Technically, EA’s Neeed For Speed: World is an MMO, but it’s not really the World of NFS-craft. It’s a bit too boring and it seems grinding is the only MMO element they bothered to implement.
The non-race portion of NFS: World is rather silly, and consists mostly of a bunch of cars lying around. The only thing you can do is initiate chases by crashing in to police cars that roam the city. In the end, I found myself crashing into the cop cars and starting chases instead of playing races. At least that was fun - for a while. The pursuits work exactly like in Most Wanted. All the other players suddenly disappear and it’s just you versus the cops.
The racing part is ok. There’s nothing wrong with the races, they work better than NFS multiplayer races traditionally. However, because this is an MMO with levels and stuff, you don’t really feel like the playing field is level. There’s probably some really good reason for putting people with unequal cars to the same race. Add the Mario Kart-like power-ups and you start to wonder what’s with all the realistic-looking car games with Mario Kart-mechanics. The one big problem with the races is that there are just a handful of tracks. A couple of new tracks open up now and then when you level up, but it feels like I’m expected to grind the same tracks all over again.
The world around you is nice, but the geometry isn’t really complex: there are the downtown parts, some highways and some suburban scenes. After a while being chased around the city by cops, I felt a strong déjà-vu coming on. I have played in this city before! The game map is actually a composition from NFS: Most Wanted and Carbon. It wasn’t really a pleasant realization, it was just another confirmation that this was not really well thought out game. At least in Burnout: Paradise there were reasons to roam the open world, in NFS:W, I’m just teleporting to the races or being chased by the cops.
When the game was originally released, it was two-tiered with a freemium model. The free version was limited to level 10 or so. After that, EA asks you to pay up so you can keep grinding to unlock more decals for your cars. Apparently not too many people were interested in grinding, but just driving races (who could have ever guessed?) and this model was dropped. The game is still freemium, in that you can play the game for free to the max level, but there are many places where you can use money to help you around. You can use money to overcome certain (artificial) level restrictions like how many cars you can have and rent and buy special edition cars and so on. You can also replenish your power-ups with money. This is normal micropayment stuff just like in every other new EA game.
Also, the prices for new cars you would want to buy - especially because you have extremely limited garage space - are so high that I don’t think I’ll ever have the credits to get a Porsche Cayman.
However, it does give in-game advantage to players who are willing to dish out. However, it doesn’t really matter because the unfair advantage already comes from the simple grind. The grind is rather problematic in this game, because the whole point of the game would be to drive against others. That should be the fun part. Instead, you’re pitted against people who have better cars and upgrades and you have a snowball’s chance in hell of winning. To increase your chances to actually win a match, you need to grind these races to get the upgrades so you can be pitted against other, even better equipped competition.
And this is what sucks with simple MMO RPGs like Farmville. It’s not about skill, it’s just about endurance. There is no way to see who is the most skilled player, because there doesn’t seem to be a way to have a honest, normal race. And that’s what Need For Speed was about in the beginning.
On the other hand, I’m a bit bored of the single-player racers where you either always win or you’re supposed to always win. It’s nice to have the odds against you. Because when you win against higher level players, it actually feels like an accomplishment. That’s the only thing that keeps me coming back to this game.