Need for Speed: Most of U Wanted it last year
Drive fast, look stylish and crash into incompetent policemen. Need for Speed: Most Wanted U is an adrenaline-fuelled feast of developer Criterion Games’ signature traits, as it infuses the best of the highly regarded Burnout series with Need for Speed’s high-flying reputation.
Wii U features and performance
Need for Speed: Most Wanted would have made a great Wii U launch title, but its late arrival comes at a time when Nintendo’s console is in desperate need of games. It’s Criterion’s first game on a Nintendo console since Burnout 2 -- an awesome game that developed many of the conventions that make Most Wanted U (and that’s the last time I’m stupidly writing “U” at the end of its title) the high-octane social racer it is.
Most importantly, or should I say as expectedly, Most Wanted is the same great game we saw on every other platform last year. The core review, below, still stands.
The Wii U version offers a plethora of control options -- the GamePad, Pro Controller, Wii Remote or Wii Remote and Nunchuck including motion control options where applicable -- and they all work. Well, the motion control on the Wii Remote or GamePad is a terribly awkward way to play and I couldn’t figure out how to access the Autolog menu using only the button-deficient Wii Remote, but otherwise take your pick.
Most Wanted looks stunning on a TV screen as arguably the best looking game on Wii U.
To add some spice to the mix, Criterion has added the option to employ a co-driver. While one person uses the GamePad, another can use any of the control methods listed above. Yep, that’s a real thing, and as you would expect, it’s something to be shelved immediately. Two players having control over one car is like giving two three-year-olds one lollipop. Mistake.
Most Wanted looks stunning on a TV screen as arguably the best looking game on Wii U, but loses some of its sleek style when moved off-TV to the GamePad. Playing without a TV has been the Wii U’s best feature to my mind, but it just doesn’t work with Most Wanted. It looks good on the handheld screen -- a little rough around the edges -- but there’s just too much happening for the small screen. Crashing because you genuinely couldn’t see an obstacle before it’s too late becomes commonplace.
The GamePad can also be used as a map, which is a crucial component for any racing driver, but unfortunately that isn’t very useful, either. The map on-screen and that on the Wii U GamePad show the same thing, but from different angles, disorientating even the most adept drivers. You have a split second to glance down at the GamePad or risk smashing into oncoming traffic, and that time is spent figuring out where you are in relation to the on-screen radar.
While there are some nifty new features, I found the Pro Controller with TV screen the best set-up -- exactly how I played on Xbox 360 last year.
Unfortunately Criterion’s definition of Wii U is “noob friendly”. The other changes are all to make the game considerably easier; Nintendo gamers must be incompetent. I understand that kids and families will want to play, but you don’t learn to get back up if nobody ever pushes you down.
The GamePad offers options to switch between day and night and automatically jump to races, repair your car or go to a jackspot -- No, no, no! Exploring Fairhaven in search of these was part of what made the Most Wanted experience so enjoyable. You can still do it, but it’s diminished by offering an easy way out.
Worse is an option to disrupt pursuing cops. What the hell? Evading the rozzers is what Need for Speed is all about. Of course, you can ignore these optional extras, but I don’t like what they imply about Wii U gamers or the future of the industry in general, for that matter.
In good news, Autolog links up across all platforms. In the rare event you’re moving from another platform, your Speed Points continue and you can try and better scores set by friends on other platforms.
Need for Speed: Most Wanted review
In somewhat of a purposeful naming blunder, there is a 2005 game called Need for Speed Most Wanted that teetered on the brink of being in both the current and last generation. Despite being a reboot, Criterion has left its own mark on Most Wanted, whilst paying homage to the game’s recent origins, as it did with Hot Pursuit in 2010. The similarities in terms of gameplay between the two are negligible.
Most Wanted turfs you into the thick of the action with its sleek, simplified presentation. There’s no need to retreat to the refuge of a main menu, or even the pause menu (unless Mum’s yelling at you). Everything from setting a destination, changing car and modifying your ride is handled by the fantastic Easy Drive menu using the D-Pad in-game. Yes, that means you can add nos to your car in the middle of a race, if you foolishly failed to equip it earlier.
Every car, from the Bugatti, to the Aston Martin V12 Vantage and the Porsche 911 is available from the outset.
The vehicular presentation is stunning, with each car doing its real life counterpart proud. Likewise, they handle in surprisingly unique style, for what boils down to a fast-paced arcade racer. They’re matched by a lively and diverse world, and a signature up-beat EA soundtrack, which can be replaced by your own music if you’re hard of hearing or have an affliction towards a quality track list.
Just as it is in the real world, the Bugatti Veyron is the fastest car in the game -- the Most Wanted, if you will -- with an obtainable top speed of 417 KM/h, which has been verified in the real world by Top Gear’s James May, of all people. Upon reaching such breakneck speeds, you’ll immediately slam into an oncoming truck or an unfortunately positioned speed camera, utterly ruining the car.
For all their enviable beauty, the cars of Need for Speed: Most Wanted are disposable. They’ll bounce back, lighter on windows and graffitied in dents, but drivable enough to limp to the nearest repair shop, of which there is an ample supply, to instantly refurbish your ride back to factory mint condition.
Every car, from the Bugatti, to the Aston Martin V12 Vantage and the Porsche 911 is available from the outset. All you need to do is find them, scattered across the picturesque landscape of Fairhaven, and they’ll enter your on-demand garage. Some are parked on perilous rooftops or down small alleyways, but most are hidden in plain sight. You simply need to cruise around the world of motoring mayhem to add them to your collection.
Each is decked out with stock components, which can be enhanced by winning a series of race events. Theses are managed by Easy Drive and comprise of five unique to each vehicle. However, races, which are introduced by an action-packed cinematic to offer a semblance of context, are only the beginning.
The appeal of Autolog is inherent to its social nature. To best enjoy Most Wanted, even as a single-player game, you’ll want your friends on Xbox Live or PSN to compete against your times. Beating the A.I. is almost meaningless if Autolog taunts you with an alert that a friend is better than you. It refines the competitive edge first introduced in Hot Purist by comparing your every move and achievement with those of your friends.
Besting your friends’ times in Autolog will earn you additional Speed Points, the currency for progress, which are acquired by winning races and driving recklessly in general. Accumulating Speed Points will unlock the 12 Most Wanted cars, and by “unlock” I mean have the gracious opportunity to try and beat and then destroy them against the game’s most skilled A.I. racers for the privilege of entering the driver’s seat. Should you be skilled enough, you might even move up the leaderboard.
Whilst Most Wanted’s single-player could be criticised for a lack of content, that would be unfair. It’s a joy to replay a race to ensure you better your friend’s result, which eventually leads to immense frustration when they beat you again with a blitzing time -- “impossible!” you’ll scream.
Unless you’re purposely trying to garner the maximum heat level, and there’s some merit in doing so for a challenging laugh, the cops offer intense chase, but are no match for your speed on the lower heat levels. They’ll eventually deploy spikes and call in the SWAT team, but before that, evasion is a simple nudge into oncoming traffic away -- unless there are more cops around, in which case such tactics will just make them even more displeased with you.
The freedom to explore the diverse open-world of Fairhaven is perfect for some, yet could pose a nightmare for others. On the whole, it’s an effective system that pushes you to explore every inch of the environment, but the lack of a narrative driven approach could confuse some players, especially if you’re looking for events your friends have competed. If you only have one or two friends playing Most Wanted you’re really relying on them having played more than you to be driven to improve, and the motivation can waver if you’re confronted with a series of races not completed by any friends. That’s not a blight on Most Wanted, however, it’s more indicative of your disappointing online friends list.
The Final Verdict
Need for Speed: Most Wanted U is a high-octane delight full of motoring mayhem, a vibrant landscape and the prefect garage for an arcade racer. With a fantastic competitive streak, thanks to the refined Autolog system that compares your every move against your friends, it’s the same great game we saw last year, shifted to Wii U. All of the control options work well, but I prefer the Pro Controller over the GamePad. Unfortunately there are too many added assists to help lesser skilled players -- who apparently play on Wii U -- and they diminish some of what makes Most Wanted most enjoyable, so I suggest all players ignore them and enjoy Fairhaven by car, not menu, as it is meant to be seen.