When Need for Speed: Most Wanted was first announced, I was excited to pre-order the game as soon as I got the chance. I was a big fan of the original Most Wanted along with the other previous Need for Speed games released before The Run. I really loved the whole idea of being an underground street racer with the whole “Fast and The Furious” theme to it. I have friends who tell me I should play Forza or Gran Turismo instead, because it’s more realistic in terms of driving. Sometimes it’s just annoying how people think I don’t know the difference just because I have a different preference in racing games. I didn’t buy the Need for Speed games to have the professional racer experience. I bought them because I wanted to customize cars that represented who I was. I want to work my way up and beat all those obnoxious characters in the game so I can have their pink slip! Games like Street Racing Syndicate and Midnight Club have done this style before, but it was Need for Speed that really won me over.
With the revival of Most Wanted, I was really expecting that the franchise would be going back to that theme whether it was in the form of a sequel or a new storyline. Yet, as details about the game slowly emerged, I decided to hold off pre-ordering the game and just buy it on the day of its release. There was no mention of any storyline or detailed body art customization, so I decided to wait a little longer before I pull out my wallet. Release day came and I read the reviews online. Alas, it was an entirely different game from what I was expecting. I ended up not purchasing Most Wanted. The game saw the return of cops and the blacklist, but in essence it’s an entirely different experience from its original. In addition to Criterion taking over the Need for Speed series since Hot Pursuit, you might as well call it Burnout: Most Wanted.
Don’t get me wrong, the game looks like it’s loads of fun. I enjoyed the Burnout series too because I loved causing mayhem by crashing cars. It’s just not what I wanted out of a Need for Speed game. It’s the kind of fun a different market would enjoy. I’ll still buy it, just not at full price though. I could tell that I’m not the only one who was disappointed by Need for Speed’s recent direction. Browsing through comments on YouTube and in reviews, I can guarantee that you’ll always find someone reminiscing the franchise’s past games- Underground series in particular. Is this a definite end for Need for Speed’s street racer era? I surely hope not. For now, hit play on “Riders on The Storm” and let’s take a ride remembering a much loved era of the past. To start, here’s a compilation of all of the cutscenes from the first Underground game.
One of the features I loved about Need for Speed was its inclusion of a plot. You’re given a more in-depth motive to win races, as opposed to simply being on top of some list among faceless AI racers. In the original Most Wanted, most of the characters you raced against had a personality. At one point in the game, they’ve probably done something to throw you off your balance and piss you off. Sure it’s annoying as hell, but it only sweetens the satisfaction of winning in the end as you mouth off a faint “in your face” on your lips. In spite of all the douche bag bosses from Underground to Undercover, it was very gratifying for me to beat them in the end after all the crap I had to endure from them. Plus, they constantly harass your ridiculously hot girlfriend in the game so you’ve got to save them from their clutches. My favorite among the “girlfriends” in the series would have to be Josie Maran’s character in Most Wanted- Mia Townsend. I’m probably the only one who didn’t expect the twist near the end of the game. Samantha from the first Underground was awesome too. While she was just a friend, she was way more compelling than the shallow trophy girlfriend in the end.
Admittedly, the storyline can be a bit cheesy to others especially the acting. Yet, regardless of how one perceives it, the addition of the plot element enriches the racing experience by adding motive and depth to why they need to win in the first place. While The Run heavily focuses on story, it ran along a different vein from the previous street racing/import scene themed games.
Of course, reminiscing on this particular Need for Speed era wouldn’t be complete without talking about the extensive visual customization made available to players. I was disappointed to find out that the recent Most Wanted primarily focused on performance upgrades and featured very minimal options to changing the vehicle’s appearance. If that’s the case, then I probably should be playing Forza or Gran Turismo instead. I missed the days when you could truly make a car your own. I remember the days when my friends and I used to show off our cars to one another as we envied and admired each other’s creation. This feature gave players a sense of ownership and attachment to the game. It was always hard for me to part ways with a car in favor of a new one, since I upgraded it appearance and performance wise to its highest tier possible with my own cash. Now, I know why some car enthusiasts call cars their ‘baby.’ The feeling isn’t really hard to identify with. That’s basically me when it comes to any technology I’ve upgraded from its most basic parts.
When it comes to designing a car, I’ve always liked the body type of the Honda Civic, Hyundai Tiburon, and Lotus Elise. I usually have them in race car yellow with a black strip in the middle. The Honda Civic will always be sky blue though. I liked the aspect of Underground where I had to pimp my car to the next star level just to get a sponsorship or cover in a magazine. Sometimes it makes me laugh whenever I put those silly lights and body art. It makes me wonder if I’ll ever ride this car in real life? I might not ever have a car like that in reality, but it’ll always be parked in my head as a treasured memory playing video games.
Like many others, I hope that someday the Need for Speed franchise will return to it’s street racing/import scene roots. With Burnout dead and Criterion, its developers, taking the over the NFS franchise, I doubt we’ll be seeing that anytime soon. I think it’s also important to mention that the Vice-President of Criterion Alex Wand also mentioned that they’ve built multiplayer first and focused on the online features as opposed to the single player experience in the recent version of Most Wanted. I hate it when multiplayer outweighs the single player campaign. My worst fear is all the video games released in the future will be MMOs.
If they do decide on reviving the Underground era, I’m all for multiplayer as long as it’s not overpowering. If single player is really dead, then why not just do a simplistic story like in the first Underground games? In the second, it had comic style art and all the cutscenes combined amounted to a length of only 15 minutes or so. Even if it was short, players still received it well and it provided some depth to the game. With multiplayer, it would be fun to race my friends and actually have our pink slips on the line. All the franchise, and perhaps all of the other video games following the multiplayer bandwagon, is the right balance between campaigns. For now, I’m holding on to that $60 as I wait patiently for the next reboot.