Criterion Games hasn't given a Nintendo format any love since Burnout 2 on the GameCube. That title was by far the best version of publisher Acclaim's high-octane city racer and it launched a good eight months after the PlayStation 2 version with improved framerate, textures, particle effects and controls. Since then continents have shifted (possibly) and lifestyles have changed (definitely) but Criterion's relationship with Nintendo hardware is eerily similar. We're all set to get a jacked up version of the nitrous-fuelled racer that came out on other consoles six months ago.
Need For Speed: Most Wanted is a re-imagining of EA's 2005 multiformat release, but while it borrows liberally from the main gameplay themes, everything else is brand new. The city of Fairhaven is a mixture of downtown grids and interstate freeways leading out into hilly mountain passes and looping back through giant industrial parks. It's a cleverly designed city that will always hold secrets, no matter how long you spend tearing round its streets.
It's easy to take the design for granted when you're screaming along at 200mph: it's when you go for a late evening cruise - tunes blaring and throttle finger severely inhibited - that you get the chance to take in the sumptuous cityscape and convincing world that you've been placed in. Only now do you get the chance to admire the road, barrier and wall textures - high-resolution decorations that have come from the PC game and didn't feature in the other console versions. Enough of the graphics, though: for now, at least, Most Wanted is about the racing.
When hooked up to the internet Fairhaven is always plugged in and ready to roll. By which we mean you're constantly being compared to every other racer out there. Every power slide, near miss, slam, takedown, jump, billboard smash and security gate demolition earns you 'SP' and is immediately added to your total.
Your score is uploaded and available for all to see as part of Criterion's Autolog 2 system. If you pass a speed camera it'll have a big banner above telling you who holds the speed record. If you hit a ramp you'll be reminded who grabbed the most air. It's a sneaky and irresistible play on human nature, because you just know you'll want to smash your friends' scores. Being unable to extract enough speed from your ride gives you the impetus to upgrade, which can be done in one of two ways: Jack Points and Takedowns.
Most Wanted does away with the obtuse method of making you drive the slowest cars known to man. It's a good job, too, because driving across Fairhaven in a Fiat Punto would take an age. Jack Points are dotted around the map and represent the location of a car that you can jump into. Tapping X instigates a manufacturer logo transition and, four seconds later, you'll be behind the wheel of said car. Once you've found a Jack Point it'll be added to your roster and be accessible whenever you need it.
Within 15 minutes of exploration you'll have enjoyed the nippy mischief of the McLaren F1, the brutish roar of the Bugatti Veyron and the wyvern-like rage of the Lamborghini Aventador, leaving you free to experience the game as it was meant to be: at high speed.
This begs a question though: if access to these kinds of motors is granted at such an early stage, why try harder? The answer is simply because even these high end supercars just aren't good enough by themselves to make you the most wanted racer. You'll be set an open challenge very early on: defeat the Hennessey Venom GT and one of the best cars available is yours, but in a cruel, Ridge Racer-esque tease, it's way out of your league, streaking ahead into the sunset.