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Need for Speed: Most Wanted Benchmarked

Florian Glaser (translated by B Schulisch), 11/07/2012

What a rush. About seven years after the original, the publisher EA is now taking the plunge by releasing a new version of the popular Need for Speed: Most Wanted. The game was no longer produced by the initial developers, but instead by the Burnout creators Criterion. Is the new iteration able to live up to the lofty expectations?

Need for Speed: Most Wanted

Most Wanted is not the first Need for Speed for which the British developer Criterion is responsible. Hot Pursuit, which emerged in 2010, helped the arcade series to get a new shine after losing its luster over the years. While the opinion of users is relatively evenly split down the middle, the game was received well by the critics (average 86% on metacritic.com).

Need for Speed: The Run, which was released in 2011, and was created by another developer, wasn't much of a success despite a clever theme: the PC version was ascribed a mere average of 69%. Now, in 2012, Criterion is back at the helm. Will the English developers manage to uphold their good reputation?

Description

Following the initial start the first class appearance immediately stands out. Most Wanted is based on the Chameleon engine, which is technically definitely able to compete with the Frostbite 2 engine (Medal of Honor: WarfighterBattlefield 3 etc.). One of the signature features is the high texture quality. Barring a few exceptions the object palettes are very fine and detailed. The scenes with a high polygon count stand out with a luscious appearance.

The game also deserves praise for the excellent effects. Regardless of whether it is the smoke movement, the sparks flying, or the dirt: the particle presentation is on a very elevated level. The harmonious illumination and the pretty rain and water effects also contribute to the great atmosphere, while the long foresight is another strength of the Chameleon engine.

Most Wanted impresses with a great appearance.
Most Wanted impresses with a great appearance.
During the day the sun can often be blinding.
During the day the sun can often be blinding.
Some locations are conducive to lingering.
Some locations are conducive to lingering.

The audio backdrop doesn't do the opulent graphics an injustice by any means - quite the opposite. EA and Criterion have opted for a colorful mixture of different genres as could be expected. The driving soundtrack contains songs from popular artists such as Muse, The Who, Green Day, Skrillex and The Chemical Brothers. Combined with the potent motor sounds, this results in a perfect sound experience. With the speakers or headphones turned up to a high volume, the game could be twice as much fun.

On the subject of fun: Criterion has clearly made an effort when it comes to the development of the gaming confines. The cities which are reminiscent of US metropolitan areas are visually satisfying with a high degree of diversity. Tightly bunched together skyscrapers lead to high speed motorways and idyllic suburbs. In many locations the attention to detail becomes abundantly obvious. On top of this, there is also an atmospheric change between night and day, which dynamically changes the lighting conditions of the various scenes.

Service stations repair the cars directly in the forecourt.
Service stations repair the cars directly in the forecourt.
The particle effects are exceptionally good.
The particle effects are exceptionally good.
Depending on the road surface the car quickly gets dirty.
Depending on the road surface the car quickly gets dirty.

In the case of Most Wanted not everything that shines is gold though. One thing that stood out for instance is the uncomfortable controls. After a short look, it quickly becomes obvious that the menus were primarily conceived for gaming consoles, such that users don't only have to come to terms with an odd key allocation, but also with unfavorable menus which often have to be scrolled through.

The constant influx of information on the display (trivial data such as stunt points) also provides a distraction from the actual racing, and the up to date damage model is only able to outshine these shortcomings to a limited extent. The thing we were most disappointed with was the driving physics relative to the model of car. Even for an arcade game the various vehicles don't steer the way they would in reality. Before you can control the car properly, a few hours of gaming will have to be completed first.

A damage model as good as this is rarely available.
A damage model as good as this is rarely available.
Most of the surfaces are sharply defined.
Most of the surfaces are sharply defined.
The foresight goes astonishingly far.
The foresight goes astonishingly far.

The aggressive artificial intelligence doesn't exactly make things any easier. Due to the constant jostling and hair's width accuracy, users could well begin to feel a bit like a pinball. The collision behavior reminded us of that from a bumper car at a fair. Realism? Negative. Together with the spectacular pile ups the game brings back memories of Burnout. Those looking for the good old NfS feeling, could well be slightly out of place in this case.

What is typical of Need for Speed on the other hand is the "rubber band principle". This design feature provides for opportunities to finish towards the front of the pack, even after making a few driving errors. Then again, it is also never really possible to lose your opponents either though. Angry tongues could mention "cheating" in this regard.

The number of police cars depends on the extent of the manhunt.
The number of police cars depends on the extent of the manhunt.
The gaming world has been designed with a lot of variation.
The gaming world has been designed with a lot of variation.
Road blocks and spike strips provide for adrenalin.
Road blocks and spike strips provide for adrenalin.

However, the biggest area of criticism in practice turned out to be the single player campaign. While the first Most Wanted had a cliché and predictable, but at least interesting storyline, the new iteration merely trundles users from one racing event to another.

Even the elementary Most Wanted races are presented in a relatively lifeless manner despite the brilliant visuals. The end effect is that users will fight their way to the top of a dull list of the most wanted drivers of the city. The fact that even the normal races are started with cool camera angles and/or graphic effects doesn't change this situation either. Most Wanted is immensely shallow when it comes to the narrative, and the absence of a gripping story doesn't bode well for long term motivation.

The British developer has also fallen short when it comes to instilling a sense of achievement. Instead of having to painstakingly acquire vehicles over several races as in older iterations, it is now possible to simply jump into certain cars which are dispersed throughout the game. Friends of straightforward racing action will nevertheless still get their money's worth with Most Wanted.

Our benchmark course lies in the north.
Our benchmark course lies in the north.
As in the first part we ascended to be the most prominent driver.
As in the first part we ascended to be the most prominent driver.
The selection of cars is abundant as usual.
The selection of cars is abundant as usual.

Benchmark

The search for a fitting benchmark sequence quickly brought us to the racing event "Continental Drift". One lap of the city race against seven boisterous competitors was recorded by the tool Fraps. As can be seen in the video below, the approximately one minute long passage offers everything that could be expected from Need for Speed.

Although the pile ups hardly have any effect on the frame rate, we nevertheless still tried to avoid the respective situations. Despite the diverse racing locations the benchmark still ascribes relatively constant results. It is worth bearing in mind though, that in order to be fully equipped for the whole game there should be at least 30-35 fps in the benchmark.

Settings

Most Wanted doesn't only stand out as a result of its appealing graphics, but also due to its enormous processing appetite. With high settings and a resolution of 1920x1080 pixels, the current Need for Speed iteration will also bring high-end notebooks to their limits. Modern technologies like ambient occlusion require a fair bit of processing power.

The graphics menu provides 11 different options. Along with the resolution and the intensity of the motion blur, users can also choose the shadow-, reflection- and geometry-quality from a range of levels. Some menu options (e.g. the high-res textures) can only be switched on or off. In practice: any changes are immediately effective in the game.

Low settings
Low settings
Medium settings
Medium settings
High settings
High settings
Ultra settings
Ultra settings

Contrary to Battlefield 3 and Medal of Honor: WarfighterMost Wanted doesn't provide either presets or an Ultra setting with anti-aliasing. Without MSAA the images can flicker noticeably in some cases. Anisotropic filtering is only available via the graphics driver.

All in all the hardware demands are more or less on the same level as the aforementioned Frostbite 2 competitors. It is a shame that it can occasionally come to annoying performance fluctuations regardless of the adopted hardware. Even luxury GPUs, such as the Radeon HD 7970M or the GeForce GTX 680M, sometimes drop the frame rate to 30 or 20 fps with demanding settings.

Low settings
Low settings
Medium settings
Medium settings
High settings
High settings
Ultra settings
Ultra settings

A further problem: even with a good frame rate, the game still seems a little juddery from time to time. More than 60 fps are not possible anyway "thanks" to an integrated limiter. Most Wanted also requires a DirectX 10.1 or 11 capable system (Window XP users beware).

Every race is introduced with stylish camera shots.
Every race is introduced with stylish camera shots.
No, this is not a graphics error.
No, this is not a graphics error.
Do these pictures also remind you of Batman?
Do these pictures also remind you of Batman?

Results

Those wanting to enjoy the new incarnation of Need for Speed in all its glory will inevitably need a notebook from the high-end segment. 1920x1080 pixels and the maximum graphics options are only possible to a half-decent extent upwards from a GeForce GTX 675MX. Really smooth gameplay with high settings will only be achievable with the current front-runners GeForce GTX 680M and Radeon HD 7970M. For 1600x900 pixels a somewhat weaker high-end model such as the GeForce GTX 670MX should suffice.

Are you satisfied with 1366x768 pixels? In this case a GeForce GT 650M should be the minimum requirement for high details. For normal graphics options a GeForce GT 640M should be enough. With low-end graphics cards, such as Intel's HD Graphics 4000, only low settings will be playable (if at all). The HD Graphics 3000 is generally not able to rise to the challenge.

Verdict

Need for Speed: Most Wanted, is a good arcade game which does disappoint slightly overall. The exceptionally good graphics and the successful audio backdrop contend with an uninspired single player mode with a non-existent storyline. Also, the peculiar handling could rub some gamers up the wrong way. However, anyone who doesn't have too much of a proclivity towards realism and enjoys high-speed racing action should not pass up Most Wanted.

You can see the cars of the Most Wanted opponents.
You can see the cars of the Most Wanted opponents.
This screen should be avoided as much as possible.
This screen should be avoided as much as possible.
The luxury juggernauts are extremely detailed.
The luxury juggernauts are extremely detailed.

Test Systems

A big thank you once again goes to the company Schenker Notebooks (mysn.de). The GPUs below used the following drivers: Nvidia 307.21, AMD 12.11 Beta & Intel 9.17.10.2867.

  • XMG P502 (Core i7-3610QM, GeForce GTX 660M, GTX 670M, GTX 675M, GTX 680M & Radeon HD 7970M, 8 GB RAM)
  • XMG A502 (Core i5-3360M, GeForce GT 650M & HD Graphics 4000, 8 GB RAM)
  • Xesia M501 (Core i7-2630QM, GeForce GT 630M & HD Graphics 3000, 8 GB RAM) 
From left to right: Schenker XMG A502, Xesia M501 & XMG P502
From left to right: Schenker XMG A502, Xesia M501 & XMG P502
Show Restrictions
Pos      Model                                     Need for Speed: Most Wanted
 Need for Speed: Most Wanted (2012)
low
1024x768
Low / Off
med.
1366x768
Medium / Off
high
1366x768
High / On
ultra
1920x1080
High / On
 4NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780M SLI
60
60
60
 6AMD Radeon HD 8970M Crossfire
60
59.8
59.8
 7NVIDIA GeForce GTX 680M SLI
60
60
58.6
47.7
 14NVIDIA GeForce GTX 680
59.9
59.9
59.9
59.6
 15AMD Radeon HD 7970
60
59.9
57.9
55.6
 21NVIDIA GeForce GTX 660 Ti
60
59.9
57.4
56.6
 23NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780M
60
60
60
59.93
 29AMD Radeon HD 8970M
60
60
43.352
40.42
 33NVIDIA GeForce GTX 680M
59.8
59.8
58.3
52.852
 34NVIDIA GeForce GTX 765M SLI
60
60
60
59.8
 36AMD Radeon HD 7970M
59.8
59.6
37.752
48.43
 38NVIDIA GeForce GTX 670MX SLI
59.6
59.4
48.8
29
 43NVIDIA GeForce GTX 770M
60
60
59.9
46.9
 51NVIDIA GeForce GTX 675MX
59.8
59.8
59.3
38.2
 52NVIDIA GeForce GT 750M SLI
59.9
59.3
39.7
 58NVIDIA GeForce GTX 765M
59.9
59.952
58.13
36.454
 64NVIDIA GeForce GTX 675M
59.8
59.8
55.4
31.4
 67AMD Radeon HD 7770
60
59.9
53
28.9
 68NVIDIA GeForce GT 650M SLI
59.9
49.6
29.9
17.4
Pos      Model                                     Need for Speed: Most Wanted
lowmed.highultra
 76NVIDIA GeForce GTX 670MX
60
60
49.72
28.752
 78NVIDIA GeForce GTX 760M
60
59.2
43.2
 80NVIDIA GeForce GTX 670M
59.8
59.8
45.7
25.4
 84AMD Radeon HD 8870M
52.42
44.852
34.52
24.952
 98NVIDIA GeForce GTX 660M
59.8
59.6
41.5
23
 109NVIDIA GeForce GT 750M
60
51.8
34.5
20.4
 110NVIDIA GeForce GT 650M
58.3
49.6
33.8
19.7
 111NVIDIA GeForce 840M
57
41.052
29.92
5.8
 113NVIDIA GeForce GT 745M
60
48.1
31.7
19
 119NVIDIA GeForce GT 740M
55.452
40.92
23.62
11.72
 122NVIDIA GeForce GTS 450
59
58
37
21
 124NVIDIA GeForce GT 735M
54
32.9
22.6
 138NVIDIA GeForce GT 730M
57
51
31
18
 140*NVIDIA GeForce GT 645M
60
45.4
29.3
16.1
 142AMD Radeon HD 8750M
45
36.6
22.5
14.3
 149NVIDIA GeForce GT 640M
56.652
42.752
26.352
15.5
 177AMD Radeon HD 8730M
38.9
34.4
21.8
13.9
 194AMD Radeon HD 8650G + HD 8670M Dual Graphics
37.6
26
16.3
 223NVIDIA GeForce GT 630M
47.9
27.7
16.6
9.4
 230NVIDIA GeForce GT 720M
38.7
23.4
16.1
Pos      Model                                     Need for Speed: Most Wanted
lowmed.highultra
 236AMD Radeon HD 8450G + Radeon HD 8570M Dual Graphics
19.9
11.7
 239AMD Radeon HD 8550M
14.9
13.4
9.3
 244Intel HD Graphics 4600
34.7
24.1
 249AMD Radeon HD 7660G
29.1
22.7
14.6
8.7
 262AMD Radeon HD 7650M
39.6
29.5
16.1
 267ATI Mobility Radeon HD 5650
36.8
24.4
14.8
8.1
 283Intel HD Graphics 4400
21.7
15.6
 286AMD Radeon HD 7550M
30.8
18.1
11.7
 294AMD Radeon HD 7600G
16.5
10.3
 321Intel HD Graphics 4000
27.73
113
8.82
7.7
 334AMD Radeon HD 8450G
16
12.5
 350AMD Radeon HD 8330
17
 415Intel HD Graphics 3000
18.652
12.6
7.7
* Smaller values are better. / * Approximate position

 

Legend
5Stutters – This game is very likely to stutter and have poor frame rates. Based on all known benchmarks using the specified graphical settings, average frame rates are expected to fall below 25fps
May Stutter – This graphics card has not been explicitly tested on this game. Based on interpolated information from surrounding graphics cards of similar performance levels, stutters and poor frame rates are expected.
30Fluent – Based on all known benchmarks using the specified graphical settings, this game should run at or above 25fps
40Fluent – Based on all known benchmarks using the specified graphical settings, this game should run at or above 35fps
May Run Fluently – This graphics card has not been explicitly tested on this game. Based on interpolated information from surrounding graphics cards of similar performance levels, fluent frame rates are expected.
123Uncertain – This graphics card experienced unexpected performance issues during testing for this game. A slower card may be able to achieve better and more consistent frame rates than this particular GPU running the same benchmark scene.
Uncertain – This graphics card has not been explicitly tested on this game and no reliable interpolation can be made based on the performances of surrounding cards of the same class or family.
The value in the fields displays the average frame rate of all values in the database. Move your cursor over the value to see individual results.
static version load dynamic

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> Notebook / Laptop Reviews and News > Reviews > Archive of our own reviews > Need for Speed: Most Wanted Benchmarked
Author: Florian Glaser, 2012-11- 7 (Update: 2013-06- 6)