Need For Speed: Most Wanted U Review

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If you asked me about cars, all I could tell you is “magic steel transport box”. I’m sure this would make the racing fans out there weep at my ignorance, however you don’t need to learn code to appreciate a video game, in the same way, I don’t need to know the difference between a Corsette and a LabourGenie (or whatever you kids these days like) to appreciate a Need for Speed game. Although the other versions of Most Wanted have been on the shelves for some time now, Wii U fans have been waiting for their turn like the last kid to be picked for T-Ball (yep, that was me). But was it worth the wait?

With Criterion claiming Most Wanted U would be the definitive console experience, most Wii U fans began to test out their newly deserved ego. After Criterions successful reboot of the arcade racer with Hot Pursuit, they are back again with another title to reinvent and reestablish the genre. What sets Most Wanted U apart is its attention to detail. Not only do the cars look amazing but the environments and lighting help create the feeling of tearing through a living city in a Chevrolet. Sunlight briefly blinds you as you emerge from tunnels, dirt flicks against the screen, puddles reflect the warm sunlight and the energetic radio responds to your driving style.

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What I’ve always wanted, the ability to change the weather.

Most Wanted U makes no excuses for what it is. Dropping you into a much shinier and nicer car than any games journo could ever afford, it states clearly, “you drive a car, it goes fast, get to the end.” There’s no dilly-dallying with melodramatic intros, just a brief cut scene and you are belting down a busy highway at an unrealistically ridiculous speed. Most Wanted U embraces the arcade racer. Racing moments that are seemingly absurd when spoken about out loud are unashamedly entertaining once you are thrown in the drivers seat. Smashing over street lights, jumping through billboards and side swiping other racers into walls are necessary evils which are rewarded in this universe of B-grade film street racing antics.

Where other racers have you jumping in and out of menus to access races, Most Wanted U creates a seamless open world experience. Right from the get-go you have access to the entirety of Fairhaven, a varied but ultimately generic city. Unlike some other open world games, there are no load times between different sections of the city. This creates a smooth and flowing atmosphere while trawling Fairhaven for million dollar cars ripe for the stealing or obnoxious EA billboards to smash through.

Whenever racers have attempted to add a little more depth and story to their games they often end up taking away from the original premise (cough, NFS: The Run, cough). Here, you are a racer. The city is overrun by street racers striving to be number one, or the ‘Most Wanted’. Somehow you and everyone else in the city has access to the holy grail of car dealers while the cops seem intent on smashing their pimped out police cars to bring you down. The end. While I had no real direction as to why I wanted to be number one, the title of the game told me to so I adhered.

But forget the story, this is a racing game, it’s the cars we are here for. Scattered across the sandbox landscape are 46 cars ranging from everyday utes to top of the range Aston Martins. Fortunately there is no mucking around in trying to unlock them, most cars are free to drive from the moment the game starts, you’ll just need to track them down first. Each car is found decked out in stock equipment allowing you to win races and upgrade your car to suit your style. From off road tires, new engines and a higher NOS capacity for slipping by opponents, each perk is designed to give you the edge in different circumstances.

Each car has a number of varied races available to it ranging from easy to hard. Sprints, circuits and endurance runs are all here and winning will net you the all precious Speed Points used to unlock new upgrades and rise in the Most Wanted ranks. I’ve been known to be quite the ‘hoon’ from time to time; ignoring school speed zones and refusing to indicate properly out of a round-about, but in Fairview things are a little more intense. You will have the opportunity to stick it to the virtual man by earning bonus Speed Points for dangerous driving, smashing billboards and speeding by speed cameras. However, the easiest way to rack up the points is through actually entering races.

Mastering the unique style of Most Wanted U should come quickly. You won’t be penalised for slip ups or taking corners wrong, in fact, dangerous and audacious driving is encouraged and a must to win. Drifting and avoiding head on collisions will be your main concern, but once you learn to avoid driving directly into oncoming traffic time and time again like I found myself doing, then you should be on your rise to the coveted Most Wanted position in no time.

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Can’t catch me, I’m the gingerbread man!

Once you’ve had enough of flipping the virtual bird to faceless AI’s, it could be time to jump into the chaotic multiplayer and see just how bad you are. Like any online community, the skills you feel you have nailed aren’t always up to the standards of internet folk. You will have the opportunity to race around the open city with either friends or strangers participating in ‘setlists’ of races and challenges. Each different event is varied and allows the more light footed racer the chance to shine with challenges such as longest drift or furthest jump. Although, challenges like this often end up in a destruction derby style mess. Like in the main game, online is seamless and jumping in and out of the multiplayer is done with ease from your Easy Drive menu.

I’m sure you’ve been thinking, ‘why couldn’t I have just played this on my PS3 or 360 and do away with this oversized Gameboy Advance I’m holding’. For starters, the Wii U version does look marginally better than the other versions, but nothing to write a long heart-felt love letter home about. The best part about using the Wii U gamepad is off-screen play. While your girlfriend is watching something involving a Kardashian or two, you can continue smashing into the boys in blue without interruption. The gamepad also includes what they call ‘Co-Driver Mode’ which I never quite found the point in. While playing you will be able to quickly turn traffic on/off, change cars and paint-jobs and set day to night on the fly. Ultimately, none of this was necessarily too difficult to just do from the Easy Drive menu.

  • Wii U

The Verdict

While Need for Speed: Most Wanted U features a few more cars to destroy, some extra races to ignore and the first piece of DLC - the Ultimate Speed Pack, nothing about it is necessarily definitive. Fortunately, it is still a solid arcade racer building upon the genre with a solid multiplayer mode to fulfill your underlying speed-freak desires.
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