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Microsoft Xbox 360 @ Sega / Shin Force
Need For Speed: Most Wanted Review
Electronic Arts
EA Canada
1x DVD
Import / Domestic
Nov. 15, 2005 (USA)
Dec.2, 2005 (Europe)
Dec. 10, 2005 (Japan)
1st/3rd Person
Street Racing / Arcade
1-2 Split Screen
2-4 Online
HDTV 480p/720p/1080i
Xbox Live
HD/MC save
DD 5.1
T - Teen
     > Being an Xbox 360 Launch title from Electronic Arts, my expectations for Need For Speed: Most Wanted were on the low end of the spectrum.  As you know, I'm a fan of the NFS franchise, and have enjoyed games like NFS: Hot Pursuit 2 and NFS: Underground 1&2 on the Microsoft Xbox.  For Most Wanted, EA hired the talent and beauty of Josie Maran, who plays the part of Mia Townsend.  You're the street racer looking for respect, notoriety and revenge.  There's a Black List of 15 racers and a boat load of cops that stand in your way to getting the ultimate ride, recognition, and maybe even Mia...
     > I thought the graphics were quite good, albeit somewhat choppy on the Xbox version, and I'd give the 360 version about the same overall sentiment.  Although the backdrops are inspiring, artistic and colorful, the frame-rate suffers from choppiness and apparent skipping -- trust me, it can get rather ugly.  Most Wanted's cars look great, feature beautiful reflections, and make burnouts with the best.  There's no annoying night/darkness, where you can't see what's going on -- cool.  I also like the fact that dynamic rain storms occur throughout the game -- nice touch.  Essentially, the visuals are above average, while the game engine isn't tailored to the power of the Wundermachine.
     > EA pretty much nailed Most Wanted in the gameplay and control departments.  All the cars handle differently, and can be visually and mechanically customized/upgraded.  That isn't free, so you need to beat multiple events to earn money and unlock customizations/upgrades.  You can enter Free Roam mode, or jump directly to any available race or directly to a safe house.  Also, the NOS recharge feature is totally sweet!! 

     > That doesn't mean it's perfect, though.  The things I don't like are: collision detection problems that cause you to get stuck on walls and come to an instant and complete stop; sometimes AI cars seem to be glued to your front end; there's an invisible aura around racers and cops that slows you down; cops can sometimes cheat a little too much; cops should blow their tires when they roll over their own spike strips; sometimes it seems like you're in endless ice-skating mode.  Other than that, I love this game!

     > With the advent of the 360's ability to control a game's music, now all you need in games is good sound effects and voice acting.  Most Wanted is a go on both those features, so the sound rating is excellent.  As a note, the native soundtrack is actually subdued (less [k]rap), compared to the Underground series (and most EA games for that matter).
     > Most Wanted challenges you with tons of races to complete in the following categories:  Circuit, Sprint, Lap Knockout, Tollbooth, Speedtrap and Drag Race.  Each of the 15 levels in Career Mode has Milestones to complete as well.  This involves the evasion of the Police after accumulating various criminal activities, like causing the state $50,000 in damage.  If that's not enough then try the Quick Race, Split Screen head-to-head, Xbox Live, or Challenge Races!!  There's only 32 cars plus a few hidden ones, which is on the low side, IMO.  With all its faults, NFS: Most Wanted manages to be insanely fun and addictive.  It's been a long time since I started playing a racer and "had to beat it ASAP".
Bottom Line
     > Take NFS: Hot Pursuit 2 and mix it with NFS: Underground and you get NFS: Most Wanted.  This game has its annoyances, but it still screams to be played through 'til the end.  Hopefully, EA will actually use the power of the Wundermachine for the likely forthcoming sequel.
Overall: 8.9 | Graphics: 8.0 | Control: 8.5 | Sound: 9.0 | Fun: 10
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