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Criterion reaches into history for next three Need for Speed Most Wanted DLC packs

Samit Sarkar (he/him) is Polygon’s deputy managing editor. He has more than 15 years of experience covering video games, movies, television, and technology.

Need for Speed Most Wanted developer Criterion Games released the game's first add-on, the Ultimate Speed Pack, in December. It contained a handful of new cars, collectibles and events, but fans who are familiar with Criterion's racing heritage wanted something more substantial.

Criterion believes it is delivering the kind of content that will satisfy those fans with its next three Most Wanted DLC packs: Terminal Velocity, Need for Speed Movie Legends and Need for Speed Heroes. In each piece of DLC, the studio is reaching back into history — into its own past, into the canon of car chase films and into the legacy of the Need for Speed franchise itself, respectively.

At the same time, said senior designer Chris Roberts during a recent hands-on demo, Criterion is adding pieces to the game that evolve its competitive elements. With the new mechanics and areas, the studio is looking to redefine what's possible in Most Wanted, and pave the way for fans to sink dozens more hours into the game.

Alongside the DLC packs, Criterion will deliver a free Most Wanted title update with some tweaks to the game.

"We weren't happy with how night looked," Roberts told Polygon. The studio "wanted a more cinematic night," so nightfall will now drape Fairhaven City in almost complete darkness, making headlights matter. The title update also adds a Ram Chassis mod to the game, giving players a collision-friendly front end.

"We've looked at ... what worked and what didn't work," said Roberts.

Terminal Velocity ($14.99 / 1200 Microsoft Points)

Something that worked for Criterion in its pre-Need for Speed days was building a significant chunk of new content for Burnout Paradise's Big Surf Island DLC. That add-on, which brought a new stunt-oriented locale into the world of Paradise City, could legitimately be called an "expansion" rather than mere "DLC."

With the DLC packs, Criterion is looking to redefine what's possible in Most Wanted

Criterion is taking the same approach with the Terminal Velocity expansion to Most Wanted. It adds the Hughes International Airport to Fairhaven City, a massive new area — the biggest in the game — that is broken up into three parts: one standard terminal, one that's under construction and the airport's runways.

Each section offers a unique vehicular playground to mess around in. The terminal features narrow, winding avenues that are designed for the expansion's smaller cars and their tight handling. It's also possible to drive around on the terminal itself, an undulating path that will let you get some big air. Off-road racers will enjoy the dirt floor and makeshift ramps of the half-finished terminal. And the airport's main runway serves as Most Wanted's longest straightaway, although you'll end up in the drink if you're too reckless.

Two new car mods comprise the game-changing piece of Terminal Velocity. Drift Tires make it possible to pull off longer drifts, and they also cause colored smoke to spew forth from your wheels, a visual marker that's particularly useful and noticeable in multiplayer. We had the most fun with the DLC's other mod, Jump Nitrous, which — you guessed it — can be deployed in mid-air to propel your car forward as if rockets were attached, while colored exhaust fumes billow from the back of the vehicle.

Roberts pointed out that Jump Nitrous essentially resets billboards throughout the entire game, since the mod makes it possible to soar much higher and farther than ever before. Get ready to attempt to reestablish your leaderboard dominance. Terminal Velocity also includes extra single-player events like Smash n' Grab, which tasks you with finding the best lines through an area to maximize your score in crashing through targets. New cars in the pack include the 2012 Audi RS3 and 2013 Porsche 918 Spyder.

Need for Speed Movie Legends ($9.99 / 800 Microsoft Points)

We all remember the vehicles involved in Hollywood's most iconic car chases, and that's what the Need for Speed Movie Legends pack relies on. The add-on features five cars from films loved by car enthusiasts, although it doesn't mention the movies in question by name:

  • Aston Martin DB5 (multiple James Bond films, including Skyfall)
  • 1967 Shelby GT500 ("Eleanor," Gone in 60 Seconds)
  • 1970 Dodge Charger R/T (Fast and the Furious films)
  • 1977 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am Special Edition (Smokey and the Bandit)
  • 2008 Aston Martin DBS (Quantum of Solace)

We took the Charger for a spin after checking out the 2012 Ford Fiesta ST from Terminal Velocity, and were pleased to notice a vast difference in handling between the two. The Charger isn't the most responsive beast in the world; its rear-wheel drive setup means you have to begin turns and other movements well in advance. But put it on the open road and hit the gas in one of the eight new sprint events, and few cars from its era can keep up.

Need for Speed Heroes ($9.99 / 800 Microsoft Points)

Standout vehicles from the long-running Need for Speed franchise are the stars of the show in the Need for Speed Heroes DLC. The pack contains five cars from the covers of previous Need for Speed titles: the Lamborghini Diablo SV from Need for Speed 3: Hot Pursuit (1998), the Nissan Skyline GT-R (R34) from Need for Speed: Underground (2003), the Nissan 350Z from Need for Speed: Underground 2 (2004), the BMW M3 GTR from the original Need for Speed: Most Wanted (2005) and the Porsche 911 GT2 from Need for Speed: Undercover (2008).

take back the BMW M3 GTR from Razor Callahan

Roberts described the DLC as a way to let players relive memories they may have from the Need for Speed games of yore, like fleeing from the cops in the bright yellow Diablo SV or taking back the M3 GTR from Razor Callahan. Of course, those who didn't play those old games can still enjoy the cars anyway, since each is a powerful vehicle with unique strengths.

Need for Speed Heroes comes with eight new races and speed runs, as well as 25 liveries you can deck out your car with and 136 additional multiplayer milestones.

All three add-ons launch today on Xbox Live and PlayStation Network, and will be available March 13 on Windows PC. EA has not announced a Wii U release date. A bundle of the DLC packs will sell for $24.99 / 2000 Microsoft Points, a discount of more than 28 percent off the total cost of buying them separately. Check out the trailer below.

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