Fans of racing games may have been a bit surprised to learn that one entry to the Need for Speed series, NFS: Most Wanted, features a career mode with a rather extensive back story. Plotlines to racing games are nothing new (who will ever forget the original Test Drive’s riveting story of “You just got a big bonus at work, now go try out these hot cars you want to buy”?), but few of them are as in-depth as the epic tale woven in Most Wanted. Because of this, many racing fans might be too inexperienced to fully understand the complicated ins-and-outs going on throughout the game so I took it upon myself to write this handy little guide to help you navigate through the literary masterpiece that is NFS: Most Wanted. I’ll break down the story as it’s given to you, as well as answer common questions as they come up.
The game begins in the present day, with you about to challenge Razor, the #15 racer on the mysterious “blacklist”. A woman (later revealed to be Mia) collects the pink slip from each driver. The pink slip dictates ownership of the car, so by putting their slip on the line, each racer is essentially betting their car on the outcome of the race. As she takes your slip, Mia gives you some advice on how to beat Razor.
Frequently Asked Question: Mia warns you that Razor will “swap paint” if he has too. What does that mean?
Answer: Allow me to explain this to those of you who aren’t familiar with racing terminology. “Swap paint”, means that if you win and Razor has to give you his car, he will first paint it all ugly colors, and write “I am a loser” across the hood, thus ruining your prize. Psychological games such as this are what makes Razor such a dangerous opponent. Well, that and the fact that he cheats.
Razor is driving a pretty fierce looking Mustang, but your BMW has a much, much bigger spoiler than his car, and that is of course the most important factor in a race. The race begins, but about halfway through, Mia calls. Mia is pretty hot, so you don’t think twice about picking up the phone and talking to her even though you’re in the middle of a death-defying race on crowded public streets with a car worth hundreds of thousands of dollars on the line. She warns you that there is something wrong with your car, and then the game fades out.
FAQ: What does Razor mean when he says “First I’m gonna take your ride, then I’m gonna take your girl?”
A: The first half of Razor’s statement is fairly obvious, since the drivers are racing for pink slips, but the second half is a bit more puzzling. It is possible that in addition to their cars, Razor and the player might have wagered their girlfriends, as well. It’s also possible that this car race is only one half of a biathlon, and the second half is some kind of piggyback or three legged race where each driver partners up with his girlfriend. Since the women would essentially be the “vehicle” in such a race, they would surely be at stake in the second event, in order to maintain some level of consistency.
There is a flashback, and we’re taken back to six days ago, when you first entered the city of Rockport. Illegal street racing is like any other career, and you’ve come to the big city to start climbing the corporate ladder, make the big bucks, and make a name for yourself. Only instead of a “corporate ladder”, it’s more like a small-time crime syndicate. The people of Rockport LOVE illegal street racing — the only businesses in town appear to be car dealerships, tune-up shops, and Burger King — and you even get into a race as you are driving across the bridge into town. This is how we are formally introduced to Mia, who races you for a little bit before both of you stop at a red light.
FAQ: Wait, illegal street racers stop for red lights?
A: No, only Mia. Which should also answer the question “Why isn’t Mia on the Blacklist?”
While you are sitting at the red light, a police Corvette comes out of nowhere and stops in front of both of you. Mia takes off right away, but you don’t know any better. Unfortunately, the game’s main villain, Sgt. Cross, is driving this police car and he hates people who stop for red lights… HATES them. This is probably because people who are stopped at red lights interfere with all the illegal street races that seem to be the basis of Rockport’s economy. He gets out of his car, yells at you for a while, but then has to leave for another call, and lets you go. He keys your car as he’s leaving, which would have been really awful if not for the fact that you’ll end up scraping 90% of the paint off of the car by hitting the walls during every race anyway.
You spend the next few days racing and building up your reputation, and eventually run into Ronnie McCrea, one of Razor’s boys. You race, and after you beat him, he leads you to a covert gathering of the blacklist members, which is like 10 feet away. Apparently when they aren’t racing against each other for ownership of each other’s cars, blacklisters enjoy hanging out together and talking about bands they like or something. Razor yells at Ronnie for leading you to their secret hideout, which seems kind of silly since their hideout is a public boardwalk out in the open. There are probably old men who accidentally stumble in on Blacklist meetings when they go to feed the pigeons.
FAQ: Seriously, what’s up with that spoiler? It’s about twice as big as the entire car.
A: A spoiler is the most important part of any street racer’s ride, as it provides an instantaneous and economical performance boost. As proven by numerous trips through the parking lot of a local mall, any car, be it a Saturn, a 15-year old Buick, or a minivan, can be instantly turned into a high-performance racer simply by haphazardly bolting a few pieces of sheet metal onto the trunk. The bigger the better, so to make sure that his highly tuned, extensively modified BMW doesn’t get embarrassed by an otherwise inferior car (such as a Ford Fiesta) equipped with a top-quality spoiler, the player has installed a comically oversized rear wing.
After a brief scene on the boardwalk and another race, the game flashes to two days before the scene at the beginning of the game. As you are driving, you get a phone call from Rog, who sets up most of Rockport’s races. Apparently, there is some kind of illegal street-racer yellow pages, because as soon as you get off of the phone with Rog, Razor calls you. It may seem weird that so many people want to talk to you, but keep in mind that you do have a ridiculously oversized spoiler on your car. In addition to single-handedly doubling the performance of your car, it’s also a great conversation piece. After a brief conversation with Razor, we are brought back to the present day.
FAQ: What does Rog mean when he says “Look what the Underground brought out. Now let’s see how you do in the daylight”?
A: It is probably a reference to the previous Need for Speed games, Underground 1 & 2, and is meant to imply that you are a character from one of those games. Alternately, it’s possible that your character is supposed to be some kind of goblin or dark elf, who would normally live underground. If this is the case, then you truly are at a disadvantage here, because direct sunlight will make your weapons and armor disintegrate, and all your rolls will receive a -1 penalty.
The opening scene between you and Razor is replayed. Again you race, and during the race Mia calls to let you know that you left a HUGE oil slick at the starting line. Car engines don’t do real well running at over 100 mph with no oil, and shortly after getting the message, the engine explodes and the car is wrecked. Needless to say, you lose the race.
Razor seems pretty happy to win your car, and doesn’t seem to be too concerned about the fact that, according to the game’s own economic model, that engine is going to cost almost $100,000 to replace. Mia runs up and asks what happened, since she is apparently too dense to figure out that the problem she called you about might have led to the demise of the car. Razor vows to “drive it the way you never could,” which we can only assume means “without an engine”.
The cops arrive and the blacklist racers take off. This bodes badly for you, because if there’s one thing Sgt. Cross hates more than people stopped at red lights, its pedestrians. You get arrested for standing near a street-race or something, but are released from jail before too long. Your good friend Mia (who conveniently abandoned you after the last race) picks you up and informs you that Razor sabotaged your car before the last race. Well, dur. You also learn that while you were in jail, Razor used your BMW to move up to the top of the blacklist. Mia drops you off at a car dealership, and that’s where the game really begins.
FAQ: How does Razor move up to the top of the Blacklist using your car, if you wrecked the engine in the last race?
A: Razor couldn’t have earned the money to replace the engine BEFORE moving up on the blacklist, so he clearly had to have figured out to win races using the car without getting it repaired. My guess is that the other drivers just got a load of that spoiler and gave up without even racing. This probably explains why they still have their cars. Either that, or else the blacklist switched to soapbox derby while you were gone.
Throughout the majority of the game, there isn’t much story progression. Rog calls you to set up races with other blacklist members, Razor calls to threaten you, and Mia calls to basically just be your personal cheerleader. About halfway through the game, Sgt. Cross leaves you an insane, rambling message in which he informs you that he has ways of getting your phone number, and that he’s from the “old school”. He also asks if people still call each other “homey” anymore, and then rags on your car for being ugly and says that he will bring you down. It’s vaguely threatening, but not really in the way Cross intends… Instead of sounding mean, the whole thing just makes him seem like a creepy stalker.
Once you defeat all the other Blacklist drivers, you can challenge Razor to the final race. After you beat him, he warns you that nobody will last long at #1 with him breathing down their neck, and if you want the keys to your old car, you’re going to have to take them from him. By this point in my play-through of the game, I already had two Lamborghini’s, a Viper, and a Corvette, so I was content to let him keep the BMW. Mia, however, steps in, takes the keys, and reveals herself to be an undercover cop. She arrests Razor, and the rest of the Rockport P.D. swoops in to get the other Blacklist racers, who have apparently forgotten how to run away. Mia throws you the keys to the BMW and tells you to run for it.
FAQ: Wait a second… Isn’t this the story from The Fast and the Furious?
A: Yes, but that just makes it better. I mean, haven’t we all at one point or another thought that The Fast and the Furious could be turned into the coolest game ever if you got to be Vin Diesel’s character and Paul Walker was replaced by a really attractive woman? I know I have.
As you are running from the police, Mia calls and warns you that Sgt. Cross has gotten wise to your usual escape techniques. This time, the only chance you have to get away will be to go to the broken bridge and jump it (I guess Rockport is located somewhere in Hazzard County). You drive to the bridge, and with the aid of your amazing spoiler, are able to glide over the sizeable gap in the bridge to safety. The police cars, equipped only with merely ordinary sized spoilers, fall off the edge and are unable to continue pursuit. The game ends with you safely driving away while the remaining police can only look on and shake their fists angrily.
FAQ: Why does Mia beg you not to hang up on her when she calls you?
A: Mia feels pretty bad about not telling you she was an undercover cop and then using you to get to the rest of the blacklist members. She figures that you must be pretty mad at her for all the things that happened to you as a result of her undercover work — you know, things like her helping to get your car back, you winning all that money, and her not arresting you and then helping you flee from the other police.
Well, that pretty much concludes the epic saga of Need for Speed: Most Wanted. I hope you enjoyed this guide, and I also hope that it has helped you better appreciate the game. But mostly, I just hope the guy who played Sgt. Cross takes some acting lessons before he appears in any other games. Seriously.