Wax Poetic: No more wipeouts

If there’s one thing I miss, it’s racing games.

Now I know what you’re all thinking of. “But Cuddlebug, there’s a ton of racing games out there. A new one comes out every few months and to much critical acclaim.” Well here I am to disagree with you and reiterate, I miss good racing games.

To add some background on this subject and to clarify, I’ve been following the more recent Need for Speed game: Most Wanted. It’s a “remake” of the 2005 game Need for Speed Most Wanted and bares little to no resemblance to it besides the name. In fact, I’d say it’s more a remake of the more recent Burnout game instead. Why do I think that? Well lets list all the features that made the original Need For Speed Most Wanted a very good solid title.

1. Car Customization: Car Customization is the primary reason I actually play racing games. Cars have a very visibly apparent aesthetic, you can see it in car magazines and how much money companies pump out for advertisements. Need For Speed Most Wanted had hundreds to possibly thousands of different customization options for the cars you could drive in game, and the possibilities were sometimes limitless.

2. Free Roam: Need For Speed Most Wanted was an open world title, it was released at a time where “open world” meant Grand Theft Auto. But it was different then GTA. It’s graphics were better, there were no NPCs to run over (buy Carmageddon if you want to get your running over disabled people urges out). And most importantly, it was extremely fast paced. However at the same time it shared common Grand Theft Auto staples, most notably police would chase you if you were speeding or committing other felonies. Alongside that there was also a wanted level. The city you resided in had side quests like “reach this area and be at a specific speed” which was harder then it sounds like.

3. Split screen: Splitscreen was something every racing game generally has, and from what I’ve heard of the remake it doesn’t feature this. Though I could be wrong and someone’ll probably post a comment saying so.

4. Story: Something I was generally surprised about with Most Wanted was it had a premise that was interesting. The way the game starts out, you have the best car in the game fully upgraded. You do a few races and you beat your opponents very easily. Then as this goes on you race one opponent who cheats and defeats you. After that you’re captured by the police and in your absence your opponent defeats a “Black List” of racers and becomes their leader using your car. The entire objective of the game is to get revenge and win your car back, and in order to do that you have to work your way from the bottom. While it is just an excuse to explain why you’d take on a “Black List” of racers, it was brilliant. I never knew I could be engaged by such a simple premise in a racing game before.

Now all this sound great doesn’t it? Well you’d be surprised to learn that the remake features none of this (at least with regard to 3).

Car Customization is heavily simplified, you can’t for instance alter the stats of your car. It goes to the bare bones of “What color do you want” and “Do you want a spoiler”. It’s almost comical just how badly Criteron missed the point of the original game.

While there is free roam to a certain extent it’s not the same as the original Most Wanted had. You can select where your races take place and unlock hidden cars, but there are no side quests. Nor can you select to just cruise around the city without police attacking you.

Where the story is concerned from what I’ve heard there’s none to speak of. Just a blurb on the back of the case that says “Take on the Most Wanted¬†Street racers”¬†. Pretty much summed up the entire game right there. That’s okay though, there’s always more budget to be put into how the bumper slides along the road when you get rear ended after all.

I hate how most modern developers tend to revel in the simplicity of the genre. You can look at other simple games, like the NES game Mike Tysons Punch Out, and see how much attention was put to the smaller aspects. Like how all the opponents were visibly bigger then the player and all had very noticeable split second tells that indicated how they would hit you. It was still a difficult title, but you knew why you lost. It made you return to the game time and time again. With Criteron’s remake of Most Wanted, all I see is a group of executives pumping budget into increasing the polycount and all the marketing, and cutting almost all the appeal the original game had to the consumer.

And people wonder why indie games are so popular now. When an indie racing game with slightly more competitive graphics comes out, believe me I’ll be one of the first to preorder. Until then I’ll go back and replay Most Wanted.

Dr. Cuddlebug is a robot aficionado. He resides in the frosty northern wasteland known as Canada and has been known to have a giant eyeball for a head. Beware his tophat collection.


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