Review by MiltonBradley

Reviewed: 01/04/06

Definately a Most Wanted 360 Game

With Need for Speed Underground and Underground 2, EA is at it again with the illegal street racing gameplay but adding a twist of Hot Pursuit. Ladies and gentlemen, Need for Speed Most Wanted IS Underground 2. Everything is done right here in Most Wanted, deserving the title "NFS Underground 2".

From the big open area to drive in to the large range of custom parts, you can spend endless hours in this game. But since Most Wanted to cross-platforms, being available for all current gen consoles plus the next-generation consoles and handhelds, I'll focus more on the X-Box 360 version and tell you why it's the best port out of all of them.

Putting aside the control layout(a very nice feeling control scheme), the graphics and framerates are probably the most highlighted aspect of the XBox 360 port. True, some have complain about the framerate issue. I, too encounter this problem. Good news is, it doesn't happen all the time. It also depends on the TV you have. HDTV is probably the common cure for the rare slow framerates. Flat screen tvs(not to be confused with the thin LCD screens) can also fix this problem as well. Personally, I don't think it's a 360 hardware problem or the issue would be more broader, effecting everyone including HDTV owners. Now, I'm not saying you have to go out and buy a HDTV set just to play this game.

Absolutely not. While it helps, especially with PS3 supporting HDTV as well, it's not a must have. A good recent TV will do. I have a 2004 29" Flat Screen Toshiba with 480i support and the framerates are nicely smooth. Now, if I were to play this on a 27" Panasonic 1997 Tube(non-flat) TV then yes, you will see the sluggish gameplay. It might also be the component(blue, green, red) vs composite(yellow, red, white) cables too.

The graphics are nicely touched. Smooth and polished yet it's not as pretty as Project Gotham Racing 3, another racing game but with very detailed textures and models) Still, it's mighty impressive especially the weather effects. It's one of those things that makes it worthy than the other Most Wanted ports.

While I wanted to keep this review very close to the 360 version in terms of graphics, controls, sound, etc..., I will still review on the gameplay. It plays great. No, seriously it does. But on an overall. My biggest complaint is the drag racing. Even though it was one of Underground's main attraction and EA wants to keep the tradition alive, somehow the controls are just too clunky and should've been left out completely(maybe except for online play) Steering, thanks to Otto the automatic car steerer, is no longer a focus in Drag Racing. Just watch your pace, shift gears perfectly and nitro boost if needed. As if it was that simple. Because of the clunky controls, steering is near impossible in Drag Racing. The easiest way to explain it is precise control. In the free roaming, sprint, lap knockout and every other race modes in Most Wanted, the steering is very flexible. You can do drifting, spin out of control, do 180 degrees and the list goes on. But you can't do all that in Drag Racing. If you turn left, your car will automatically change to the next lane. This type of steering was actually in both Underground and Underground 2, as well as the PSP Underground Rivals. While the Underground series does this flawlessly without any problems, the steering-thing just doesn't work in Most Wanted. Thankfully, this part of the game is optional and can be easily avoidable.

This leaves the question, how can you steer in Drag Racing? Simple, Need for Speed newest feature, bullet time or slo-mo driving. Basically, you can slow down time to make a sharp turn or taking a tight corner for a very limited amount of time. You can also avoid debris or road obstructions with the "slo-mo" feature. This same feature also appeared in Rockstar's Midnight Club 3, an illegal street game that came out for the X-Box and PS2 in the same timeframe as Need for Speed Underground 2.

The main gameplay in Most Wanted is Career Mode. You start off as a professional illegal racer stripped from his hottest car ride and dropped in a small community town village. You start with a basic car but after winning certain races, you can earn some money to upgrade your starting car or save up and buy a better car. Your main objective is to beat the 14 or so Blacklist racers and get to the top to beat your main rival, Razor, the one who took off with your previous customized car. After beating each Blacklist member, you have the chance of winning the beaten racer's pinkslip(i.e. ownership to his/her car) The odds of getting his/her pinkslip is one to three. You have two chances or you can get an unique custom part. The unique part is randomly picked so you might end up with new tires, a new spoiler or a better engine.

Also part of the main gameplay is cop chases. Rather than winning races, you also have to make a name out of yourself and give the other racers fearing of you. When getting the cop's attention, there are certain goals to be achieved in every next race. It could be getting a certain amount of bounty credits, being in an amount of time during your chase or causing mayhem and wreckage to public property. Just make sure your car doesn't end up on the most wanted list. The higher your number is, the more police cars there are and the tougher they get. You can "cool down" your car and race in a different car, bringing the police's attention to your current car while the other car sits and to be forgotten by the cops.

The customize part in the game isn't as detailed as Midnight Club 3 where your car can be 100% unique to your friend's car. In Need for Speed, the parts are ranked by level. There's Racer, Pro, Super Pro and Ultimate(being the fastest part) It's very simple and not too complex like Midnight Club 3, which can be both good and bad. Bad for those who really want to make their original and different than others. Good for those who just want to race and rather worry about the looks than what's "under the hood". It's basic so say if you want to upgrade your car's engine, you just buy the next level up(Pro, Super Pro or Ultimate). You can degrade your car if you want and make it the slowest in the world by switching all of your parts to just plain "Racer".

Doing visual upgrades is different than the performance part of the game. The visuals are more details so your car won't look like everyone's elses. You can change the body kit, the spoiler, a wide variety of rims, the way your gauges look, the color, vinyls and so on. Although it does miss a few things like the neon glow underneath your car or add different styles of taillights and headlights which is a let down.

The music is alright. Your typical EA. Some hip-hop, rap, rock, emo? and trance/electronica. Nothing earth shattering here. The sound effects are nice though. I just love the way my car purrs and the sound of rain dropping.

So what went wrong with this game? Besides the music tracks and the Drag Racing? Police chases. I wish there was a mode where you can be a cop and chase the street racers. Unfortunately, this feature is actually a PSP-exclusive hence its name "Most Wanted 5-1-0" and not the usual & plain "Most Wanted" title.

Overall, I'm giving this game an 8 out 10. While worth the extra bucks for High Definition, better graphics, smoother gameplay, XBox Live, control scheme and the list goes on.

+ Customize your car and change the way it looks, making it the way you want it to look like
+ Police chases!
+ Open area street racing with lots of room to play in and shortcuts to boot
+ Great control scheme and sound effects
+ A true sequel to NFS Underground

- Average music. Not the greatest nor the worst.
- Can't play as a cop in hot pursuit mode
- Custom parts are very basic and no where near detailed as Midnight Club 3 or Underground Rivals
- Terrible Drag Racing mode(I just hate it completely)

Rating:   4.0 - Great

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