Need For Speed: Most Wanted certainly has the edgy, too-cool-for school attitude you'd expect from a racing game bearing EA's 'Most Wanted' label. You're encouraged to drive obscenely fast cars with no regard for safety or insurance premiums - you've almost certainly stolen rather than bought your ride, after all - smashing into rival racers and cop cruisers alike while wub wub blares out in the background. The 2005 original's gritty urban setting returns in Fairhaven city, and high-octane police chases are still one of the main attractions.
But Criterion has other plans for Most Wanted. Quietly subverting the original 2005 template, the masters of the dangerous driving genre have grafted the satisfying street racers vs police setup into a massive open city, packed with events to take part in, secrets to find, jumps to ace and new cars to boost. You'll drop in and out of other players' worlds and compete in insane freeform event playlists. We'll gaze transfixed, drool slowly running down our chins, at newly improved slow-motion crash carnage pornography as rivals crumple, deform and explode during collisions. All while making sure that the fuzz doesn't harsh our good times.
Basically, Need For Speed: Most Wanted is going to be Burnout Paradise 2. Burnout Harder.
Most Wanted's Burnout DNA is plain to see from the moment you strap into a stolen Porsche 911 and belt down the Fairhaven freeway; barging through traffic, tyres squealing, sliding sideways through traffic, hot on the heels of your rival reprobates. The E3 hands-on demo thrust us into a hair-raising race through the Four Bridges district of Fairhaven, a six-lane canvas for some furious dodging and weaving. As always, the action is incredibly fast and unbelievably aggressive; competitors continually attempt to barge you into oncoming traffic or take advantage of your slipstream. Manage to return the favour and you'll witness their destruction in the slowest, most luscious slow motion yet, their cars crumpling like concertinas, glass shattering, axles snapping and wheels flying off into the middle distance. As you gain notoriety, the chase becomes doubly dangerous as police interceptors join the fray, attempting to break up the party with their souped-up rollers.
It's classic Burnout, like Hot Pursuit but meatier, and packing more raw power than ever before. Criterion are damn good at what they do, and what they do is making exceptionally visceral racers. And pretty, shiny ones to boot.
And yet, once the race ends, the world persists... and the cops will still be gunning for you. You're suddenly free to hit the gas and carve your own route through the sprawling conurbation, shaking off the police with jumps and shortcuts or smashing their cruisers off of bridges to escape their pursuit. Despite being a sepia-tinged and gritty environment, Fairhaven has much in common with Paradise City, its spiritual predecessor. The metropolis is stuffed with barriers, ramps and hidden areas, which Criterion actively encourage you to (ab)use during races as well as exploring during downtime. Not only do repair garages make a return, but you can now find a bevy of hidden 'jack spots' that grant access to exotic cars. Once you're ready to race again, new events can be found at every corner and intersection.
Winning races and besting opponents will earn Speed Points, which can be spent on new cars and modifications. As a Need For Speed title, tuning is now a major part of the experience, allowing you to add new tyres, suspension and nitro systems to your customised racing machines. Autolog has also received a substantial update, becoming (somewhat obviously) Autolog 2.0. It's set to record everything we do, from airtime to drifting distances and everything in between, allowing players to compete in more than just basic speed.
Drop-in multiplayer, which was a highlight of Burnout Paradise, is set to return in a big way, throwing twelve players into insane 'playlists' of multiple, varied events that randomly spawn around the enormous map. Getting to the events on time, and barging competitors out of the way in order to secure pole position, will be the order of the day; Most Wanted isn't about rules and regulations, it's about winning by any means necessary.
So, Need For Speed: Most Wanted is going to offer us all the drift-heavy, car wrecking, traffic-defying action we love from the Burnout series, combined with Hot Pursuit's thrilling police chases and Paradise City's freedom. All from one of the most highly-respected and skilled racing developers in the world, one of the few studios who always, always hits the mark.
Go on then.
Need For Speed: Most Wanted is slated for an October 30th release on PS3 and Xbox 360.