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Need for Speed: Most Wanted preview: The best of NFS and Burnout

The two racers collide in this speedy sequel

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As such, the meaning of the Most Wanted list has also changed with the times. While in Black Box's games it referred to a CPU-controlled cast of failed Guy Ritchie gangsters who had to be toppled one by one, now it means scaling your friend's leaderboards. A new feature called CloudCompete allows you to track the progress of your friends across multiple formats, making the competition more inclusive - and even more fierce - than ever.

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The race-ruining cops from the original Most Wanted have also got with the times; in their attempts to bring you to justice they now deploy spike tracks, like their NFS: Hot Pursuit counterparts, and bring in the heavy artillery if you refuse to pull over nicely. Despite this, they're easier to evade now than they've been in the past, thanks in part to your car's nippier handling, which enables you to turn even the heftiest car on a sixpence and make a detour either off-road or down an inviting back alley towards one of the cooldown spots.

CARRERA CRIMINAL

That's a change consistent with a game that's been rebalanced to make everything faster and more accessible. Practically every single car in the game now available for you to drive from the word go - if you can find them. The 50-strong cache of licensed dreamcars - including Aston Martins, Lamborghini Aventadors and Porsche Carreras - can be spotted minding their own business in numerous jack spots scattered around the city. To hop in and add it to your collection, all you have to do is pull over and take it. Needless to say, many will be well-hidden by Criterion's design-gremlins so it pays to explore.

You might not unlock cars the traditional way, but there is still an XP system of sorts - entitled Speed Points - that lets you purchase mods for your fav vehicle, which you can equip on the move thanks to a streamlined menu system accessed via the d-pad. Once selected, they'll affix themselves to your auto instantaneously without even a hint of a brake light. Again, it's all designed to minimise menu screen clutter and ensure that you're always hurtling full speed towards your next objective.

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This ethos also extends to the multiplayer challenges. Pre-race pecking orders are now decided on the fly as players jostle for position on the grid, and the moment you cross the finish line you're encouraged to pivot on the spot and drive back into the fray and take out stragglers for additional points.

Factor in instant restarts and the ability to warp straight to events and you've got a slicker, punchier version of Burnout Paradise that succeeds in eliminating all of its dead zones, and makes a better fist at encouraging you to explore its world. The only outstanding question is whether Most Wanted can succeed where Paradise crashed, by offering a single player experience that's every bit the equal of purpose built racers such as Blur and Hot Pursuit. Fenders crossed...

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