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Sunday, September 22, 2013

What EA Got Wrong with Need for Speed Most Wanted (2013)

Earlier this year, I bought Need for Speed: Most Wanted (2013) for my PlayStation Vita and absolutely hated it. So much so that I ended up trading it for Assassin's Creed III: Liberation.

A friend of mine let me borrow a copy of the game so I could try it for my PlayStation 3 and I see small differences so my previous post was spot on for just about every console it came out on. However, there are some things that I began to like about the game as I played it on the big screen.

In this post, I'd like to discuss both the bad and the good things about the recent title in the series. I doubt EA would actually listen to me, let alone any NFS fan, but it feels good to sometimes just discuss what you liked and disliked about something.

EA has been angering fans with each new release and doesn't seem to do much to ease their desires. It's not as if EA can't make the necessary changes because fans are thinking back to previous games. EA has the potential to make changes that will help fans enjoy the series they once loved.

Amongst most fans, the series' best years were between Underground and Carbon. Since Carbon, there have been many titles that were released. But what happened? It's not as simple as a publisher changing but something more.

What made those titles so great? There are many reasons and most of those reasons were excluded from the newer titles which probably is what has caused so many to dislike the newer titles.

First of all, there was a major inclusion into the series within Underground, which is still regarded by some as being one of the best in the series. The inclusion of customization of cars was an important factor for many people and has become the norm amongst racing games nowadays. If your racing game doesn't include customization, it probably won't do so well.

There are two different types of customization and EA failed to include one into its latest title. There are the performance customizations which are important in racing as it helps you stand out from everyone else who bought the same car as you. While you may not be the best driver, you can improve your car to help get you to the same position as everyone else. The second type of customization is in terms of looks. This is not as important but it has become a thing that gamers have been introduced to thanks mostly to EA with NFS Underground.

Most Wanted 2013 failed to include a way for gamers to customize how their vehicle looks from the outside which was a major let down for lots of fans. The other piece that was missing was in terms of performance. While EA did include performance mods, they did not allow users to do it in a fashionable way nor did they give many options.

As crazy as it sounds, many of us were disappointed with the way that Most Wanted 2013 let us customize our car. It was a simple drop down menu and clicking a button. There was no garage, no background, no mechanic in a video putting on the mods...none of that which killed it for some of us.

Removing the ability to customize the car's look was another major let down. Many of us enjoyed being able to put on or take off a spoiler. EA should have taken advice from their first Most Wanted and given many options for spoilers and other visual mods. It makes the car seem more personal rather than just some car.

Some of us feel a bit different about this and some of us may feel like me and not sure how to feel. Typically, racing games force players to earn vehicles whether that be earning money and then being able to purchase cars or earning them from races. Some games like Midnight Club Los Angeles incorporated both.

In Most Wanted 2013, almost all of the vehicles are given to the player from the start. The only thing that stands between the player and getting those vehicles is going into the world to find them. This is a great strategy to force players to explore the open world, but it detracts in a way in that it doesn't motivate players to play through matches as much. When forced to choose from one of three "introductory" cars and then work your way to the top, you are more likely to go out and race races to earn these cars than if they are given to you.

However, I have found myself often wishing that all of the vehicles were unlocked so I could drive any of them whenever I pleased.

EA's decision to incorporate this into the game had mixed opinions from me. I enjoyed playing with the different cars and racing them throughout the city, but there was a lack of motivation from me when it came to racing races as I just didn't feel a need to.

What else seemed to be lacking was a story. That's not to say that the previous games had engaging stories that forced us to play more and more, but that we genuinely did enjoy being apart of a story and seeing where things go. This goes hand in hand with the motivation factor. Part of motivation was also not having a story. What's the point in racing this race versus that race? There seemed to be no point except to race. Which isn't a big deal for most as it is a game, but many of us enjoyed the storyline and didn't see a reason to remove it. One thing that I absolutely do not miss are having to sit through long cinematics and hear annoying voices making pathetic insults while I race.

For me personally, I miss starting lines like every other racing game has. I don't like starting a race in the middle of the car moving. It makes me feel nervous and I have no clue what's going on around me. It looks cool from a cinematic point of view, but this isn't the Fast & Furious; this is a video game where I control the car and I need to be focused on my car from beginning to end.

The cops' AI seems a bit low on this latest title. Sometimes when I'm cruising the world, I like to piss off the cops and start a little chase. As odd as this sounds, on most occasions, I find myself actually reversing or slowing down so the cops can catch up. Don't get me wrong, when the chase is occurring and there is more than one police car chasing, they will keep up very nicely, but when it's just one chasing, it's difficult for him to keep up. Maybe that's what really happens in real life, I wouldn't know but it just doesn't seem right. Something needs to be done to fix this issue. When the cops are engaged and in the pursuit, it gets a whole lot more fun. They ram the car, they put out spike strips, they get the roadblocks...it's a ball but I find it difficult to get them started.

One thing that EA certainly did get right, and usually does, about this NFS title was the engine and mechanics of the game. The AI interacts well with the player and the environment, the graphics are outstanding for its time, the cars are responsive to the touch...it's all very well done and EA does do a fantastic job when it comes to engines and mechanics. Unfortunately, there's more to a game than how well it plays.

The police's spike strip was a nice addition to the series. I'm not sure whether or not this has been included before, but I believe that it had been included in the past and might have even been in the original Most Wanted from 2005. I remember that whatever game it was, the spike strips didn't seem to do anything to your car. In this game, they do and you can see it very clearly. Running over a spike strip is something that you definitely don't want to do in this game and I like that it's been made that way.

One of the most unusual things that I think that I liked in the changes were the inclusion of "gas stations" that allowed you to change a car's color and repair its damage without even stopping. This makes police pursuits more fun, for me personally, and a nice way to get a good looking car without a wait. It's odd as I wouldn't have liked the idea on paper, but it worked well when played out. It seemed too unrealistic to work and be fun, but it is.

Being chased by the police then getting a chance to hide away as a different colored car is a whole lot of fun and brings a new sort of challenge. I've found myself, often times, becoming frustrated (in a good way) because the cops caught up before I had time to change my car's color. I love it and it makes the chase that much more fun for me as it forces me to get out and find a different way to evade them.

The currency system needs work but overall, I'd say that it does a fine job. In comparison to previous games, I liked this version more even over Most Wanted 2005's currency system.

2005 Most Wanted was confusing when it came to winnings. If you won a race, it was obvious that that money was yours to keep. But once you evade police in a police chase, there would be a number displaying how much money in damage you did during the chase. It was confusing as it seemed that no matter how big of a chase you had, it had no impact on how much money you made. Most Wanted 2013 corrected this issue, very nicely if I may add, in that you are paid for every police chase you have. The more time spent during the chase and the higher heat levels you achieve, the more money you acquire. I like this system a whole lot more than what I had seen in previous NFS titles.

I think a lot of what EA got wrong with NFS since Carbon's release, has been that they want to try new things but don't consider the consumers' opinion of what made the game great.

I think if EA really wants to make drastic changes, they ought not to mess with the franchise that's already been established. Rather, they should make a completely new racing series and try those options there. Oddly enough, EA does have other racing titles. However, the only one that comes to mind as of now, is that of professional NASCAR racing which isn't in the same genre as Need for Speed is. While both are racing games, one has been focused on illegal street racing and the other legal, professional racing.

If EA wants to make changes, make a new series of games rather than screwing with one that's already been established. I think a lot of these changes wouldn't be as bad because people wouldn't be as likely to compare it to Need for Speed.

A lot of the titles in the series that came after Carbon weren't necessarily always bad games, just didn't deserve to carry the Need for Speed title. For example, you may enjoy listening to Nickleback and Metallica. But if Metallica's next album was to sound like Nickleback, you would be quite frustrated. The same is true for the Need for Speed series. When I buy a Need for Speed game, I am hoping to play a game that feels like the previous games, not like another game like NASCAR. NASCAR may be a fun game, I don't deny that, but it's not what I'm looking to play at the moment.

The Need for Speed series has been one of the best racing video game series to ever be released and has paved the way for many new games and companies to challenge the series such as Midnight Club. It's a shame to see it go downhill with each new release even though it has so much potential.

What are some of the things that you like about the Need for Speed games? Which one(s) is/are your favorite? What makes them so great?

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