By Nicholas Simonovski
If I’m honest, downloadable content for racing games is rarely ever exciting. Most of the time, you’ll only ever receive a small bundle of cars, perhaps even a track or two, but nothing that really keeps your interest.
Recently, Electronic Arts and Criterion Games released not one, not two, but three new DLC packs for their latest title, Need For Speed: Most Wanted. I remember watching the trailer for the "Deluxe DLC Bundle" when it was first uploaded a few weeks ago. A few seconds into the video, we saw the camera following Eddie’s Nissan Skyline R34 GTR from Need For Speed: Underground; from that moment on, I was excited for what was to follow. With fifteen new vehicles to tear up Fairhaven with, a whole new expansion to the city, new race modes and more speed cameras, billboards and gates to speed and crash though, the DLC surely does deliver.
For those who have read my review of Most Wanted late last year, you’ll remember that my opinions of the game weren’t entirely great. I’ll be honest and say that after racing with all the cars across the three packs, I’ve been having an absolute blast with the game. Before I begin discussing the cars though, let’s take a look at what new game editions can be found in the DLC bundle.
For those who download either the entire "Deluxe DLC Bundle" or just the "Terminal Velocity" pack, you’ll gain access to a new area of the city – the Hughes Airport. Consisting of two terminals – one which has been completely built and the other still undergoing construction – the airport is a fantastic addition to Most Wanted. With massive roads to drift and speed around, an entire terminal that you can actually enter and drive throughout, a massive runway to test your vehicle’s top speed and a plethora of ramps, planes and semi-constructed structures to drive through (and off), there’s so much fun to be had. Criterion have also added a large amount of new billboards to break through, speed cameras to be caught speeding by and gates to smash. Not only is it great fun to muck around in, but there’s a new level of competition for you and your friends to get stuck into.
In addition to the airport expansion, the "Terminal Velocity" pack also introduces two new race types into Most Wanted – Drift Attack and Smash and Grab. The former (as the name suggests) sees you on a predetermined route, with your goal to drift through series of gates, earning points. Whether you reach bronze, silver or gold is of course dependent on the number of points you score. While drifting has been a great addition to the racing mechanics in the last two Criterion titles, I can’t say that I’ve enjoyed drifting as a separate race mode as much as I’ve enjoyed drifting within the races themselves. The problem being, all drift events (and there’s one per car in each of the three packs) are hard events – so not only is there no real learning curve, but even those gamers who consider themselves decent drifters in the game are going to have a difficult time reaching gold medals in these events. The fact that some cars (especially in the "Movie Legends" pack) are clearly not designed for drifting also makes some of these events seem rather pointless. I found myself trying certain events more than five times and only with some was I able to get gold. Eventually, I just stopped trying altogether.
Smash and Grab is almost an exact copy of the Gymkhana events that were made popular in DiRT 3, in that you'll be driving and smashing into objects to earn points. In Most Wanted, each Smash and Grab event takes place in an open area (like the newly added airport) and you’ve got to smash enough gates and billboards to earn enough points for a bronze, silver or gold medal. Unlike the Drift Attack, all Smash and Grab events are of medium difficulty, but much like Drift Attack, I found myself uninterested after just a few tries. The problem here is that most Smash and Grab events take place in the same few locations; not only are they repetitive, but completely irrelevant and unnecessary in a racing game (which I should mention, is how I considered them in the DiRT franchise too). That said, without being completely dismissive, both events do add some variety to the game and I give kudos to Criterion for including them – hopefully other gamers will enjoy them more than I did.
The last addition worth discussing are the new drift tyres, which, like all upgrades, are unlocked by completing a specific event for each vehicle. When upgraded to drift tyres pro, they leave behind coloured smoke rather than the usual grey. It’s a novelty sure, but I like the effort by the developers to actually make Most Wanted that little bit different.
The Need For Speed "Heroes" pack is my favourite out of the new DLC, and is the standout of the "Deluxe DLC Bundle." With five of the most iconic cover cars across some of Need For Speed’s greatest titles, gamers can expect to drive the Lamborghini Diablo SV (from NFS: Hot Pursuit 2), the Nissan Skyline R32 GTR (from NFS: Underground), the Nissan 350Z (from NFS: Underground 2), the Porsche 911GT2 RS (from NFS: Undercover) and the BMW M3 GTR (from NFS: Most Wanted ). Besides serving as a brilliant shot of nostalgia of playing some of my most favourite racing games across the last decade, almost every single car in the pack is a utter joy to drive, drift and trash about.
The Skyline is awesome to drift and the Eastside Boyz decal brought back memories of Underground, the very game which actually got me interested in racing to begin with! The Diablo feels planted and is an absolute speed demon, where weaving in and out of traffic or taking tight corners at incredible speed never became boring. The M3 GTR was the perfect mix of speed and handling, with the engine note sounding exactly as I remember it from the original Most Wanted. The 911 came across like the odd one out – almost feeling like a nobody in a group of celebrities. While quick, the car wasn’t particularly fun to drift or very exciting to drive. With so many great hero cars just in the last few games, I really couldn’t understand why Criterion decided to pick a car that most fans would maybe have driven only at the very end of Undercover. Finally, the 350Z surprisingly became my favourite pick of the five. Hearing the roar of the engine as I sped through tunnels, hearing the crackle of the exhaust as I shifted through gears, and the combination of amazing speed, superb handling, and absolutely perfect to drift, each race in the Z was excellent beyond words.
The "Movie Legends" pack has a collection of cars that isn’t nearly as impressive as those in the "Heroes" pack. Starting with the 1970 Charger R/T, it’s exactly as you’d expect – heavy, slow and a little afraid of corners; surprisingly, it was still fun to drive. Making up for its lack of acceleration with a decent top speed, I always enjoyed yanking the handbrake coming up to a turn and then throwing the car into the corner with its rear out. Like it was in The Fast and the Furious, the Charger serves as both an iconic muscle car and a decent vehicle to race with . Moving onto the Pontiac Firebird Trans Am, things turn from good to horrid. I understand that these muscle cars were never known for their handling and driving prowess, but with the case of the Firebird, the car is shocking. Slow to accelerate, slow even at top speed and absolutely pathetic at corners and drifting, it simply isn’t fun to drive or race in. It gets even worse with the Aston Martin DB5. Even with modifications the car feels slow and it fails to be even remotely competitive in most of the seven or so events that you’ll be able to participate in. Getting into pursuits is more hassle than it’s worth when getting away is that much more difficult, and in a race, you’ll be dreading every corner for the fact you’ll need to slow down from the already slow speed you’re already doing!
Fortunately, the saving grace of the "Movie Legends" pack is in its remaining two vehicles – the Aston Martin DBS and the 1967 Shelby Mustang GT500. Being the only really fast car in the pack, the DBS drives very similar to the other Aston Martins already in Most Wanted, whereas Eleanor (if you don’t get the reference, check out the film Gone in 60 Seconds) serves as a nice mix between the muscle cars and the tuners – not slow, not super quick, but not too bad to drift around corners.
I know people will argue that the cars in the "Movie Legends" pack are to be admired for their iconic status rather for than their speed, but in a racing game, I just couldn’t really let that slide as an excuse. Need For Speed: Most Wanted is very much a racing game (as opposed to Forza Horizon or Test Drive Unlimited) and I feel that if the cars aren’t fun to race with, then they really serve no purpose – and that’s where the Pontiac and the Aston Martin DB5 clearly lie. They might hold a place in our hearts for the roles they played in the films, but as far as Need For Speed: Most Wanted goes, they’re best left in the garage than on the streets.
Moving onto the final pack, the collection of vehicles in the "Terminal Velocity" group sort of sit in the middle of the "Heroes" and "Movie Legends" packs. Consisting of four hatchbacks (the BMW 1M, the Audi RS3, the Ford Fiesta ST and the Alfa Romeo Mito) and one supercar (the Porsche 918 Spyder), it’s not to say the cars are particularly slow, but apart from the Porsche, they aren’t entirely quick either. I won’t lie, I enjoyed driving the RS3 in the races (particularly once I had unlocked more upgrades), but all the others were rather meh. The cars get quicker with a few upgrades, but the fact is, when compared to the already faster cars in the game already, they just don’t stack up. You’ll never really be excited to drive these cars in much the same way that you’re never really excited to attend a parent-teacher night for your younger sibling because your parents were too lazy to go themselves. Let’s face it, when you’ve got McLarens and Lamborghinis, you’re not going to pick a Ford Fiesta or a Alfa Mito. Yes the Porsche 918 is included, but the concept version is already available in the game, so it’s hardly a worthwhile addition.
I know that I’ve been fairly critical of the cars across the "Deluxe DLC Bundle," but make no mistake, this is a fantastic addition to Need For Speed: Most Wanted. Together, all three packs add approximately 15 hours of content if you spend time driving to, and completing each event for all fifteen cars. Even if you don’t want to spend your time doing all the events, you’ll have new billboards, gates and cameras to find in the new airport expansion. Some cars are more enjoyable than others (erm, some are a LOT more enjoyable) but there’s no denying that Criterion have put in the effort with this DLC. All existing cars will have an event or two added on with the two new race types from the "Terminal Velocity" pack which means even more speed points to earn (although they do repeat the same events quite a bit). If you’re a fan looking for more of what you love, the "Deluxe DLC Bundle," while a tad expensive, is certainly worthwhile. If you’re looking to purchase a single pack, then I’d definitely go with the "Heroes" DLC with a strong recommendation to check out the "Terminal Velocity" pack as well.