Need for Speed Most Wanted (Nintendo DS) - Review by Andrew
It's beyond doubt that Need for Speed is one of EA's most valuable franchises now and, although Ubi Soft's King Kong was hot on its heels, the underground racing game grabbed the Christmas number one spot for the third year running. This years outing, Most Wanted, built upon what has become an addictive mix of racing and music for your average petrol head. The challengers this year included an increased line-up including the new X-Box 360, Sony's PSP and, last but no means least, the DS version. The GBA versions have proven incredibly popular, with each installment being that much better than the last and, with that in mind, surely the DS version can provide the developers with even further possibilities after all they've already had a practice run with last year's Underground.
If you've played any of the Need for Speed series before you'll know the drill, if not here goes. You must enter a succession of street races in order to win, over increasingly more difficult opponents and so become the: Most Wanted. The races themselves take place on a variety of circuits with success equaling credits, allowing you to purchase new licensed cars and enhancements to your current vehicle. There are a few obstacles in the way of you gaining pole position most notably the cops who appear to be on your tail at a moments notice whilst completely ignoring other drivers speeding past you.
If you're a driving game fan then you'll know just how important the control system is. It may be overly realistic providing a challenge to the driving enthusiast or more arcade like which will appeal to a much broader audience. On the other hand it may be neither and instead is simply frustrating and unfortunately, Most Wanted falls into the latter category making for an entirely frustrating experience. The same can be said of the overall presentation and where navigation is generally simple and user friendly, the developers here seem to have gone out of their way just to confuse things.
Even the 'teaser' screens released some months ago were far from impressive and unfortunately little has been done to give the game the visual polish in order for it to become a DS showpiece. Instead you'll be treated to some of the blandest car models you've ever seen, at times they only look slightly better than the Atari LYNX version of Hard Drivin'. The environments are equally as bland and considering this is the DS version, the graphics represent a significant backwards step for the series as a whole.
The soundtrack feels (and sounds) far more generic than the previous outings so rather than a selection of 'trax' (which EA are famous for) you get a rather bland collection of 'back-beats' which go absolutely nowhere. The same can be said of the various engine sounds which sound nothing like their real life counterparts and like the soundtrack seem to be bolted on as an afterthought.
As we've come to expect with driving games the touch screen use is minimal at best and outside of some menu selections, 'signing' your name and the map display it may as well not be there at all.
Many reviewers before me have said it and I can only reiterate. To put all this in simple terms: whatever happened to sequels being better than the previous outing? Surely you can learn from your mistakes, after all don't you have that all-important user input? Most Wanted represents the second outing for the series on the DS but the gameplay and presentation are nowhere near as good as that of Ridge Racer or Asphalt Urban and they were far from perfect. It's almost as if they've completely ignored every criticism of the first game and without addressing these, they appear to have gone the extra mile and created a whole list of new ones. Don't get us wrong there's more than enough gameplay to be had here if you're prepared to overcome the rather steep learning curve thanks to the clumsy control system and dumb opponent AI, it's just that with other racers already out there, what's the point?
Pro: Lots to Unlock, Licensed Cars.
Con: Incredibly Bland Textures, Appalling Opponent AI
Final score: 4.7