Criterion and EA’s upcoming Need for Speed is a re-interpretation of Most Wanted. Like Criterion’s re-interpretation of Hot Pursuit, this one kicks up the adrenalin and speed a notch and focuses more on the driving than on the cars. Where it departs from Hot Pursuit is its emphasis on city driving (think Burnout Paradise) and multiplayer. It’s also a little more technical than the full-tilt gameplay of Hot Pursuit, but keeps to the series’ arcade-style roots.
In Most Wanted (the 2012 edition) you can roam around Freehaven, driving wherever you can see a path. There are cars parked all around the city that you can “jack” by simply driving up to and pressing a button. They’re always in the same place, so with a game guide or some help from your friends you’ll never have to work to unlock the car you want. Only 10 cars in the entire singleplayer campaign are not available from the start and have to be unlocked. Once you’ve reached a certain Wanted level these cars become available, but you still have to make some effort – beat the car in a race, then take it down when you see it driving around in the city and then only will it be sitting in its jack spot in the city. Once you’ve found a car’s jack spot you don’t have to drive to that location every time you want to drive the car. You can select it from the Easy Menu while you’re driving.
The emphasis of our hands-on time was on multiplayer and I got to try about 20 minutes of it. I was impressed with how fluid it was. You can join a group of up to seven other players and choose from a variety of over 50 playlists with varying lengths. We played a five event playlist but didn’t quite finish it in the time. Each event kicks off once all players arrive at the meet-up point which is designed to be close by. If players want to mess around instead of going to the meet-up point the event will start after a while anyway and they will be at a disadvantage because they’ll be far away.
The events we played were:
- Speed trap: get the fastest speed through a speed trap
- Team race: get points for your position and points if your team wins
- Drift challenge: get the longest drift
In all the events you can try to take other players out of the running or slow them down by taking them down, Burnout style. As you play through the events you earn SP (Speed Points) for everything. Position in each event gets you a bunch, but so do takedowns and other special deeds (fr example, least damage taken or longest drift in the race). The idea is to earn the most SP over the course of the events of the playlist. SP also adds to your Wanted level, and this time there are 70 levels to grind through. You have to level up in multiplayer to unlock cars for use in multiplayer, unlike the singleplayer game. Once you get to level 70 in Most Wanted you will be reset to 1 again like in many other online games. Criterion are clearly trying to make the online multiplayer a lot more long-lived than Hot Pursuit was.
Of course, there is also Autolog for “asynchronous” multiplayer gaming. Criterion are calling the new iteration of Autolog version 2.0 and showed us some of the features. As in Burnout Paradise events kick off from various locations around Freehaven (generally at intersections) and at these locations you can see the Speedwall for that event showing up as a sort of HUD. Another great asynchronous competitive feature is billboard smashing which was demonstrated at the press conference because it’s so visually appealing. On each billbaord the face of a friend will be plastered – the friend who has jumped the furthest through that billboard. To beat their distance and get your face on their billboard you must smash through the billboard and land a bigger jump. It’s simple and ingenious and makes billboard smashing more fun than just finding all the billboards.
Its not only important to choose your car for the event or activity you’re want to do but to mod it to match the event. There are multiple different tyres, boost types and many other mods you can make to juice up your car. Completing events in the singleplayer will give you access to these mods in singleplayer, but it seems multiplayer is again driven by leveling up your Wanted level in multiplayer itself. Applying mods is as simple as popping up the Easy Menu while you’re driving and selecting a menu item. It doesn’t even pause your game – the Easy Menu appears on your HUD itself. In fact, with Kinect you can apply mods using voice commands only so you won’t need to skip a beat to tune up your car.
Finally, a quick note on the PS Vita version of Need for Speed: Most Wanted – Criterion assured us that all the content of the console games is in the Vita version. It doesn’t feature Cross Play or Cross Buy with the PS3 because the game is in fact a bit different, there are extra events made for the Vita.
Criterion also confirmed that there is no crash mode in the game. Sadly we will have to wait a little longer for a new Burnout. This game is close but it drives a little less arcadey and has a little more emphasis on cars and modding than a true Burnout game would. However, I’m glad Criterion is getting to continue making driving games because they’re really are good at it. Need for Speed: Most Wanted is looking great and I will definitely be playing it this holiday season as my main multiplayer driving fix.