I can sum this fun racing game up in one neat sentence as follows:

Criterion Games bring you another instalment of the franchise which combines elements of their previous games Burnout: Paradise and Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit.

But that’s not the whole story. I loved Paradise as much as Burnout:Revenge and I played NFS:Hot Pursuit and enjoyed it, but obviously not enough to mention it on this blog or review it on Amazon, which is kind of odd. I am a huge fan of Criterion who seem to be able to make racing games that appear to go faster than any others while still keeping lots of detail and handling lots of action.

Most Wanted features the ‘free roaming’ element of Paradise and the cop chase elements that made Hot Pursuit so much fun. The racing routes are very similar to those featured in previous games and the game mechanics have not changed much.

You still have some options to customise the cars that you can ‘jack’ from around the map – features are unlocked as you do well in races. The garages still dot the map and you can whiz through them to get your car fixed while racing; another feature is that the car colour will change which seems to help (a little) sometimes when you are trying to evade the filth at low level of alertness. The levels of alertness mirror what was in Hot Pursuit and are similar to those in the GTA series. You can perform takedowns on rival racers and cops, but only the heaviest of cars (such as the Range Rover) can knock into traffic without disastrously frustrating results.

There are some very cool and fast cars dotted around the map which can be used straight away (just find them, drive up to them and press ‘Y’) – for instance I got hold of a Lamborghini after only a couple of hours of driving around and after a few challenges were complete I had it installed with racing tyres, nitro and a new chassis. I could then use it to take on a few of the ten ‘most wanted’ – these are special races that you do to win special cars. You need to win the race and then take down the other driver. Sometimes this is easier said than done – but the beaten driver helpfully drives around the map once you’ve won the specific race and gives you plenty of opportunities to take him out if you don’t get him immediately after the race.

The cars themselves are all fun to drive and have their individual characteristics for example the Subaru is great around corners but relatively slow, the Pagini is amazingly quick in a straight line (especially with nitro) but susceptible to takedowns and not so good on corners, the Bugati (my preferred supercar that I used for the last couple of most wanted races) is also quick in a straight and corners a little better and is not so flimsy, the Range Rover is like a ponderously slow tank that steers like a boat, and the open wheeled cars drive like go-karts but are really easy to take down and invariably crash at crucial moments.

The top ten cars are as follows: Alfa Romeo 4C Concept, Shelby Cobra 427, Mercedes-Benz SL 65 AMG, Lexus LFA, McLaren MP4-12C, Porsche 918 Spyder Concept, Lamborghini Aventador, Bugatti Veyron Super Sports (my preferred weapon of mass destruction), Pagini Huayra and the awesome Koenigsegg Agera R. All cars are shown in their full beauty in nifty cutscenes prior to the races which are only unlocked when you have accumulated enough points. There are lots of cars with lots of personality – rumour has it that the Fiat Punto is in there somewhere but I’ve yet to find it. There’s also a bit of weather which seemed to be missing from Paradise. But obviously if you want a proper driving sim then stick to Gran Turismo or PGR.

The cops can be an irritant and don’t stand down when you enter into a race. If they’re on level 3 alertness when you decide to do three laps in race to win some off road tyres then expect to be hassled all the way around the race and come out of it at an even higher alertness level than you entered. There’s no getting away from them unless you are in a really fast car. I tended to just sit back and let them bust me. If there are penalties (score reduction) they’re so small that I didn’t notice them. Quite a cute feature is that you can be in a race against eight rivals let’s say driving for 6 miles and 3 miles into the race the cops spot that there’s a race happening and join in trying to shut you all down. Spike strips are not as common as in Hot Pursuit and they seem slightly less inclined to try and ram you off the road in this iteration.

The music is pretty good, but once I had heard all the tracks I turned it off so I could concentrate on driving. There’s no DJ voiceover in the game, but the sexy woman’s voice from Burnout: Revenge is featured. The menu system is pretty good and can be used while you’re driving without too much risk of crashing and the game autosaves regularly.

A couple of minor criticisms I have are that there seems to be less variety in terms of activities than Paradise and that the ten most wanted are relatively easy to collect (sometimes seeming to go out of there way to crash just before the end of the race). I have played the game for just over twelve hours and have collected all the special cars and now I only have the percentage complete and the medals in the races to target. I’m not enough of an OCD player to want to spend hours driving around trying to do all the minor things like speed cameras (a new feature I think), jump distances, security barriers and billboards. I haven’t done multiplayer so can’t comment on that.

There’s nothing game-changing in this release but it is lots of fun. By the way, here’s my review of Burnout: Paradise on Amazon.