Perhaps not the game we wanted it to be, but still one of the year's best.
Before we knew it, December was upon us and all the games had arrived in stores in time for everyone to buy them as presents. We've got the reveal of our Game of the Year coming after Christmas, but for 24 days starting December 1 we'll bring you a new contender for the title. Please note that these games are in no particular order, but feel free to speculate on where they might appear in our final list.
David Scammell - Deputy News Editor
When I look back on Most Wanted, I can never quite decide how I feel about it. On the one hand, I feel that Criterion succeeded in delivering the finest racer of the year. The playground offered by Fairhaven makes for one of racing's most interesting open worlds yet; the game oozes style and class; and in terms of sheer flat-out racing, the vehicle handling and crunching crashes make for smashingly good fun. For all intents and purposes, Most Wanted is an incredibly enjoyable 150mph thrill ride that Criterion has every right to be proud of.
But at the same time, I can't help but feel disappointed by it. There's a sense of emptiness to Most Wanted that I hadn't been expecting. The thrill of meeting up with friends is simply not as thrilling as it had been in Burnout Paradise, and nor is there enough content to keep me interested beyond the six or seven hour core game. And once it does come to an end, Most Wanted feels like a Bugatti Veyron smashing head-on into a brick wall, with an incredibly anti-climactic end-game that does very little to motivate a return to Fairhaven.
Perhaps to Criterion's surprise, then, being highly connected doesn't automatically equate to a more social game. I felt far more compelled to beat my Autolog friends on Hot Pursuit's myriad well-constructed tracks than out-jumping them off a roof, and I often find that the freedom offered to players in the game's competitive multiplayer makes for a more frustrating experience than it does fun.
But despite its problems, Most Wanted remains one of the finest games of the year - just miles away from the vehicular masterpiece that it really ought to have been.
Tom Orry, Editor
I was pretty excited about Most Wanted - not as excited as Dave 'The Camel' Scammell, but still very much looking forward to it. Maybe it's because of this that I was a little disappointed when I played the final game. I had lots of fun, and Most Wanted is definitely worthy of a place on our Games of the Year list, but if I'm honest I preferred Hot Pursuit and Burnout Paradise.
Martin Gaston, Reviews Editor
The magic of Need for Speed: Most Wanted - make no mistake, when you first start playing it, it feels like real actual magic - wore off on me after about six hours. I think it was because I was always switching cars, and as soon as I found my groove in one vehicle it was time to abandon it for another. The idea behind this game is that you can play it however you want, but I found the reality a little different - you were as constrained behind an event-based structure as much as you were in every other racing game, only this time you had to switch cars every five races. I appreciate Criterion's efforts to rejuvenate the slightly tired racing genre, but I don't think they quite got it with this. But it's certainly got something.