Need for Speed: Most Wanted is developer Criterion's second game for the long running series. It brings together all their arcade racing expertise in an excellent open world racing playground.
Need for Speed: Most Wanted puts you in the county of Fairhaven. It feels like a hybrid of Critereon's previous open worlds of Burnout Paradise and NFS Hot Pursuit. There are open highways, with big, sweeping curves and off road shortcuts. The city is a fantastic place to weave through traffic, and has some great playground areas that really come into their own in multiplayer games.
The single player campaign sees you trying to become the 'Most Wanted' driver in Fairhaven. There are ten drivers to beat. You earn your right to challenge them by completing the many races and challenges available to you. Each vehicle has it's own races, and you find the cars parked around the city.
The most wanted races are fantastic. They are long and really exciting, with great routes and plenty of police interference. If you do manage to win a race against one of these rivals, you then have to chase them down, and take them out to win their place in the top ten and their car! These are some of the most intense and fun arcade races you will play, and are one of Need for Speed Most Wanted's crowning achievements.
The cars all feel different, but share the excellent arcade handling that we're used to from Criterion. Drifting comes easily, and is as precise as Mario Kart, while executing handbrake turns is a breeze. You'll get customization options as you win events, giving you tire options, better chassis, Nitro and more. All of these can be applied from the excellent Easydrive menus, which you access while on the road, so gameplay is seemless.
Mutliplayer drops you into Fairhaven with a group of other racers. You are given a meet up point, and have to drive there. Once you're all together, you are given a task: this could be a race or a cooperative mission, like jump or drift a certain distance as a group. It's fast, fluid and loads of fun.
Dropping in and out of multiplayer is simple, using the new 'Easydrive' menu system, and is an example for other games of how it should be done.
Combining Criterion's greatest hits in one game does mean some compromises. The most notable for Burnout fans is that the wonderful car-crushing crashes have gone. You do see car damage on these licensed cars, but it simply doesn't compare with the carnage that Burnout Paradise perfected.You can never please everyone, but Need for Speed Most Wanted almost manages it. Fairhaven is an excellent, and beautiful racing playground, the cars a great to drive, and most importantly the racing is intense and exciting.