Most Wanted wastes no time in showing and telling exactly what it is. From the first moment of the game, it states directly, "Here's your car, there's the final destination, here's what needs to be done on the way...GO!" A short cut-scene and a couple of minutes later and it is a case of driving, full speed, no stops, soundtrack full blast. It's a refreshing change from the melodramatic, hour long intros of many games today. It's one of the reasons games like Super Mario Galaxy feel so good: the game is never not playing.
Here's what Need For Speed Most Wanted is:
- A fast, loud arcade style racer;
- Full of places to go and things to smash and cars to race.
Here's what the game isn't:
- A slow simulation racer;
That's as simple as the game can be described! Right from the start it drops players into the free-form sandbox of Fairhaven. It's a realistic looking city, with a downtown area, a wharf district, highways, rail-roads, and more, and it's chock full of ramps to jump from, security gates and billboards to smash through, and races to...race.
Along the way players can "jack" any car found from jack spots throughout the city and race them in special races to earn mods to make the car even faster and 'smashier.' When a car is fast and 'smashy' enough, it is time to start racing and "shutting down" the city's ten most wanted racers, each of whom has a unique car to unlock. Whenever players feel like it, they can jump into online multiplayer, where there are various goals, from competitive speed races to co-operatively jumping over buildings.
Punctuating each special race is a short introductory cut-scene. These range in style from absolutely psychedelic - featuring scenes bathed in abstract colours - to comical, with cop car pyramids and cop car tornadoes (yes, you read that right). Again, it's the design ideal of the game in cinematic form: loud, fun, fast, and just enough substance to entertain without getting boring.
It's worth noting that some of the high end challenges are frustrating due to rubber band AI and police that disproportionately target the player. Furthermore, crashing an AI opponent only sets them back a couple of seconds, whereas a player crashing may put them out of contention entirely. Not every car is a viable speed demon, so choosing the right car and upgrading it with higher performance mods goes a long way to overcoming such difficulties, rendering difficult races much more manageable. Oh, and look into off-road tires. Trust us.
Visually, Most Wanted doesn't disappoint. Fairhaven looks good, textures are clean, the draw distance is long, lighting is natural, roads are varied, from flat city streets to long, curvy country highways. All the while the frame-rate maintains almost uniform smoothness, dipping only in rare cases when a large number of cars are crashing into each other in the middle of the screen.
The one major criticism to be leveled at the port is that it runs in 704p, not 1080p. That is likely not the developer's fault though, given how few of the Wii U's games run in 1080p. Due to this, there are some jagged edges on objects, but all-in-all, the resolution is not a deal breaker, and does not detract from how nice the game looks.
Given that, it can easily be said that Criterion delivered on its promises, a fact attested to by the Digital Foundry. When everything is said and done, though, what matters most is not that the Wii U version is better looking than the PS3 or 360 iterations (although it is). What matters is that Most Wanted is great looking, plays brilliantly, and the Wii U version is an excellent edition of a great game; a proper job done by top notch developers.