Couch & Controller – April 25

Columnist

This is going to come as a shock to many of you loyal Couch and Controller followers, but this column isn’t exactly on the cutting edge of video game news and views.

For one thing, The Sunflower is too cheap to pay for the games we review.  The last game they paid for was one of those “try to get the silver balls into the clown’s eyes” deals.

So, occasionally we miss a new release or two.

Take for example “Need for Speed:  Most Wanted (NFS:MW),” a 2012 game of the year winner on many critics list.  We totally ignored it.  Well, now you can find it at your favorite used-game store, and if you don’t already have it, it is the best used game you can buy.

Unlike the bulk of racing games that are geared toward gamers with obsessions about stats and tuning, NFS:MW lets you dive right in to driving awesome cars super-fast anywhere you want.  The tedious “win this race to unlock a car with marginally better tires” is gone.  Of the 60 cars in the game, 50 are available from the very beginning.  The cars run from pick-up trucks to Formula One exotics. 

Winning races earns you points.  Earning points will eventually allow you to challenge the 10 most-wanted racers in the city.  Defeating these racers in a one-on-one sprint race will give you the chance to take their car.  Defeat all 10 and you’ll become the Most Wanted.

Along the way, those points you earn will improve your online ranking, giving you access to more and more cars in the online multiplayer, along with upgrades.  The transition from single player to multiplayer and back again is seamless.  When you get sick of your buddies (or random strangers), just go back to the single player game… you’ll even be in the same place.

Even when you’re not in multiplayer, the game will compare your performance to your other friends’.  Your friend’s smug avatar will grin down at you from billboards until you smash his records…and put your smug avatar into his game instead.

There are many side objectives to occupy your time as well.  Billboards need smashing, speed cameras need triggering, and the game is loaded with achievements to unlock.

There are a few flaws in the game:  load stutters going in and coming out of events, the occasional random traffic spawn directly in your path, and the long event load times between attempts.  But these are minor problems.

NFS:MW is one of those rare games that never gets boring, and even manages to not only justify its downloadable content, but make players enthusiastic about purchasing it.