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Saturday, March 16, 2019

What Could Have Been: Need for Speed: Most Wanted 2

The Need For Speed (NFS for short) franchise has gone through many iterations. Everything from your standard street races with bright colored environments and cops chasing after you, to the late-night Fast and Furious inspired street races with car customization.

With numerous installments, a few reboots, and even a theatrical film starring Breaking Bad's Aaron Paul, Need For Speed is one of the, if not the most, well known Racing series of all time. Perhaps one of the series most popular entries was 2005’s Need For Speed: Most Wanted, the first installment on the then shiny, new Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.

Building upon the extremely popular Underground series, which popularized the series’ grittier street racing angle, Most Wanted had a brighter color scheme, flashier graphics, a sharper story as only a Need For Speed game could have, and plenty of cars to satisfy one's appetite for racing and inevitably crashing. The game was met with widespread acclaim, becoming an instant favorite among fans of the franchise.

However, as is the case with any good thing, the publisher sought to take this “good thing” and milk it for all that it was worth. Will the NFS publisher being the near universally loathed Electronic Arts (also known as EA), Most Wanted paved the way for the annualization of the series. This, in turn, lead to increasingly mediocre entries until the franchise finally hit a slump. One that had many thinking it was time for the label to be put into cryogenic freezing until EA learned the meaning behind the saying “quality over quantity”.

That is, until 2011, when a new version of Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit was unveiled. Developed by Burnout creator Criterion Games, the game served as a reboot of sorts to the series, and was met with universal acclaim for feeling like a breath of fresh air in the franchise. With the ability to play as either the police or the racer, Hot Pursuit incorporated some of the mechanics that Burnout had, such as the “Takedown”, where players slam into another car to make it crash in spectacular fashion. In spite of this, the game was a Need For Speed game at its heart, and had a plethora of fast, high production cars one could only dream of ever owning.

A year later, Criterion would release Need For Speed: Most Wanted, which sported much of what made Hot Pursuit extremely popular. While one couldn't play as the police in this game, critics stated that the heart and soul that made Criterion's previous NFS game great remained. 

Which brings us to the game that this entry centers in. Criterion's version of Most Wanted was, at one point in its life, meant to be a direct sequel to the 2005 Most Wanted, something fans had wanted ever since its release. However, this plan was scrapped for reasons unknown—perhaps due to Criterion wishing to make a less serious game and desiring a faster, flashier game more inline with their Burnout series.

Originally conceived sometime in 2011, Most Wanted 2 would have kept much of what was in the original game. Car customization, a major aspect in most of the NFS games, is absent in the 2012 version. Vehicles are instead driven up to and you're given the option to change to that car.

Players also would have been able to use weapons like spike strips against police, a feature that was in Criterion's Hot Pursuit. Why it was removed is unknown, though it may have been to keep the focus more on the actual races rather than the “Hunter vs. Hunted” angle that Hot Pursuit was advertised with.

A story was also canned in favor of an open world and a series of races the player can engage in. While the 2012 version does feature a story, it amounts to nothing more than you, the nameless and faceless player, arriving in the city with aspirations to be the best racer.

These features, among other things, are still in the game's files. There also exists an opening narrated by an unknown character.

In 2016, on the Need For Speed Theories forum, a thread was made that discussed the game in its early stages. It’s here that the files were dug through and lines of code from when it was known as Most Wanted 2 was found. Fast forward a year later and the YouTube channel, Obscure Gamers, shared video footage of a prototype version of the original game.

While a direct sequel of Most Wanted may have never bloomed, the 2012 game satisfied many in its own right. Perhaps, down the line, a sequel to it will be made. Or, perhaps, we will see the story told again; a game that was meant to be a sequel that was turned into a standalone product. Only time, and the ingenious heads over at Electronic Arts, will tell.

1 comment:

  1. Tyler "Bio" RodriguezMarch 19, 2019 at 10:00 PM

    Sad truth is, the likely future for NFS is similar to what happened to Guitar Hero. Keep throwing them out as often as possible until the money well drys up then drag it out back and shoot it like a rabid dog. The latest entries have been less then stellar as of late.