TITLE: Need for Speed : Most Wanted
DEVELOPER: EA Canada
DATE RELEASED: November 15, 2005
NUMBER OF PLAYERS: 1-2
XBOX SYSTEM LINK: No
XBOX LIVE COMPATABLE: Yes
HDTV Support: 480p/720p/1080i
In-Game Dolby Digital: Yes
PLATFORM: XBOX360, XBOX, PS2, PSP, GC, DS, PC, GBA
ESRB: T (Teen)
Retail Price: $59.99
Achievement level reached: 1000/1000
I'm a developer with 8 years experience, the first 5 being on racing games (tho not exclusively). I love them and I play them a LOT. In the NFS series I played them ALL except NFSU2 which I have but Burnout 3 eclipsed it at the time and never lost its draw.
It looks and sounds amazing, I played in 1080i on a big screen with an AC3 setup and its definitely worth it. The cars look as you'd expect, very nicely rendered with nice normal mapping, environment mapping and lighting that doesn't look out of place or superfluous to the rest of the scene.. The scenery, while not as high poly or detailed texture wise as the cars, also looks brilliantly rendered. The post effects and environmental effects such as sun glare & bloom add a lot to the overall look and gel in nicely if a little overused.
The world is huge, some of the races are 15+ game miles long and take 6/7minutes for a lap. This pleased me no end as many previous games have shirked on the circuit length in order to fit things in memory. NFS:MW gets around this by streaming the world in on the fly (we'll get back to this later). The effect is a vast world to explore with seemingly no dead ends due to invisible boundaries (there might be some; I didn't find any).
The cars handle brilliantly, obviously I don't know how they handle in real life but I can tell you they feel solid and very different. By the end of the game I had 8 cars with stats in the top 95% of the allowed range and all felt very different to race with. The Gallardo stuck out as a winner for my style of driving but I've spoken to many people who disagree and love the C6. The effect of speed is fantastic and is brought home with a bang the first time you use the NO2. Like the previous games in the series they got it right here.
The UI & movies have a very clean and stylized art style which remains solid throughout; there’s never a point when a menu looks tacked on for 360 which highlights the fact that. More specifically the movies are posterised live action overlaid into game engine to great effect, it works for me and definitely offers more of a gel between cut scenes and game whilst successfully avoiding the uncanny valley look that game engine movies often create.
The police chases added enormously to the game play to the point where I spent several hours in the beginning simply racing around as fast as possible inciting a chase whenever possible - ah naivety is so cute (we'll get back to this later). I felt that making police chases an integral part of the game was a decision well made and adds a plethora of replay ability simply from a hindsight point of view - how much bounty will you get early on if you play a second time?
The racing itself, while good, never offered much of a challenge to me, I am a veteran of racing games and this seemed dummed down somewhat to the point where over the entire game I didn't restart more than 5 races and those I did restart were down to driver error not AI dominance. I would have liked more of a challenge in this area. Of course there is a balancing act here in that the milestones you have to hit before you may progress in the game definitely were a challenge to the point where I hated them later in the game. The fight (and it was a fight) to get from 3rd place to challenging the final guy was long and arduous. On several occasions I simply gave up only to return with new steele later and still fail... getting from 15th to 3rd too about 10 hours. Getting from 3rd to finishing the game took about 20hours and a LOT of blood and sweat. This would have to be my chief complaint about the game. The latter milestones were simply too hard, too long and required an element of luck unbecoming to a game of skill. The feeling of relief once I completed the final milestone was enormous but I'm pretty sure it was infinitely small compared to the exasperation felt during the attempts. In this I know I was not alone.
The frame rate in general during the first few hours of play stuck out as inconsistent to the point of distraction. The issues seem both GPU related AND streaming related with a general fluctuation based on view direction (GPU side) and a regular noticeable delay every 10/15 seconds whilst racing around (streaming related). I should stress however that after 2/3 hours of play I no longer noticed it at all. It does not detrimentally affect the game from my point of view.
I should note that on several occasions the collision in the game seemed to lose cohesion resulting in some craziness in roadblocks where I would essentially drive straight through the cars... it does correct itself soon after however so again the game wasn't affected as such it simply made it easier at times. There were however some other collision issues that did affect the game play. Notably edge issues when sliding down a wall or fence that seemed smooth until a random point along its edge when it appeared to become a brick wall throwing the car off into the air often at REALLY bad times (10 cops behind you, 2 in front... ouch my bounty). I had this occur on maybe 20 occasions during normal play and about 5 times during online play.
All the usual bells and whistles, it has a slightly annoying but understandable timeout sequence when setting up the matches but the experience itself was as expected. This will be where this game really shows its worth for me, now I have the cars I will use them. This section is short simply because I only played online twice so far.
I love the game yet hate its idiosyncrasies and sadly while I will play online the single player experience for me is over. I would rate it an 8.5 out of ten. Improve the frame rate and reduce the milestone requirements and it would have hit 9.5+...