Need for Speed: Most Wanted U – Review

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EA has a connotation attached to it in the gaming community. If you don’t know what type of connotation I’m talking about, I’ll give you a hint: it’s bad. When most hear the name of the company, sports games are what usually come to mind (though a division of EA made two of my favorite games – Dead Space 1 and 2). Yet, there is another long, drawn out franchise that has somehow managed to stay somewhat relevant in which EA produces: the Need For Speed series. With Most Wanted U, not only is the game based off a long running franchise, but a reboot of one of the earlier games in the series. So, how does this iteration hold up, and is it actually worth your time?

Visuals – 8.75/10
As soon as I began to drive around the city of Fairhaven, it was apparent to me: the game looks good. Each car is designed with careful detail, reflecting surrounding buildings, the sky above, and the glow of sparks from an opponent attempting to take you out. The blurring effects are well done and give a good sense of speed, the pavement and surrounding textures look good, the lighting for both night and day is superb, the lens flares and “dirty” look of the TV screen when the sun is directly in sight is superb. I also enjoyed seeing shards of glass and hunks of metal fly off my car after a huge crash – though it seriously affected my standings within a race, it was enjoyable, nonetheless. Another big plus in the visual/development department is that Fairhaven is an open world with no loading times; the game took a little while to initially load, but once it did I didn’t run into a single loading spot driving around the entire city. This is yet another game that proves the Wii U is capable of some extremely well done visuals.

I found two issues with the visuals, one that semi-involves gameplay aspects. The first is minor: a few times throughout the game the frame rate dropped well below the norm and chugged a little. Now, I say this is minor because it happened to me three or four times throughout the 20 hours that I have played the game. It doesn’t happen often, but it DOES happen, so I had to mention it. The other issue I had were some major glitches that had me restart the game (I didn’t have to turn the Wii U off, but rather, just close the software and relaunch it). An instance of this happened after I had just beaten a race/challenge and was being loaded back into the open world of Fairhaven. My car appeared, with no background or landscape visible, and it just hung there in limbo. After a few minutes of waiting to see if it would resolve itself, it dropped back in the game, but none of the textures showed up. I closed the software, relaunched, and the problem was fixed – luckily the game had saved before the debacle so I didn’t have to do the race again (it was hard!)

Other than the two issues I came across, you shouldn’t be disappointed by how this game looks and runs; it’s one that you can show off to your friends.

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Audio – 8.75/10
Any racing game must have a stellar soundtrack built into it. Without a large, well crafted playlist, it feels like there is something missing from a game like this. Fortunately, Most Wanted U has a stellar soundtrack. In fact, there were some songs in this list that I had never heard of, and promptly searched and downloaded after I turned the game off. The music consists of different sub-genres of Rock, Techno, Dubstep, and Rap. I was pleased with the soundtrack, and only heard a few songs repeated when playing for extended periods of time. There was something very satisfying about listening to “Weatherman” by Dead Sara as I pummeled an opponent into the side of a building, taking first place. The music fits the type of game this is, and does a sufficient job.

As far as actual audio within the game goes, it holds up as well as the soundtrack. The metallic clanging of cars exchanging door panels, the music fading into the background when boosting to incredible speeds, the sound of glass shattering after a huge wreck: the game doesn’t slip up at all. None of the sounds felt subpar, nor did they sound the same. This was one of the few racing games I didn’t turn the audio down and music up – I wanted to hear the roar of the engine and sounds throughout my experience driving around Fairhaven.

Gameplay – 8/10
I’ve always been more of a racing simulator fan than a fan of the over-exaggerated, arcade-like gameplay in racing games like the Need For Speed series. I have to say, though, that this game thoroughly surprised me. I’ve put 20 hours into the single player gameplay and I’m about 88% done with it. There are plenty of unlockables, which includes license plates, customization options, and new races/cars. There’s plenty to keep you busy in single player mode.

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Something I wasn’t too sure of when I started the game was the fact that, from the outset, every car is available to you: you just have to find them in the city. The cars will be parked in various locations all around the map, waiting to be discovered so you can drive the newfound vehicle. After about 30 minutes, I decided I liked this approach to the gameplay. My only problem with this gameplay decision is that there are some vehicles in the roster that have no right being amongst the others. For instance, why is a Ford Focus available alongside a Ford GT or a Lamborghini Countache? Why would I drive the Focus unless I was forced to? I think they should’ve just done away with the “novelty” vehicles and gone with an all-impressive roster of cars to drive. Normally, those weaker vehicles play a part in racing simulators as the affordable cars at the beginning, but since everything is available to the player from the beginning, why include them?

Another issue I have with the gameplay lies in its racing system. I wish there was an easier way to select races and simply choose a vehicle you’ve found that fits the criteria for it. Instead, you have to cycle through vehicles and look at each race available for that specific vehicle in order to find new races. This isn’t a very effective menu, and it all has to be done in real time, as the game doesn’t pause when you are changing cars, customizing, or selecting a race. Other than these few notable issues, I never found myself bored with the game, as the cops and opponents both offer great difficulty and aren’t easy to shake off.

Entertainment Factor – 8.75/10
I actually bought this game for one reason: I wanted to race online, and see how Nintendo’s new system holds up (especially compared to the complicated, backwards Nintendo WiFi that came before). I’m pleased to announce that I was pleasantly surprised by the fluidity of the online play and switching between online multiplayer to single player, and vice versa. Simply select multiplayer from the “Auto Log” at the top left of the screen, and you can choose to join a friend’s game, create/host a game, or jump into public play. The online multiplayer works well, too, with only a few hiccups and problems finding a game – I ran into these problems only a couple times. Online mode consists of either participating or creating “Speed Lists” that involve races, team races, challenges, and speed tests. These events range in difficulty and length, as well as spanning the entire map.

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Miiverse isn’t utilized much, but I’m ok with that. The GamePad acts in place of a headset when playing online, so you can trash talk freely with having to buy a special headset to use with online gaming. You can make adjustments to volume and mic responsiveness in the settings of the game, which is another plus. On top of off-TV play, you can also change the time of day, traffic, respray/repair your car, and open up a nice map with the GamePad. There’s also the option for a local two player mode (of sorts) where one player uses the GamePad to direct traffic, cops, and change the time of day, while the other player races across the city. I found a lot of enjoyment in the online gameplay, and will continue to play Most Wanted long after I’ve completed the single player mode. I found incredible enjoyment in the game, and it has held my attention for 20 hours, so that’s saying something.

So, is this reboot worth your time? Yes. Yes, it is. I was genuinely surprised by the amount of content and enjoyment I found in this game. This, my friends, is what a reboot should be like: improving upon the original and bringing it up to date in every way; not simply making a glorified port of the original. You can find this game very cheap online, so put aside any hate towards EA and show some love for Criterion, because they created a worthwhile game for you to play.

Overall – 8.5/10

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