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Need for Speed: Most Wanted - how to troll the Fairhaven Police Department

What seems to be the problem, officer?

I've fallen foul of the police exactly twice in my life. Once, it was because I'd taken a chair from a dumpster (it's still private property after it's been thrown away, a constable informed me, with the air of a man passing on Sacred Truth). A few years later, I managed to flag down a riot wagon by accident while waving to my dad. Hardly the sort of crime spree Charles Bronson would be jealous of, but then, I've never really needed to indulge my inner law-breaker in the outside world. There's plenty of scope for that kind of thing in the likes of Need for Speed: Most Wanted, which applies the cat and mouse action of Hot Pursuit to the sweeping vistas of Burnout Paradise.

I've fallen foul of tonnes of cops in Need for Speed: Most Wanted. Heaps. It takes a bit of work to get their attention, though. The enforcers I've encountered don't seem too bothered about things like knocked-over lamp posts, or even driving the wrong way up the street. Oh no. You'll have to careen into them at hundreds of miles an hour, generally. And that's when the magic begins.

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Here's my favourite way to upset and confuse the police in Need for Speed: Most Wanted - cause a ruckus, head downtown, find one of the many ramps that populate Fairhaven's fluting, lightly congested roadways, drive off the ramp and do it again, endlessly. If your Chi is strong, you'll be rewarded with the sight of station wagons crashing to Earth all around you like over-sized lemmings. Station wagons milling around the bottom of the ramp in bovine confusion. Station wagons caught in furious whirlpools of civilian traffic. I've managed 15 laps of a single ramp so far. At some point I'll do a video, and there will be jollity and merriment.

Another way to square off with the cops is to initiate a race. Among the events dotted across Fairhaven (each easy to locate, thanks to Criterion's expanded Autolog system) are getaway varieties where you struggle, alone or in company, against the law's long arm. These missions are perhaps the most entertaining aspects of Most Wanted right now - both because the cops have few qualms about dirtying your paintwork, and because they'll comment on your antics over the radio.

There's a startlingly large array of responses, calling on the skills of several voice actors and covering everything from a change of car to a trip off-road to a messy encounter with a roadblock (these are deployed along with spike strips as your Heat level goes up). Some of the lines are for laughs. "This guy thinks he's James Bond," one pursuing officer quipped after I swapped to a decidedly Moore-esque silver corvette.

Sadly, the brilliance of these dynamic narratives throws a scarcity of drama elsewhere into sharper relief. Most Wanted is a beautifully accomplished racer, but its components are fundamentally those of other racers, and Criterion doesn't always arrange them in a satisfying way. Certain of the events and courses threaded into Fairhaven's glittering immensity are among the developer's finest creations, but others are forgettable, burned through for the sake of those all-important Speed Points alone.

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It's said that you can't tell a decent story in a racing game. Last year's Need for Speed: The Run certainly didn't do much for the idea, but Hot Pursuit made a far more convincing case, partly by demonstrating that narratives can consist of incredibly simple ingredients - radio chatter, a helicopter swooping down as you exit a tunnel, the sight of a rival hitting a spike strip. There are flashes of this in Most Wanted, but Fairhaven's scale may have a diffusing effect. Still, what I've sampled so far is definitely more exciting than "stealing" a chair.

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