Need For Speed Most Wanted....Developers of racing games received a new injection of life and purpose in the last two years. The growing popularity of street racing and modding has flourished in the popular culture, while Criterion's Burnout series has blazed a path all its own, bringing arcade racing back to its pre-Gran Turismo glory days. The Need for Speed series has never clung to a particular aspect of pop culture like Rockstar's Midnight Club or a particular car like Sega's Ferrari 360, but the long-time series struck gold with its light implementation of modding with Need for Speed Underground, selling more units worldwide than any game in 2003 with 7.5 million. Need for Speed Most Wanted continues the street culture thing, but EA's Canadian development team has mined one of the better iterations of the series, Need for Speed Hot Pursuit, fusing both rudiments into a newly refined, yet strangely familiar racer.
NFS Most Wanted is a well-balanced, challenging, and substantial racing game that's worth your while on any system. It returns the series to its cop chasing days while incorporating street cars, culture, and an impressive display of stylized FMV without forgetting the fundamentals: People like to drive sweet-looking, fast cars, they want more than a little freedom, and hey, if there are a bunch of hot chicks too? All the better.
Though this is obviously a racing game, the first, most noticeable aspect of Most Wanted is the story and presentation. The game is draped in a crazily chromed out, sepia-tone landscape of industrial structures, and populated with heavily bloom-lit FMV characters. The first time you see the story being told, like me, you will probably gasp in horror, "Wha??? The return of crappy FMV?!?!?!!! OOOHHH NOOOOO!" But this mixture of animated, highly colored FMV characters and stylized backgrounds is both imaginative and refreshing. And it's risky. I mean damn risky. I wouldn't touch FMV with a 50 foot pole if I was a developer these days, but this presentation is creative and striking. The actors aren't phenomenally awful either, which helps.
But that's not all. The tutorials and blacklist characters are introduced with flair and a friendly 'tude. Whole chunks of the background dramatically drop into place to form a landscape before you start a race, and the whole presentation is laced with slick, stylish graffiti and flickering Fight Club imagery. I like it all. EA may be a corporate, market-driven mega-company with monopolistic tendencies, and this may be just another attempt to tap into the "underground street" market, but it's done with appealing artistry and smart style...
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