NEED FOR SPEED: MOST WANTED XBOX 360 REVIEW

The brand new Need for Speed: Most Wanted has finally made its way to Microsoft’s most hyped up next generation console, the Xbox 360. In this latest installment, Need for Speed: Most Wanted will have you hooked to the series’ speedy gameplay, amazing full-motion video cutscenes, and booming sound effects.

The only downside is the competition can be brutally unforgiving, as you climb up the ranks and gain respect among the Black List of underground racers. Regardless of the high challenge, this is still a good game.

The name Most Wanted comes from the game’s storyline of being the most wanted challenger in the underground racing community, and at the same time, most wanted by cops. It’s about illegal street racing and becoming the most notorious racers in Rockport among members of the Black List.

However, the ensuing drama focuses more on revenge and taking down Razor, a Blacklister who manipulated your racing match by having his associates rig your BMW. As sequence of events unfold, not only did you lose your car but also your license to drive, as cops bust you for reckless driving and life endangerment.

This lands you in jail. Of course, it didn’t take long before you’re out on the street again! Thanks to a gal named Mia, you’re back onto the racing scene, and this time, old scores will be evened out. The game is split into multiple races, which include career mode, circuit races, knockout races, tollbooth races, drag racing, speed-trap, and challenge series. In career mode, your mission is to take out Razor, head of the Black List; but in order for you to achieve that, you must go through each Blacklister.

You can only face a member of the Black List after completing a challenge, whether it’s a toll booth race, drag racing, or speed-trap. These would be circuit race, knockout race, challenges are nothing too fancy and offer a specific objective you must meet.

In knockout race, for instance, your goal is to stay ahead of the competition where the slowest driver is eliminated at each lap. Whoever is the last man driving wins the race.

Whatever challenge you’ll face will depend on where you are in the game. Anyone who has played Need for Speed before knows that the gameplay is always fast and frantic.

In Most Wanted, you can expect the same up-beat tempo, with lots of high-speed thrills and close calls. The racing scene itself is particularly fun but the artificial intelligence has always received mix reviews.

The game suffers a bit of imbalance where the level of difficulty tends to shoot through the roof! Sure, you can mow down your rivals in the early levels but once you enter the “challenge”, it’s only going to get tougher from there.

The game keeps the competition close. The computer always manage to catch up with you no matter how good you are, as if the handicap mode is lit up somewhere.

Despite the game’s high difficulty, learning the basic controls will only take you minutes. That’s the great thing about Need for Speed games—they are “plug and play”.

What makes this Need for Speed extra special is that the inclusion of police chase. Without it, this would just be an ordinary game with some fancy graphics. Trying to elude the cops is the most exciting part of Need for Speed: Most Wanted! They occasionally appear in the middle of a race and it takes some impressive driving to get away from them.

There’s a meter at the bottom of your screen that tells you if the cops are losing pursuit or close to putting you in jail. The heat level of your car indicates the type of police reinforcement that will chase you while racing. There are five heat levels.

At level one, the cops will send out regular patrol cars to deal with you. When you hit level five, that’s when you can expect big obstacles, including spike strips, roadblocks, federal agents, and even helicopters!

The only way to escape is to stay out of their visual range. Your meter will cool down and that would end the chase. As with any other Need for Speed games, Most Wanted features licensed vehicles with more than 30 are available.

You’ll get to choose from manufacturers of BMW, Corvette, Porsche, Lamborghini, Toyota, Mitsubishi, and more. You can buy these vehicles and remodel their parts for enhanced performance including their gears, body kits, etc.

While most of the game’s offline modes left us with an exciting racing experience, the online portion didn’t live up to our expectation. It may have all the usual modes available offline like drag races, sprint, and circuit, but it’s missing the police chase component.

Also, the competition is limited to only four players; but fortunately, the game still provides players with an online edition of the Blacklist. Graphically, Need for Speed: Most Wanted shows that it really belongs to the next generation console.

The game looks 10 times better when you play it on an HDTV screen. Everything looks nice and highly detailed, from car designs to environment settings. The game uses a lot of shimmering effects that showcases many of 360’s photorealistic qualities. You’ll see objects reflect off the shiny surfaces of a car, trees casting shadows, and wet roads that will have you believe you’ll spin out of control!

One of our favorite scenarios in the game is the motion blur effects. Need for Speed: Most Wanted captures the physical attributes of running over 100 miles per hour. When you’re using the turbo, your TV screen becomes hazy, giving you the feeling that you’re taking off like a jet.

As much as we like to be swept away by the game’s hi-def presentation, there are some minor graphical issues that need to be stressed out. First, clippings would occur when making turns at a high rate of speed. Second, the game would skip when too many cops are chasing you.

These frame rate issues are rare in occurrence though and most of them are forgivable. Fortunately, they have no adverse effect to the gameplay whatsoever.

What good are graphics without some convincing sounds? Thankfully, Need for Speed: Most Wanted has an excellent audio piece. The sound of the car’s engine changes according to upgrades. The sounds for crashing and background noises such as air whooshing by are unbelievably accurate.

The assortment of hip-hop and rock music brings in extra charge to the high-speed sequences. The voice-over work is solid, too! You’ll hear communication through radios of cops being dispatched to your location.

Sometimes you wonder is this a racing game, or is this real? One thing is for sure, this first entry of Need for Speed to the Xbox 360 console has made a big impression on us.

Despite the often difficult AI, the constricted online experience, and a few visual clippings, this is still an excellent game. It’s just hard to stay away from the high-speed pursuit. If you’re looking for the ride of your life, then this is it!

FINAL SCORE: 8.5 OUT OF 10