During its fiscal 2005, Electronic Arts
The game: street racer Need for Speed Underground 2.
Last month -- just in time for the debut of Microsoft's
In Most Wanted, EA combines the cop chases from NFS:Hot Pursuit with the street racing and car customization of the Underground games, as well as a complete city in which to roam freely (as in last year's NFSU 2). This time, you play a street racer who gets cheated out of his car. And in order to get revenge, you have to climb "The Blacklist" of the 15 street racers most wanted by the police. And to do that, you have to both win races and earn rep (or "bounty" in this case) -- not by modifying your ride (as in NFSU), but by intentionally getting into cop chases, running road blocks, "trading paint" (making contact with a police vehicle), and causing damage.
Once you have earned enough rep, the next player on the Blacklist will challenge you to a pair of races.
The vehicle lineup has shifted. Gone from the import-tuner-oriented NFSU 2 are the entry-level sport compacts. Most of the elite Japanese import cars remain -- including the Mitsubishi Lancer Evo VIII, Toyota
The mix of races has also changed. Gone from NFSU 2 are the drifting (my favorite) and "Street X" (an alternative form of autocross). In their place are the tollbooth races -- basically, the checkpoint races found in your typical arcade game -- and the speedtrap, where the goal is to go through the checkpoints at the highest speed; the racer with the highest total speed at the checkpoints (and not necessarily who gets to the finish line first) wins.
On the plus side, players can win the pink slip to a Blacklist rival's car after defeating him or her, rather than having to modify new vehicles from scratch. And while performance modification is still an integral part of this game, visual modification plays a less prominent role, though all of the modification options are there.
And following Brooke Burke in last year's game, Most Wanted features Josie Marian as the lead female character.
In all, the gameplay is still there and the graphics are great -- especially on the Xbox 360 version, which I saw at the SEMA Show at the beginning of last month. But most importantly, Most Wanted is fresh; it's not just another more-of-the-same sequel. And while I won't bet that Most Wanted sells 15 million units this fiscal year (though it might), there is no doubt that Need for Speed is still the king of the street racers. It's also clear that Most Wanted is the game to beat for EA's top street-racing rivals, Take-Two Interactive
Electronic Arts is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor recommendation. For more hot stocks at great prices, take a free trial and let Fool co-founders David and Tom Gardner be your guides. Microsoft is a Motley Fool Inside Value recommendation.
Fools, now is the time to open your hearts and wallets to worthy causes! Please support our five Foolish charities at www.foolanthropy.com .