For Criterion, fun is everything. Huge crashes, epic jumps and intense bumper-to-bumper racing combine to make up the hallmarks of each of the studio's racers. But in spite of the focus on playability for its upcoming open-world racer Need For Speed: Most Wanted, Criterion has still managed to craft one of the slickest looking racers on console.
Here, VideoGamer talks to producer Matt Webster about the technical side of Need For Speed: Most Wanted, starting with the advances the developer has made on PlayStation Vita...
Matt Webster, Producer, Criterion Games: This is our Vita game. It's exactly the same game [as the home console versions]. It's the same big open-world, the only difference is the number of players online. This is 4 players online rather than 12, but the experience is exactly the same. It's got the same open-world structure, it's got the same cars, it's got the same Autolog features and the same competition; it's exactly the same.
We're really, really thrilled with what we've managed to do on Vita. It's coming along really well. The important thing is that any Speed Points that I earn on Vita, or console, PC, iOS or Android, everything is aggregated into the Most Wanted list, and that's how you compete to be Most Wanted amongst your friends.
Q: Is there a story mode in the game?
MW: No. Ten most wanted cars. There can be only one. Games are way too serious. We just want to get back to the fun. There's too much shooting.
Can you play as the police?
MW: No. Hot Pursuit is the game for you if you want to play as the police.
Is this running on Frostbite 2?
MW: No, this is our engine.
The same engine used for Hot Pursuit?
MW: Oh God, no. It's a version of it. All the handling's brand new. Hot Pursuit retained Criterion's DNA of handling for having a great time really quickly, but you spent a lot of time at 180-200[mph]. Here, you're in an open-world, you need to make very fast decisions, you need different surfaces. We wanted to make 30-100 feel really fun and fast, so it's a whole new handling system, and of course the mods change everything up as well. It's deeper than we've ever done before but retains that Criterion signature of making the cars handle how I'd believe they would handle in real life, how I expect to be able to drive them.
You've heard this a lot, but this reminds me a lot more of Burnout Paradise than it does any previous Need For Speed game. Burnout always ran at 60fps, though, whereas this is 30fps on console. Why did you decide to stick to 30fps?
MW: Visual fidelity and also, doing an open-world game at 60fps is extraordinarily difficult. That's why there aren't any apart from ours. But for us, it's in our nature to take something beautiful and smash it up, to get the fidelity that we want, to get these cars looking amazing, these are the best looking cars ever. That's the trade off we make.
However, the latency between the pad and the screen is actually the same as a 60 hertz title. That's the most important thing for us: how we can make the latency between the controller and what you see on the screen as quick as possible. If you want to run the game at 1080p at 60Hz then the PC is the platform for you.
Will there be weather effects?
MW: We have a wet road effect but we put that in because it looks cool.
Does it make a difference to the handling?
MW: Very, very slightly. The cooling tower challenge, if you're on the looser surfaces or on the wet, it's a little bit looser. Same with the storm drains, less so in the A1 because it's a 4-wheel drive car, but the 2-wheel drive cars are a little bit [looser] on the wet surface. But we just want to have fun, right? It's not about simulation.
How big is the map?
MW: Big. How big is this room? It's difficult. We don't talk about the... For us it's about the play. For comparison, in area terms we are slightly bigger than Paradise. We're smaller than Hot Pursuit but Hot Pursuit was big long roads that take up a lot of space.
[There's] way more gameplay in this one. It's more than just a road network. I think we're two or three times the road network length that we were in Paradise, but it's way more open than it's ever been before. That's the important thing. That last challenge you played, it's all in these open areas. We know from our experience with Paradise that players love that. There are buildings that I can drive through, drive under, drive to the top of, drive off of the top of; it's that playability which is more important to us. That's why it's almost a meaningless comparison to talk about square metres or length of road.
Is Kinect support restricted to voice commands?
MW: Yes, it is.
And PlayStation Move?
MW: Ah, yes. Where is that funky thing? [Looks around booth]. Here we go, look at this. Check this out! [Pulls out PlayStation Move Racing Wheel] So, yeah, you can drive it like that. It's interesting. If you're in a cop chase we'll flash this red and blue [points to PlayStation Move light], and when you're in cooldown it'll go blue, and if you're in free drive it'll go green. It's a bit of fun.
How do players get their face on the billboard? Is that through a photo on Autolog?
MW: Yeah, on NeedForSpeed.com. We'll take your PS3 or your Xbox avatar, but if you go to NeedForSpeed.com we'll upload a picture or you might be able to connect to some other sources to get a profile picture, and then the system picks it up and puts it up automatically.
Steve Cuss, Producer, Criterion Games: We're going to do a lot deeper stat-tracking from Autolog through NeedForSpeed.com as well.
MW: We also want people to see the depth of Autolog so we can give people Speed Points for doing stuff on the website, for example. We've just really begun to embrace being very, very highly connected. That's why we think we're probably the most highly connected social game of this generation. Everything that we've learnt from doing open-world in Paradise and connectivity of Hot Pursuit, we're just bringing it together.
Need For Speed: Most Wanted releases on Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC and PlayStation Vita on November 2.