“The following is a contributor post by the Purple Prose Mage.”
As any Mage who knows me well will tell you, the racing game is my genre of expertise. It’s always been my intention for them to be covered here far more frequently and the Well-Red Mage is content with my filling this quota. However, there are so many racing games I could talk about but playing them all substantially enough and then reviewing them takes time. Instead, I came up with the idea of Racing Game of the Week, a weekly column covering a different racing game each week. Following the success of the Bookwarm Mage’s series of essays on Earthbound, I’ve been scrambling to get my hands on a piece of the serialised pie.
Initially, this began life as an audio-visual format narrated by myself, accompanied with a music track from that week’s game. It was like a short-form podcast or radio show. After creating that first episode, I pitched it to the Well-Red Mage, giving him first refusal on hosting. Ultimately, there’s already so much coming down the YouTube channel’s pipeline that we decided it wouldn’t be worthwhile. So I was ready to publish it on my own channel, which had always been the plan all along. Except, then I reconsidered. The format is quite simple to write because it’s intended to be short-form. The recording and editing is what makes production take that little bit longer. Thus, I decided to scrap the audio-visual element, retaining the written word (which has always been my greater strength) and running it as a series of articles. The actual format of my output has never been as important to me as where it’s going. I’d rather be writing for this site than making videos for my own.
This is the first entry in what is hoped to be a weekly series – as they’re much quicker to create this way, that aim is more likely to be achieved. Of the final installment, I shall say this: I defy you to predict what game it will be (no, it’s not that one).
The original Need for Speed: Most Wanted (published by Electronic Arts) was released for the PlayStation 2 in Europe all the way back on 25th November 2005. Hung Up by Madonna was at No. 1. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire held its top spot at the Northern American box office in its 2nd weekend. As the 9th instalment of the Need for Speed series, Need for Speed: Most Wanted succeeded Need for Speed: Underground 2 and preceded Need for Speed: Carbon – both games we’ll get to in the coming weeks – the latter of which is a direct sequel. Rated 82 by Metacritic, Need for Speed: Most Wanted is still – at a record of 16 million units sold – the best-selling Need for Speed game ever released. It turned out to truly be The Most Wanted Need for Speed – here’s why…
The Need for Speed series began as a series of arcade racing games that weren’t particularly unique from their contemporaries. Need for Speed: Underground was something of a tonal shift for the franchise, inspired by real street racing culture and the Japanese import scene, and is credited with reviving the series and establishing its identity. Need for Speed: Underground 2 added open world gameplay. However, there was a sense that, despite these developments, the Need for Speed games were missing police. Previously, only the Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit subseries had experimented with a pursuit system. Since then, the modern Need for Speed games had excluded law enforcement – a choice which is generally considered to have held them back.
Along came Need for Speed: Most Wanted. The ultimate aim, referenced in the title, is to climb the Blacklist by acquiring the highest bounty in order to become the city of Rockport’s Most Wanted street racer. Each of the 15 Blacklist racers function as the 15 bosses that require increasing levels of skill and notoriety in order to be challenged. Your path up the Blacklist culminates with the #1 Most Wanted street racer: “Razor”. He cheated you out of the BMW M3 GTR featured on the cover. Only when you’ve taken his #1 Most Wanted position and won back your ride can your revenge be had.
As your also bounty increases, so too do the measures taken by the police to bring you down. Civic Cruisers might not pose much of a threat, but Supercharged Rhino Units do. The real danger, however, is knowing that the cops could give chase at any time, not just between races but during them. If you haven’t shaken them by the finish line, don’t expect them to disappear once the race is over – especially if they’re being aided by a chopper. If need be, use the Speedbreaker feature, which temporarily slows down time and gives you longer to think in a tight moment. Alternatively, lead the cops through a pursuit breaker – large structures around the city that can be brought down on them.
The absolute best feature of the game, that brought everything together, is the police radio. Through it, you can hear them planning their strategy. This allows you to anticipate it. The police radio makes pursuits like cat-and-mouse or chess, that turns them into games of skill instead of random events and reveals how complex the police AI actually is. Pursuits also have challenges within them that will boost your overall bounty, such as immobilising a certain number of units or even maintaining the pursuit for a specified period of time. The pursuits are so exciting that it can be disappointing when they’re over. At the same time, you’re glad to have escaped nevertheless.
All of this comes into play in the biggest way during the final level. Having defeated every Blacklist racer and reacquired the iconic cover car, you’re pursued by every unit and must now escape the city. That’s where the sequel, Need for Speed: Carbon, comes in (which will be featured in an upcoming episode).
In 2012, Need for Speed: Most Wanted was made available on the PlayStation Store but was removed some months later after Electronic Arts announced the remake that was released later that year. I’ve not played it, nor I do I desire to do so (and yet, I’m always praising the remake of Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit).
To play us out now is a song featured in Need for Speed: Most Wanted. Originally released in 2003 by Styles of Beyond on the album Megadef and titled Superstars, this song was remixed by Grant Mohrman under the new title Nine Thou. It’s the first song to play during the menu screen and is therefore the track that will most easily transport 16 million of us back to that time in our life when we lived in Rockport City and were the Most Wanted.
The Purple Prose Mage rewrites his author’s blurb every time he publishes a post because he keeps changing his approach to things. He’s currently working on a documentary about the Driver series for its 20th anniversary next year (follow).
Did you enjoy this post? Consider becoming a Warrior of Light and join us in restoring integrity and quality to games writing through thoughtful, long-form reviews. We’re a community aspiring to pay our contributors and build a fairer and happier alternative to mainstream games writing and culture. See our Patreon page for more info!