Need For Speed Most Wanted

EA's forthcoming addition to its hugely popular Need for Speed series returns to its high-speed pursuit roots by reintroducing police to the streets as an added challenge for petrol-heads to outwit and out-drive.

Rather than shifting its focus completely, Most Wanted still retains the ride-pimping and street-racing elements that helped accelerate the franchise into the fast lane of game sales by incorporating all of its parts into one vast, open world.

After buckling up for an extended test drive in the company of the game's senior producer, Larry LaPierre, EA's tinkering and tuning looks likely to ensure that Most Wanted will roll out of the garage as the series' most impressive drive to date.

The pursuits themselves are peppered with neat touches to help you give law enforcers the slip. Duck into one of the hiding spots without being spotted and, if you remain undetected for a cool-down period, the cops will abandon the chase.

Radio chatter gives you a heads-up on what tactics the police are planning to employ - such as rolling roadblocks - giving you the opportunity to take evasive action.

If the authorities do manage to apprehend you, they mark a strike against your car. If they catch you in the same vehicle three times, then your ride takes a trip to the pound, where it sits until a wedge of cash is handed over to liberate it.

As well as introducing a potential 'game over' scenario (no money + no car = no racing), the constant threat of having your ride taken away will encourage players to keep a selection of souped-up alternatives in the garage.

Available races appear in the game's world and on the map as icons, but can also be accessed through a menu system. Outrun races make a return, but - to our dismay - drift races have been dropped.

Content-wise, Most Wanted appears incredibly polished, but there's still some buffing to be done in other areas. The frame rate seems a little juddery while, graphically, there are some rough edges that need smoothing over.

Overall, Most Wanted looks set to keep the series ticking over nicely, with greater race variety and a much-improved open-world environment. If the odd spot of rust can be eradicated, it promises to satisfy our need for speed with a bounty of arcade-style motoring sustenance.