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Games You Probably Like, But Shouldn’t: Need For Speed – Most Wanted

June 21, 2009


Recently, this column has caused quite a stir against those who live by an inflated sense of nostalgia. While I don’t intend on contradicting myself, I do intend to show an example of how nostalgia can remind people how far downhill we have gone. Unfortunately, these nostalgic musings are not the only problems facing games and gamers alike these days. Another one of these culprits takes the face of sub-culture idealism.

Don’t get me wrong; some, if not most subcultures or even pop cultures have decent things to contribute to society. For instance, the Grunge music and life style that spawned in the early nineties gave the world Nirvana and the even more powerful Silverchair; though, I doubt most outside of Australia have ever given the band a second thought. Without degrees of both gothic and emo culture; I don’t think Tim Burton would have a career at all. The problem, much with nostalgia, lies in the excess of a culture or the forcing of one.

In the late nineties after the Grunge era, the world had gotten over Will Smith’s clean rap and moved on to the lyrics of Notorious, Tupac, and a slew of other MC’s. Gamers on the other hand were still experiencing a rather “clique”less form of entertainment. Sure, Parapa The Rapper came in and jazzed things up, but you expected that from the start. JRPG’s lovingly starred angst-filled teens. I even think there was a Michael Jackson game thrown into the mix somewhere along the line.


The point remains though that the majority of games stood outside the bounds of culture’s influence. For instance, I can’t think of one subculture that would lay claim to the legendary Mario mushroom, not including the present day geek phenomenon. Spyro the Dragon didn’t hate himself while listening to My Chemical Romance. Back then, you could simply race in a racing game as you still can through Grand Turismo. I understand the merits of the intense driving simulator; however, I wanted more. As a young, listless teen, I needed an exaggerated experience that I had only dreamt of…

Enter Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit.

This was a strange cornucopia of dreams all meshed into one, albeit graphically limited, game. What teenage, young man didn’t want to race excessively fast and expensive cars? What about police chases? Spike strips? Helicopters? Even the scantily clad, yet quite polygonal women waving on the start and end of a race were something ripped right out of a dream. One inspired shortly after a boy’s realization that women had breasts.

It was everything just about every teen wanted and it lacked exactly what it should have: Plot. Rather than attempting to tell a story through the impersonal actions of cars, Hot Pursuit allowed every teen and me to interject our own plot. Whether I was racing against the school bully for rights to his woman or I had stolen the car and the cops were after me, I could fill the game with my own inner turmoil and desires. In a way, games made in such a fashion allowed the player to practice at an imaginative form of life to prepare for reality.

Enter Need for Speed: Most Wanted


By any means, the most direct sequel to Hot Pursuit as it fully incorporated the presence of police once again, Most Wanted was a much anticipated title for me. It was next gen, better handling, more cars, more customization… On the surface, this was the perfect upgrade. It even had a plot added; then, it hit me. They added a plot to a game that in some ways was all about perfecting male posturing. Rather than allowing the gamer to use the game as a medium for his or her own problem solving euphoria, Most Wanted had become a racing game that tried to tell a story. The even greater injustice in this situation was in fact the insistence on presenting the gamer with a forced representation of the racing subculture.

Now, I could understand if there had been certain undertones relating the game to the racing world. Such as the Asian character using a Japanese make car, a European driving a BMW, and an American of whatever race using “good ol’ American muscle” to win the day. There was no subtlety in this game; instead, Most Wanted relentlessly beat the gamer over the head with stereotypes and unnecessary cultural excesses. Whether it was the graffiti, “street” writing that often times led to illegibility, a main character that seemed more along the lines of an emaciated Eminem, or a host of other drivers that somehow dodged claims of racism only through the sheer lackluster writing behind them, Most Wanted spat in the face of its players. Most Wanted spat on the dreams we used to incorporate into it and told gamers that we should be inspired to fight authority through deep bass hits and baggy jeans.


Let me make something clear: I am not against rap culture. In fact, if I tally it correctly, the only cultures I abhor are the ones that pat themselves on the back for attempting to be a subculture. The problem here is that gamers were forced to relive the poorly written dream of a handful of people rather than allowing us all to live our dreams through it. Allow me to reference another series as a good example. In Grand Theft Auto III, you are in the mafia culture. In Vice City, it’s disco. In San Andreas, it’s street life. In IV, it’s Eastern European immigrant, which I found appealing due to how rarely American society has focused on the culture. What all of these iterations allowed gamers that Most Wanted didn’t was the right to choose. In any of the GTA games, you may be in a certain plot, but your character can change. The gamer has the ability to be a cowboy, a prep, straight gangster, or a host of things I’d rather not mention. You can even go so far as change the radio station to the music form you prefer.

Most Wanted decided for the gamer that we should all love and fight to be the same cheapened stereotype of a white, gangster driver rather than achieve what we want in our dreams and, in following, our own lives. Some games are made based on a culture, so they can’t be held to this argument. No one’s going to whine when 50 Cent’s game has tattoos and guns. No one’s going to blame a Madden game for egging on a house full of frat boys to think they could play football in the big leagues. Those games are based on those cultures whereas previous Need for Speed titles stood outside cultural leaning; though, Underground and its sequel did begin to have signs of a cultural shift. It’s this same vein of thinking that created Shadow the Hedgehog and possibly even the eco-friendly Mario Sunshine. I mean, someone has to appease the hippies at some point or we’ll have Woodstock all over again.


Do I want to race across a city with the police chasing after me? That’s an emphatic yes; however, I won’t do it when force fed a watered-down, stereotype ridden version of a culture. So as you all know, that’s why Most Wanted and the Need for Speed games following it are games you probably like, but shouldn’t.

15 Comments leave one →
  1. June 21, 2009 4:15 pm

    Good article, I agree with the stereotype problem you’ve put across, but with a racing game the story should take a back seat anyway. Racing games should be all about the gameplay and (if applicable) customisation, both of these things I believe (and I think you’ll agree) Most Wanted excels, so, while the story is a bit childish and stereotypical, it really shouldn’t spoil your enjoyment of the game much, especially if you just focus on the racing and cop chases

  2. June 21, 2009 4:44 pm

    You know, I’m not a gamer (duh) and I don’t really read too much of this blog. But this post was pretty hilarious. So good job, guys. Your witty self-awareness makes me proud.

  3. Celes Leonhart permalink
    June 21, 2009 10:00 pm

    Fourth to last paragraph nearing the end, “it’s” should be “its”.

    If these articles don’t launch you into stardom, I don’t know what will. I’m just hoping you’ve got enough of these to last you, because I’ve got nothing else to say other than that was perfect.

  4. phinehas permalink
    June 22, 2009 1:44 am

    Nice insight, great writing.

    Personally, I don’t really appreciate it when someone tells me what I “should” and “shouldn’t” like, but my guess is that title’s meant to be provocative, so it’s not that big a deal. Maybe I’d care more if it was a game that I actually played.

  5. June 22, 2009 7:43 pm

    Darn, it would seem I was either too spot on, picked a game too few people loved, or picked a game too old to get a full reaction from a bunch of people again. As for the title, yes, it’s meant to get the “Oh no he didn’t! I better read this!” response.

    • Celes Leonhart permalink
      June 23, 2009 2:09 am

      It’d probably hit all three of them, really, especially the second: I don’t I’ve ever seen anyone mention this game, let alone praise it.

      • June 23, 2009 2:32 am

        Well then, I’ll just have to go into some “Uncharted” territory with my next review; however, before then, I’ll be doing some “Damage Control.”

      • thebigmanandgarrett permalink*
        June 23, 2009 2:50 am

        Believe it or not I deleted a post from here earlier that was essentially “You are idiots” but with 5-6 uses of the F word. Clearly there are NFS fanboys.

      • June 23, 2009 3:11 am

        Ah, Garr, I wanna know what they said

    • Celes Leonhart permalink
      June 23, 2009 2:50 am

      Damnit man, Uncharted is the best choice ever to rip to shreds; that game has a severe case of “mediocre exclusive being bummed out because Microsoft didn’t pay for it”, except it’s a little bit good for the sake that it steals everything from everyone else. No idea what the “Damage Control” is referencing though. I’ll wait it out as Google gave no favours.

    • Dave permalink
      June 24, 2009 1:08 pm

      So, let me get this straight, you only pick games that are popular to tell us we shouldn’t play, not as though I’m gonna take much notice anyway, because you want to get a negative reaction out of people. Last time I check, that was called trolling.

      • June 24, 2009 2:04 pm

        No, the point of the column is to point out flaws in games that everyone turns a blind eye to, whether it is through nostalgia, blatant fanboyism, or what have you. Additionally it is an OPINION piece, in which the author shares his OPINION about a game. The only one trolling is you. If you actually took the time to read the articles you would see that he acknowledges the game is good, but that he felt it had a major flaw that everyone overlooks. But clearly your only intent was to come here and start am immature pissing contest, because someone had a negative opinion of a game you liked. /v/ is that way —>

  6. Dave permalink
    June 24, 2009 3:57 pm

    Um no, that would be you, you’re the ones just trying to cause controversy, don’t get so defensive, I read the article but I was more interested in what your friend had to say.

    “Darn, it would seem I was either too spot on, picked a game too few people loved, or picked a game too old to get a full reaction from a bunch of people again. As for the title, yes, it’s meant to get the “Oh no he didn’t! I better read this!” response.”

    Hmm, seems like trolling to me. Oh and by the way, I hate NFS Most Wanted so it’s not because I liked it and what the hell is /v/?

    Yeah, opinion piece, telling us we shouldn’t like these games because what he has to say, that’s an opinion alright.

    • Garrett permalink*
      June 24, 2009 5:15 pm

      Brandon has said many times that he writes opinionated pieces that can come across as arrogance. If you don’t like, then don’t read it. The title of the column is meant to sound controversial.

      Read Brandon’s other articles and look for his “Damage Control” column this week. If you want to understand why the article comes across the way it does you have to understand the author. He thrives on your criticisms and comments.

      Anyway, regardless of whether you love us or hate us, I’m glad you’re giving feedback. 😉

    • June 26, 2009 1:57 am

      Let’s see here; let me count the reasons why I would focus on more popular games:

      1) If I choose games such as Mother 3, Hanna Montana’s Whatever the Game is Called, and a slew of other unheard of games, I’d be a little hard pressed for reader/writer connection.
      2) How about we say I choose a bad game. For the heck of it, we’ll say Silent Hill Homecoming; that was a disappointment in most regards aside from the controls being ironed out (A lesson Resident Evil still hasn’t learned). If, in general, a game is bad, I’ll only be able to focus on the mechanics or compare it to the other iterations in the series as far as plot structure, the skin-deep reasons of why it is bad.
      3) I’m not out to review; I’m out to delve deeper into cultural, intellectual, and occasionally metaphysical reasons a game should be frowned upon at least in some aspects. I’m not looking for the skin-deep “there’s too much clipping.” The Big Man, Garrett, and Jared do that much better than me. I’m looking for the undertones of racism, the faulty imaginings behind plots, even the impact a game has on culture. Bad games that are accepted as bad games generally don’t have those larger picture ideas within them.

      I very well could review E.T. and make you agree with me; that’s not my intention. I am trying to give perspective on the dimensions of games that so many of us look over. Is that trolling? If it is, then there are many more intelligent people being claimed that term than I would have guessed. I’m sorry that you missed the point of this article; I really am. I would love to find more open minded people in the world that can take in their reality with an objective lens. Will I lose sleep because this went over your head? No. Hopefully, you’ll keep reading the column and one day a small spark of “out-of-the-box” thinking will go off. If and when that does happen, I hope you’ll come back to this and realize, “Oh, he’s not flat out hating on the game. He enjoyed everything about the game aside from the deeper, underlying meanings in the game.”

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