Combining the hi-octane spills of Hot Pursuit and the freedom of Burnout Paradise, this year’s Need for Speed is sure to be taking a top spot in the 2012 silly season.
Living in Brisbane has its advantages, however missing out on preview events in Sydney is not one of them. Luckily, State of Play’s Darren Price was man enough to step up for me.
EA’s Need for Speed series never really did anything for me. Sure, 2005s Need for Speed: Most Wanted piqued my interest a bit, but I never got any further than playing the demo; there were bigger and better things to play on my shiny new Xbox 360. The mess that was Need for Speed: Undercover would have been put of the series forever if it wasn’t for Criterion’s Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit. Building upon their expertise honed by working on their own Burnout franchise, Criterion breathed new life into EA’s veteran series.
Two years after they reimagined Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit and Criterion are back doing the same with Need for Speed: Most Wanted. This is not a sequel to the 2005 game of the same name, this is Need for Speed: Most Wanted through Criterion’s eyes.
I was recently invited by EA Games to a hands-on demonstration of Need for Speed: Most Wanted’s multiplayer mode. The event was host by the producer of the game, Criterion’s Leanne Loombe and Michael Degraaf from Firemonkeys, who are handling the mobile versions of the game.
For the demonstration a selection of gaming journos were set up in the game’s open-world lobby and assigned a playlist of the various multiplayer events. Ms Loombe was keen to stress the importance of community racing in the game; with friends competing online to become “Most Wanted”.
With my car, an Aston Martin, ready to go the waypoint on the HUD directed me to the meet up point. Once all were assembled the first event began; the aim, to be the fastest car caught by a speed camera. The mad dash for the camera turned into a free-for-all as cars going for another pass become the victim of head-on collisions and side swipes from other player. Like Burnout’s takedowns, players are able to total opponent’s cars at any time in the game. I can see Most Wanted becoming a griefers paradise, as light-hearted knocks gave way to deliberate acts of retaliation.
Next up was a road race around the game’s industrial area. Like Burnout Paradise, whilst the finish point is fixed, the route is up to the driver; although there are checkpoints, so I don’t think you can stray too far (and why would you, unless you want to lose). In a similar manner to Hot Pursuit, driving dangerously will fill your nitro, giving you that extra burst of speed. On the way to the finish line there were plenty of shortcuts, off-road sections, jumps and billboards to crash your car through.
At the end of the race the waypoint lead the group over to a coal yard where the drivers competed with each other to achieve the longest air between to massive ramps. One again the game provided plenty of opportunities for head-on collisions.
For the final event Criterion showed off their drifting game mechanic. Beneath two huge cooling towers a circular, and suitably waterlogged, track provided drivers with the perfect opportunity to see who could drift the longest. This free-for-all event provided yet another means for drivers so inclined to smash into their opponents.
At the end of the set scores were tallied and the most wanted players named. As well as speed points, players were also awarded accolades based on their personal performance. I scored the “dodger” ticket for my near misses, “prey” for being the first to be eliminated by a fellow driver and “missile” for being the highest speed wreck.
After the multiplayer session I got to spend some time with Michael Degraaf, from Firemonkeys, as he talked me through his iPad version of the game. The mobile versions of the Most Wanted have been built from the ground up; they are not ports of the console version. Whilst Firemonkeys work closely with Criterion to ensure that the gameplay feels the same on the mobile versions, careful consideration is also made to ensure that utilise the unique features of the smaller platforms.
I’d never even touched an iPad before, so using the hardware’s built in motion sensing technology to steer the car (whilst the iPad handled acceleration duties) was a bit tricky to begin with. I soon got the knack of it and Michael’s worried expression turn to a smile as he loosened his grip on the device, confident that I was not going to accidently fling the thing across the room.
Graphical the mobile version of the game is pretty near identical to its console brethren. To see such a pixel perfect miniaturised version of the game running on a wafer-thin iPad was pleasant a surprise. Firemonkeys have done a great job. Mobile device owners are going to have a lot of fun taking Most Wanted career with them.
The hands-on may have been just limited to the multiplayer mode, but being a veteran player of the Burnout games and having enjoyed Criterion’s Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit, I’m pretty confident that the final product is going to something special. I very much enjoyed the game; both the PS3 multiplayer and the, quite frankly, jaw-dropping mobile version on the iPad. I’m looking forward to the game’s release and so should you be.