Criterion Games began our gamescom 2012 Need for Speed: Most Wanted demonstration by stating that nearly every car in the game (and there will be lots of cars) will be available to use immediately; if the player can find them. It is clear from the get go that Criterion want to reward players for exploration in their open-world racer.
Finding and driving a car is by all means not the end of the experience though, as each vehicle will have races and challenges attached to them and by completing these you will unlock additional mods which can be applied to the vehicle to increase performance. Although most of the vehicles in the game will be available immediately, 10 'most-wanted' cars will be unavailable at first and in order to get your hands on these you will have to defeat them in a race.
Even in the single-player open-world mode a lot of emphasis is given on connectivity and playing with friends. Thanks to the massively expanded Autolog 2 system, players will be in constant competition with the people on their friends list.
Speed cameras are placed all around Fairhaven City and when passing them players will be caught on camera and shown how fast they were travelling through that area, along with an instant comparison to their friends times showing who got the highest speed. Want more information? Simply drive up to the camera and you will see further information displayed directly on the screen showing not only who hit the best times, but also what vehicle they were driving when they did it.
Similarly, billboards are placed throughout the city at jump points and players are encouraged to smash through them as fast as possible to see who can get the most distance. It will be obvious at a glance who your competition is here, as the current distance leader's face will be emblazoned across the billboard for all to see. The satisfaction is dual here. If you are in the lead you get the knowledge that your face will be leering down at those losers who can't keep up with your epic jumps. Of course, should you be the one lagging behind you also get the satisfaction of smashing your car through your friend's stupid, smug face whether you can beat his jump or not!
Everything you do, both in single and multiplayer, awards you with 'Speed Points' which boost your 'Most Wanted' rating and drive you further up the leaderboards. Even if you are playing on your own, the central premise in Need for Speed: Most Wanted is competition and vying for bragging rights.
Naturally then, the multiplayer modes play a huge part on this game and a variety of different competitive game types exists for you to impress your friends and gain even more Speed points.
Multiplayer starts in free roam mode and players can entertain themselves pretty much as they would in single player, but once an event is chosen they have to make their way to the meeting point to get things rolling.
You are guided to the meeting point by your sat nav system and the competition will not start until everyone gets there. Even getting to the start point is a competition, as the first players to arrive will be granted some Speed Points as a reward for their efforts. Long waits need not be feared, as anyone who gets lost or is simply too slow will eventually be pulled from the free roam map and forcibly teleported to the starting location so that things can get moving.
During our time with Need For Speed: Most Wanted we observed three different multiplayer game modes. The first was a simple speed test, where players drove through checkpointed locations in a storm drain system and whoever had the highest recorded speed at the end took the prize. Players were also encouraged to attempt to disable each other during this competition, and being knocked out at any point disables you for the rest of the match, while the aggressive party earns a points boost for their efforts.
After this competition was over the players were split into two to take part in a team based race across the city. Sat nav is available to guide players across the route but there is no penalty from diverting down a different road or experimenting with shortcuts. The entire map is open and the only aim here is to get from the start point to the finish point in as quick a time as possible with no specific checkpoint requirements in between.
In this race mode knock outs are not permanent, but are certainly an inconvenience. Players earn points for knocking out enemy drivers, or by 'tagging' a racer that is subsequently disabled by a teammate. After crossing the finish line, players are encouraged to turn around and head back to the race, attempting to disable rival racers who have yet to finish to boost their own teams chances.
The final multiplayer competition was drift mode, another fairly simple concept where players had to maintain the longest drift possible within the set time period - again, with lots of smashing each other around.
As well as the points awarded for overall ranking within the competitions players also receive additional awards in the form of 'Tickets', which are bonuses awarded every round for achieving certain conditions; such as disabling the most rival vehicles, or hitting the highest top speed in the race.
Need for Speed: Most Wanted offers players the chance to hit the tracks and compete in a game that focuses on fun and doesn't take itself too seriously. Social competition is the driving factor in this title and you are constantly shown how well your friends are performing and encouraged to give them a run for their money. The game is scheduled for a simultaneous release on PC, Xbox 306, PS3 and PS Vita on 2nd November 2012.