I finally got around to picking up Criterion’s version of Need for Speed: Most Wanted, and have been playing it on and off for most of this week. I like it. It’s got its faults and annoyances here and there (changing cars!), but it’s a racing game I don’t mind putting five or so hours into in any given play session.
I’ve also been reunited with Autolog, a feature that made its debut in Criterion’s previous outing with the Need for Speed franchise, Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit, and was kinda-sorta in the most recent SSX. Its actual name eludes me at the moment.
This in-game social network feature is great for creating competition between people that are friends on their system of choice. You post a time in a race, your friend comes along and manages to best it, then you have a chance at 1-uping him and re-claiming your spot at the top. Or near the top because some other dude on your friends list is kicking both of your asses. Unfortunately, it’s been two years since Hot Pursuit came out and, in my case, I never played the SSX reboot, so I had the joy of once again coming to terms with the fact that I can get competitive and frustrated very quickly. Mostly due to my inability to beat the times of this one particular friend of mine.
I’m sure many of you who have play Hot Pursuit, Most Wanted or SSX are somewhat familiar with this feeling: You’re playing the game, minding your own business, and upon completing whatever event you were playing, you post your time (thinking you did pretty well) only to have the game show you the stats of a few people on your friends list. This being a game with Autolog in it, this is going to come up a lot in an attempt to get you to try again and do better. A lot of times you may neglect it and go on about your day, but every once in a while, Autolog will show you a friends’ completion time, and you’ll think, “Well, I’m sure I could do better than him/her if I try it again. Yeah, let’s do this. How hard could it be?”
That‘s how it starts, this one-sided competition. Autolog is brilliant and fiendishly evil at the same time because of this.
For me, I thought I was over it. I had accepted long ago that this specific friend was better than me at most games. And when I saw that he had better times than me, I figured it was because of that or because he was farther along in the game and had access to better cars.
Then I came across one cop pursuit race-type, in which this descendant of Speed Racer managed to finish it in 1:00:90.
I didn’t think anything of it at first, other than the fact that it was a time of 1:00:90 and seemed kinda fast. But after the 3rd or 4th try of not even being able to beat the game’s set time of 2:30 to get 1st place, my one sided interrogation began. *Note: These probably aren’t the exact words I used. You know, heat of the moment and all that.*
“How did he do this THAT goddamn fast?! Like, what did he do?! Can I do it?! I’m willing to bet that he’s not even sure how he did—goddamn it, I hit another wall because driving on the dirt sucks! *sign* Let’s restart…again…because I’m a stubborn idiot.”
I still haven’t been able to beat that time, and I doubt that I ever will. Remarkably, I’ve actually been able to best him in several Most Wanted races and a handful of billboard jumps, but that’s because (with the billboards at least) you don’t have to go into a menu, hit ‘retry’ and sit through a loading screen. Provided you didn’t hit a wall or a well placed tree, you can turn your car around, go back and try again. That isn’t to say that I don’t redo races because that’d be too many button presses and I’m lazy, but being able to quickly retry something is a huge factor when it comes to trial and error experiences. Autolog is all about you replaying races and getting better times, and in a racing game, you can quickly tell if a race is going poorly or not. If you’re doing a Speed Run in Most Wanted and you crash, it’d probably be in your best interest to restart.
All that being said, however, I love Autolog’s inclusion in the Need for Speed games and hope to see it in later iterations or other genres, but man…sometimes it’s just not worth it. Sometimes you, or someone who likes you a lot, needs to stop you and ask, “Do you remember the last time? No, really, do you remember last time? Because I remember you got so upset your face turned red and you fainted.” Or something like that.
By the way, it was called RiderNet in SSX; I finally decided to look it up.
Kyree didn't have an N64 or Dreamcast as a kid (so sad) and he doesn't remember finishing any of his PlayStation games, but skip to the PS2/GC/Xbox era and everything changed. He hasn't been outside to play tag in forever, but he can recall playing way too much Smash Bros. and even more Kingdom Hearts; seriously, he can recite lines from it. I think he may have a problem.
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