Races are pretty varied. Speedtrap racing has you rushing through certain sections as fast as you can possibly go and hopefully beat your three rivals speeds throughout each section. Tollbooth racing is meanwhile arcade-style checkpoint racing and even regularly forces the police into the equation to slow your speeding vehicle down. Then finally there is the usual lap and drag racing, which both sew things up very nicely indeed.

The racing is fast and smooth and everything is delivered in the customary EA glitz. The car handling is very arcade-like, which keeps things moving without having to learn the ins-and-outs of the technical side of driving, and when the nitrous kicks in your adrenaline may well go into overdrive. It’s all good fun, and just about anyone can pick up and play it in a matter of seconds.

Free roaming the city gives you the opportunity to purchase performance and cosmetic upgrades for your motor with the dirty cash earned from your race wins, and if you are feeling really plush you can buy yourself a brand new car complete with showroom shine. The cityscape itself is nicely put together and tracks are designed in a way, which assures there is never a dull moment to be had apart from on the starting line. There is plenty of sneaky shortcuts to be found and enough room for blurring speed, which really assures that “Need for Speed” moniker.

Need for Speed: Most Wanted is an enjoyable racing title, although not exclusively a racing game, with plenty of heat from the cops also enlivening the games throttle. The street-racing genre has been in existence for quite some time now, and Most Wanted just happens to be one of the best of them, although as an arcade racer it still sits behind the Burnout series for sheer thrills and spills.