I can still remember the first time I started the story mode in this game. I was 6 years old, it was Christmas break and my parents had just rented an XBOX 360 from a nearby video store for me along with a couple of games. Among them was Need For Speed Most Wanted, a game now considered by many to be one of the best racing games of all time due to the involving story, variety of cars, great map and satisfying physics engine. The main reason most people remember it, however, is because of the car on the game's cover: the BMW E46 M3 GTR pictured above.
I'd like to think that despite its universal coolness and attractiveness to all admirers of tuned/tuner cars young and old, the M3 GTR featured in the game appealed to me more than others. See, the thing is, as I was growing up, I was very lucky to have parents who shared a passion for cars, my father more than my mother as expected but, nonetheless, I grew up surrounded by all sorts of interesting cars. In my early childhood, my parents owned a variety of interesting, now classic German cars. We had an early '90s BMW E34 540iA, a late '90s E38 735i and a couple of Mercedes-Benz 190Es. However, the one that stood out to me and the one we have kept the longest since it was bought new when I was only a few months old is our Titanium Silver 2001 E46 330i.
My family's 2001 330i which we still have
I can safely say that this car was the seed that caused my passion for cars to sprout at such a young age. My dad always tells me stories about me proclaiming as exuberantly as a 3 year old can that the 330i was "my car" and that I wasn't gonna let him sell it no matter the circumstances. While I could easily go off on a tangent about our 330i and how the E46 is one of the greatest cars ever built, I still haven't explained how this ties in with the souped up M3 on the cover of NFS:MW. Well, I think it's pretty simple actually. When I first saw the cover of the game, I saw an extremely modified but still recognizable version of the car I'd spent my childhood admiring and daydreaming about, which meant I was hooked on the game from the very start.
Not only was the car instant eye-candy to 6 year old me, the way the game's story mode was set up only made me want to experience that car even more. If you've played the game already, you'd know that you get to drive the M3 in the first few racing sequences of the game, before it's lost in a pink slip race. The rest of the game is spent street racing, evading the police, buying and modifying cars all with the goal of getting the M3 GTR back.
The M3 GTR in Need For Speed (2015) - a good game but it didn't capture the magic of its 2005 counterpart
I can attribute most of my exploration and knowledge of cars to my experience playing video games, something that wouldn't have occurred if it wasn't for me spending so much time trying to get that M3 back in the game. I'd played a few games before and I've played a ton of racing games since, namely from the Need For Speed and Forza franchises, but I can trace my most influential experiences and my biggest leaps in knowledge about cars back to this game. And that's how, despite me never finishing the game and unlocking it, the M3 GTR became a symbol of my childhood and led my passion for cars to grow exponentially from that point on.