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Video Game / Need for Speed: Most Wanted (2012)

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Best, you've got to be the best
You've got to change the world
And use this chance to be heard
Your time is now (Your time is now)
Muse, "Butterflies and Hurricanes"

The one where it's Burnout Paradise... with licensed cars and cops! And trippy cutscenes!

Need for Speed: Most Wanted, also called Need for Speed: Most Wanted – A Criterion Game, is a 2012 street Racing Game that is the nineteenth entry of the Need for Speed franchise published by Electronic Arts. A more socially-focused, much less story-driven reinterpretation compared to the 2005 game of the same name, it was developed by Criterion Games. It was released on PlayStation 3 (with PlayStation Move support), Xbox 360note  (with Kinect voice support), Windows (mainly via the Origin service), and PlayStation Vita on October 30, 2012, with a Wii U version entitled Need for Speed: Most Wanted U released in 2013. There is also a mobile version of this game developed by Firemonkeys Studios, who would later develop Need for Speed: No Limits (2015).

The 2012 game's plot is more bare-bones than the 2005 game. After a woman's voice welcomes you to the city of Fairhaven and tells you a bit about how things work there, you drive your Aston Martin V12 Vantage over Connors Bridge, past an inactive toll booth, through a pair of tunnels, and arrive in Downtown Fairhaven. Coming up to your first Jack Spot, you quickly switch over to a Porsche 911 Carrera S and have a duel with the Aston Martin that you just arrived in. After beating it (hopefully considering it's an easy race), the woman explains about mods, EasyDrive, Speed Points, billboards, speed cameras, smash gates, the police, and the Most Wanted List (this game's version of the Blacklist), you are then free to do whatever you want to go up the ranks to beat and earn the "Most Wanted" cars. Yeah, not much to work with really; Need for Speed: Most Wanted — A Criterion Game is really a Spiritual Successor to the also storyless and nonlinear Burnout Paradise. In fact, one could call it Burnout Paradise with licensed cars and police chases (it even has Takedowns).

The 2012 game's multiplayer mode plays differently in terms of progression and events. Cars are unlocked based on your SpeedLevel accumulated through Speed Points earned in all various main versions of the game in both single-player and multiplayer (rather than just finding cars at Jack Spots like in single-player), events are played through playlists of five events each, and public sessions are completely server-controlled, among other differences.

Tropelog alert:

  • Absurdly Short Level: The Exclusive Races from the Playstation Vita port are all less than 2 miles in length and can be completed in under one minute.
  • Automatic New Game: Like Burnout Paradise, the game starts with an unskippable cutscene showing what you can do in the city, and then sends you off in your first car. This time, however, the game expects you to be holding on to the accelerator because you're already out on the road driving your first car! Most Wanted 2012 will also automatically load your latest autosave should you return to the game.
  • Benevolent Architecture: Like Paradise City, Fairhaven has loads of structures that are usable as jumps, especially for those billboards. The most notable ones have to be the large ring structures in front of the Managio hotel in Downtown and Hughes International Airport from the Terminal Velocity DLC.
  • Bowdlerize: The 2012 game censored some songs, such as "I Love It" by Icona Pop.
  • Broken Bridge: Averted in the 2012 game in that Fairhaven has none of these, except (in later updates of the PC, PS3, and Xbox 360 versions) for the holo-barrier blocking access to Hughes International Airport for those who do not have Terminal Velocity.
  • Call-Back: The 2012 game has license plates based on Criterion's previous racing games. Also, the arrivals/departures board at Hughes International Airport list previous locales from past Need for Speed games as destinations, as well as Paradise City from Burnout Paradise.
  • Cap: Two caps; the highest SpeedLevel players can reach is seventy-one (though it can be reset to zero once, see New Game Plus), while the maximum amount of Speed Points players can get is fifty million.
  • Car Fu: The game includes a Takedown mechanic identical to that used in the Burnout series. The only difference is that you don't get a slow-mo shot of the rival car crashing.
  • Composite Character:
    • Well, not character per se, but the repair shops in Fairhaven City combine Paradise City's repair shops, gas stations, and (only in single-player) paint shops all in one convenient location.
    • The game itself. It combines Need for Speed's real-life Cool Cars, pursuits, and car tuning with Burnout Paradise and its completely open world, stunt-based racing, and lack of a plot.
  • The Computer Is a Cheating Bastard: Courtesy of Rubber-Band A.I..
  • Cool Car: They're Need for Speed games. Do you expect anything less than this trope?
    • The BMW M3 GTR (E46) returns from the 2005 game with its pretty-looking blue and silver* livery. Not only did the mobile version have it as the last unlockable car, it would later appear as the "Most Wanted" car for the main version's Need for Speed Heroes pack.
    • While Most Wanted 2012 doesn't have the aftermarket customization that Black Box-era fans love, the better, more modern graphics of Criterion's game just shows how gorgeous its cars look. Hell, even the traffic looks good!
  • Cosmetic Award: Along with the numerous achievements in 2012 (including the ones for defeating the Most Wanted cars), there are the many, many license plate designs for 2012's multiplayer mode.
  • Crutch Character: The pre-modified "Need for Speed Edition" cars in multiplayer. While the modifications they come with are useful when getting started, they cannot be modified further in any manner, even with improved versions of the modifications they came with.
  • Dangerous Forbidden Technique: Hitting a cruiser's front half in a roadblock is usually considered suicide, and then there are Fairhaven's armored trucks...
  • David Versus Goliath:
    • Certain "Hard" races involve racing against much more powerful cars. This is more likely if the car you are driving has a very distinct niche.
    • The Ariel Atom 500 V8's variation of "Turbulence" has opponents such as the Koenigsegg Agera R and the McLaren F1 XP-5, as well as some sports cars. The track features a long straight where the Atom will struggle to keep up with, even with the Long Gears mod, but the second half has a lot of turns, where its powerful acceleration and cornering gives it an edge.
  • Death Is a Slap on the Wrist: Or rather, Getting Arrested Is a Slap on the Wrist: you lose all your accumulated Speed Points from the pursuit and return to your last-used Jack Spot.
  • Disc-One Nuke: The Bugatti Veyron Vitesse from the Ultimate Speed DLC can be found in free-roam right after the start of the game if you know where to find it, and is powerful enough to take on all of the Most Wanted cars except for the Hennessey Venom GT Spyder from the same DLC.
  • Double Entendre: 2012's Captain Ersatz of FedEx is called GoodsEx. They specialise in packages, apparently.
  • Downloadable Content: Along with the day-one Timesavers Pack and the mod unlock packs, this game* received four DLC packs:
    • The Ultimate Speed Pack released on December 18, 2012 added five cars that had limited production runs, although a couple of them are variants of cars already in the games. The standard cars of the pack are the Bugatti Veyron Grand Sport Vitesse, the Lamborghini Aventador J, the McLaren F1 LM, and the Pagani Zonda R, while the "Most Wanted" car is the Veyron Super Sport-rivaling Hennessey Venom GT Spyder. This pack was included in Most Wanted U as standard, but the Wii U version didn't receive any of the other DLC packs.
    • The other three paid DLC were released on the same day; February 26, 2013.
      • The Terminal Velocity Pack added a whole new area to explore in northeastern Fairhaven; a semi-completed airport called Hughes International Airport. It also added four everyday-class cars (the Alfa Romeo Mito QV, Audi RS 3, BMW 1 Series M Coupe, and Ford Fiesta ST) to drive in and the production version of the 2013 Porsche 918 Spyder with racing vinyls is the "Most Wanted" car.note  It also added two unique event types to every car in the game that awarded exclusive upgrades. "Drift Attack" events require cars to drift through gates along a set route to earn points and awards "Jump Nitrous" (a nitrous type that can increases speed when triggered in mid-air) and "Smash and Grab" events task the player to hit various objects in the surrounding area for points and awards "Drift Tires" (tires that improve the drift capability of the cars). The Pro mods of each of these upgrades add colored smoke effects.
      • The Movie Legends Pack contains vehicles that were made famous in different films: two Aston Martins (the DB5 and the DBS), the Dodge Charger R/T, the Pontiac Firebird Trans Am "Blackbird" and the pack's "Most Wanted" car, the 1967 Shelby GT500.
      • The Need for Speed Heroes Pack contains cars that were on the covers of some NFS games: the Lamborghini Diablo SV from Need for Speed III: Hot Pursuit, a Nissan Skyline GT-R R34 V-Spec II based on Eddie's 2000 Skyline from Need for Speed: Underground, a 2006 Nissan 350Z based on Rachel Teller's 2003 model from Need for Speed: Underground 2, a Porsche 911 GT2 (997) based on Rose Largo's Porsche from Need for Speed: Undercover, and what else fits the "Most Wanted" title in this pack but the leading BMW M3 GTR (E46) from the 2005 game. Also unique to the cars in this pack is that they each have five different liveries instead of colors; "Urban", "Street", "Race", "Abstract", and "Hero", with the "Hero" liveries being based on their original NFS appearances.note 
    • Also, in the United States, EA held a special promotion with Slim Jim. Specially-marked packages of the beef jerky had codes that allowed players to unlock content in certain EA games. Most Wanted 2012's Slim Jim content unlocked a 2012 Dodge Charger SRT8 for use in multiplayer only.
  • Excuse Plot: 2012 borders on No Plot? No Problem! with its "plot": Welcome to Fairhaven! Find some cars, explore, escape, and beat the "Most Wanted"! Have fun!
  • Expy:
    • The level 6 police seems to be based on the FBI - black, unmarked Corvettes reserved for the most dangerous suspects in the country.
    • Similarly, the level 7 police, with all of their Jeeps, appear to be based on the SWAT.
    • Cameron Drive in Fairhaven City is very similar to Paradise City's Uphill Drive in terms of the layout and the placement of side routes.
  • Felony Misdemeanor: Cops in this game have way more reasons to trigger a pursuit than in the 2005 game. Things like barely touching their car, doing burnouts in their sights or just not getting out of their way (after being asked to do so with their horns) will provoke a swarm of cops to go towards you.
  • Fictional Counterpart: Interstate 92 is this to the real life Interstate 93. It goes through the downtown district of the city from underneath,note  cuts through a mountainous area,note  and they even have an exit that goes to a road named after someone with a Polish surname that provides direct access to a city's main airport.note 
  • In Case You Forgot Who Wrote It: More like who developed it; the A Criterion Game subtitle was added to the cover and title screen to differentiate it from the original 2005 Most Wanted. It also appears in the Metacritic entries for their game's PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PlayStation Vita, and PC versions, with a dash separating the subtitle from the actual name to avoid Colon Cancer.
  • The Juggernaut: The Lenco Bearcat (or the SWAT truck as it's better known) that appears at Heat Level 6. Attempts to ram it at high speed will most likely result in you getting taken down. It will mow down any vehicle that happens to get in its way. Although it is possible to take it down, doing so is time-consuming.
  • Marathon Level: "Around the World", a sprint race included in the Ultimate Speed Pack DLC, has a total length of 13.1 miles, taking the player from one end of the map to the next.
  • Mighty Glacier: Most Wanted 2012 seems to love these.
    • The Ford F-150 SVT Raptor. It's slow and handles stiffly, but it's the toughest racer vehicle in all of the game.
    • The Range Rover Evoque is a lighter example of this. If modified, however, it puts itself in Lightning Bruiser territory.
    • Then we have the Lenco Bearcat (SWAT truck) for the cops. So much so that it's nigh invulnerability makes it a juggernaut.
  • New Game Plus: Not in the single-player (the game is too nonlinear for that), but the multiplayer has one of sorts in the form of Concours. If you reach SpeedLevel 71, then you have the option to reset your SpeedLevel to zero (taking away your cars, mods, and milestones) in order to get special milestones, new license plate designs, and a gold border for your license plate.
  • Nitro Boost: Well, of course. 2012 has three variants:
    • Burn acts like the 2005 game's nitro; it's usable at any non-empty level for somewhat faster speeds. Emphasizes top speed over acceleration.
    • Powershot is only usable with a full tank, as it empties the tank for a full boost of acceleration, at a sacrifice of some top speed.
    • Jump is a DLC-only variant of Burn nitrous that works better in the air and worse on the ground. The Pro version even produces colored smoke in the air!
  • No One Could Survive That!:
    • When you ram and make a police car flip. Several times. Especially during roadblocks.
    • When you take down a cop or a racer, Burnout-style.
  • No Plot? No Problem!: From the moment the game begins, there's no plot whatsoever. You have the objective to defeat the Most Wanted List, but there's no stated reason to do so (other than getting their cars) or why your character is racing (other than Fairhaven being described as the street-racing capital of the region). All that is explained is that you find abandoned cars in the overworld, race with them and earn more cars and upgrades, with pursuits in-between.
  • Optional Traffic Laws: Averted, as the police will chase you if you speed or drive recklessly.
  • Police Are Useless: Despite how aggressive the police are in chasing you, once you manage to shake them they totally lose interest until they catch you racing or just driving recklessly again. It's possible to get in a pursuit, evade the cops and stay out of sight until your heat meter is empty, and drive leisurely by a roadblock that was set up for you without the cops doing anything to stop you even if you haven't switched vehicles or repainted your car.
  • Pop the Tires: Spike strips. Compared to the 2005 game, the 2012 game makes them more bearable with the repair shops and the reinflating tires mod.
  • Product Placement: A large drive-through "K&N Workshop" that was prominently used in multiplayer, some license plates with promotional descriptions (and thankfully only in descriptions), and there were even ads for the Ford Focus ST, a car found exclusively in multiplayer that happens to be the worst-performing car in the game.
  • Road Block: Probably one of the best ways to ramp up your Speed Points. Just watch out for the spike strips and the S.W.A.T. trucks.
  • Scenery Porn: Fairhaven is a city made to look pretty.
  • Sequence Breaking: You don't really have to beat each Most Wanted driver sequentially. As long as you have enough SpeedPoints, you can challenge Most Wanted #1 before #10.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Sliding Scale of Linearity vs. Openness: A 6, much like its Spiritual Predecessor, as you have the entirety of Fairhaven to explore (barring Hughes International Airport if you don't have Terminal Velocity) from the beginning after that first race, and can complete its events as you please. (Although, you will have to do some events before you can race the "Most Wanted" cars, which are unlocked in order from lowest to highest.)
  • A Taste of Power: Defied in the single-player mode with the Jack Spots. All cars in the game are immediately drivable after you complete a quick-and-easy tutorial race and find where each of them are on the map, except for the titular "Most Wanted" cars and any non-purchased DLC cars.
  • Unusually Uninteresting Sight: Your car getting a fresh coat of paint from driving through a repair shop at 200+ MPH doesn't seem to phase the cops, who matter-of-factly report the change of color.
  • Vanity License Plate: Some cars hiding in Jack Spots have dates referring to past release dates for previous Need for Speed games. Also, this is the first game in the series to feature license plates that can be customized by players.
  • The Voiceless: The player character.
  • Wanted Meter: The "Heat levels" return from the original Most Wanted.
  • Where Do They Get All Those Wonderful Toys?: Just like in the 2005 game, the government uses expensive Corvettes (here Z06 models) as pursuit vehicles.
  • Wide-Open Sandbox: Fairhaven.

Alternative Title(s): Need For Speed Most Wanted A Criterion Game