EA know a good thing when they see it, and for multiple years November was Need for Speed month. In a break from the usual routine, I’m going to be looking back at two games here, released in 2005 and 2010 respectively. The earlier game is Need for Speed: Most Wanted, which has the distinction of being one of the very best in the franchise. The second game comes from 2010, and is Need for Speed Hot Pursuit; which I’ll talk about just as the Remastered version of the game has hit the stores.
Anyway, onto the games and my rosy memories of playing them. I particularly remember NFS: Most Wanted, as in 2005 I was still a good five years from becoming a card carrying Xbox owner, and played though the whole game (multiple times) on the Sony PlayStation 2.
Now, for the time, in my mind’s eye, Most Wanted looked amazing. The thing that really stood out with Most Wanted though was the fact that it was the first driving game I ever played that actually featured something resembling a story. Losing our lovely BMW M3 to Razor still rankles to this day, and having to work our way up the Blacklist in order to challenge for it back kept me hooked for weeks. Just as an aside, in my previous career as a 1/10th scale remote control drifter, I actually painted a BMW M3 shell to look like the hero car in this game, and with the detail on display that was a challenging masking job, let me tell you.
Anyways, the story was a bit of humdinger, featuring double crosses, undercover police, car sabotage and a culmination that saw us having to flee the city by flying across a derelict bridge in an ending that was as memorable as it was difficult to pull off, with everything the police had at their disposal seemingly thrown at you. The journey from fresh-out-of-prison jail scum to top of the Blacklist was certainly a tough one, and with each member of the Blacklist having a series of challenges to be met before they could be challenged, Most Wanted came with a hell of a lot of content. The police chases were always a high point, and they could be started by sitting outside a police station, doing burnouts – something that was endlessly amusing.
The difficulty I had though, especially in the faster cars, was keeping a chase going long enough to rack the heat up, as the first few levels could be easily outrun in my fave Lambo, and I would constantly have to remind myself to slow down. Once the choppers appeared, that was the time to start putting the pedal to the metal.
The exact opposite could be said of the second game, Hot Pursuit, from the year 2010. This game was graphically awesome, with a speed and fluidity to the driving that was breathtaking at the time. However, the story was almost completely absent, replaced with a level mechanic that saw us either being a Racer or a Cop, with parallel game careers to play.
As a racer, the focus is either on winning races or escaping from the police, while as a cop we are charged with ending races by wiping out the racer’s cars, or screaming across the country in an attempt to get the car into a roadblock in time. As the racer/cop levels increase, not only do new cars become available – starting out slow with a Porsche Cayman, for instance – but whilst working up to Pagani and Koenigsegg options we could also unlock new weapons for our whips. With weapons like spike strips that are dropped behind the car, causing following cars to spin out, and roadblocks that the police can call in, it’s almost like a grown-up, real-world version of Mario Kart. The lovingly crafted, slo-mo crashes that occur when you bust a racer have stayed with me, however, and it’s in touches like this that the Criterion DNA can be seen; ripped from their seminal Burnout franchise.
The crowning achievement for Hot Pursuit, however, was the introduction of the Autolog. This tracked what those on your friends list were doing, and if they eclipsed one of your times you were notified and could immediately jump to the race in question to try and take your crown back. This was a real game-changer, if you’ll pardon the pun, bringing everything together in one place: challenges and screenshots your friends had taken added a real sense of competition to the game. Being told, on starting up a game, that Dave has beaten three of your scores certainly got the blood pumping, and once you had the victory back you could then share the win so it appeared on your opponent’s wall, to really rub their noses in it.
The multiplayer modes were pretty good fun as well, with a gang of cops and racers – all real people drawn from all over the world – dropped on a map and left to get on with it. Busting a real life racer is quite a lot harder than busting an AI one, as real people are a hell of a lot more unpredictable. Still, when you manage it and tip a racer over the edge of a cliff in a vicious takedown, the feeling was amazing.
The developers didn’t rest on their laurels either, releasing both free and paid DLC throughout the life of the game, even adding new achievements while they were at it. The Supersports pack added three new cars, such as the Veyron, and 13 new events, while the Lamborghini Untamed pack added a series of cars from, you’ve guessed it, Lamborghini, as well as another 10 new events. The last pack, Porsche Unleashed, again added a series of Porsches to the game, alongside new events and new achievements to try for.
Comparing and contrasting the two games, as I’m doing in my mind right now, I have to say that it’s Most Wanted that takes the crown in my book. Hot Pursuit looked better and moved faster, there’s no doubt about it, but Most Wanted still holds that special place in my gaming heart. At the time, it was amazing to watch and play, and even the dodgy full motion video acting couldn’t make me hate it. It may be technically the worse game of the two, but I’d walk over a stack of Hot Pursuit games to play Most Wanted, and that should tell you all you need to know.
But how about you racers out there in Readerland? Did you play these games, and if so which did you favour? Let us know in the comments and if you haven’t yet picked either game up, make sure you do it. With NFS Hot Pursuit Remastered just recently released on Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S, there’s no reason not to play it. Just pop over to the Xbox Store and grab a download.