Developed by Fun Labs and released under the infamous Activision Value brand, U.S. Most Wanted: Nowhere to Hide is a technically-burdened action game in which (according to a brief plot synopsis) retired U.S. Counter Terrorist operative Randall Joyce goes rogue to hunt down criminals, terrorists, and warlords, uniquely as someone free from the laws his enemies don't adhere to—all while being supported unofficially by old friends in U.S. Intelligence and Special Operations.
The gameplay of U.S. Most Wanted can be described as a first-person shooter with tactical and simulation elements, these being reflected by the game's emphasis on custom mission loadouts and high lethality of firearms.
Prior to all but the starter mission, the player selects the balance of weapons, ammo, and equipment to carry with them. Aside from a variety of short and long-ranged weapons, the arsenal also includes tripwire claymores, silenced variants of several guns, various rocket and grenade launchers, as well as non-combat items like binoculars and almost entirely unimplemented lockpicks. The player then embarks on missions to assassinate targets, rescue people, and otherwise fight through levels. These missions are loosely connected with each other, often lacking any kind of transition outside a loading screen. In combat, any damage to the player can easily prove fatal, with light and heavy armor subsiding some damage, but reducing carrying capacity and not protecting against shots to the head.
U.S. Most Wanted is notable for its inconsistent and problematic gameplay, with extremely fast deaths, a lack of audible enemy movement, vague mission parameters, and AI that ranges between erratic and a constant "charge and shoot" pattern. These coincide with major, often unavoidable, irregularities left unfixed in the game and various other design or technical anomalies to be found.
Alongside a 15 level singleplayer, the game also has a competitive online multiplayer mode.
- Touted as a game feature and further suggested in design documents that can be seen during the end credits, the game was originally intended to have a larger emphasis on investigation gameplay. This type of non-combat gameplay is only seen in the first level of the finished game.
- Despite being a budget title, U.S. Most Wanted is a relatively early example of full body awareness, and uses some curiously elaborate animation quirks involving the player's character model, including a functioning wrist-mounted watch that can be held in view.