A few thoughts...
- If you're a casual racing fan who likes to get a game each year with the Need For Speed branding, this game is totally fine. It's only if you've spent a lot of time with either Burnout Paradise or Hot Pursuit (or both) that the nitpicking and heavy sighs wearily emerge. This game is not as good as either of those, but it's certainly an interesting attempt at taking what worked in both and trying to make a whole new thing out of it. Long story short? This is not Burnout Paradise 2, nor does it really need to be. (But if it was!)
- First things first, count me in amongst those that don't care for how you select cars or for the game's progression model. In theory, having to level up each car through a series of races fixes the problem in Burnout Paradise, where most players would find one car that they liked and mainline that while ignoring the rest of their options. Most Wanted forces you to at least get through a few races with every vehicle, but they mostly play and control the same. Sure, heavier cars feel different than lighter ones, but that you need to grind through the same progression with every vehicle just feels redundant, and almost like they're copying race content from one car to the next.
- This brings up my biggest issue so far: Locking boost behind the first race is a hassle, and a huge annoyance. There's nothing like tearing up the streets in a leveled-up ride, only to get to jack a new car and be back at level one. The Burnout games have always been about liberal boosting, but now you have to finish in first 123 times to get access to it. It's annoying and it doesn't feel right.
- Also bothersome are the police chases, which add nothing to the open world experience. Again, it's the sort of decision that probably seemed obvious when designing the game, ("Well, we have to have police!"), but in practice takes you out of the action rather than engaging you in it. Here's the thing: I'm fine with the police presence in races. It adds an extra challenge and it's neat to be racing against them and the other competitors. But it's not fun to drive around the city in circles and eventually wait for your cooldown meter to slowly count down. Watching that blue meter drop is frustrating since I'd rather be doing anything else, like unlocking new cars, finding collectibles or going to start a race. I hate to say it, but the cops feel like padding to extend the activity in the single player progression.
- It's totally bogus that you can't access the menus immediately after finishing a race. Totally bogus!
- All that being said, I am having a lot of fun with the game, even if it doesn't seem to be the thing we thought we were promised. I've had no trouble with the handling, which seems to fall somewhere between Paradise and Hot Pursuit. I've never felt like I was fighting the car to make a turn or weave through traffic. Most of my crashes have been at my own fault. The competition feels fair, and takedowns are satisfying, even if nothing so far approaches the intensity of a Road Rage race from Paradise. Easy drive is fine, but it's a little weird that you can't quit out to a menu. The little bit of public multiplayer I played last night went great, until I was unceremoniously disconnected from the race.
- I like the map music a lot.