Need for Speed: Most Wanted Review

Title: Need for Speed: Most Wanted
Developer: Criterion
Game Type: PlayStation Vita
Download: 2.5 GB
NA Availability: 
Digital Download | Retail

EU Availability: Digital Download | Retail

If you start looking for racing games, you will see a lot of games pop up, as there are many different kinds and genres of racing games.  There are driving simulators, like Gran Turismo and Forza.  There are combat racers like Wipeout.  There are Kart racers like Mario Kart, Crash Team Racing, and ModNation Racing.  There is also a genre of racing that offers an interesting and immersive experience.  Sandbox-style racing games with huge open-world cities to explore and events to find and initiate.  Two names are here.  Midnight Club and the infamous Need for Speed.

Need for Speed has been known to always try new and different things with each release, and many of these things do not satisfy the fans.  After the release of Need for Speed: Carbon, on the PlayStation 2, fans felt the series got stale for many years to come.  With every release, there were hordes of fans complaining about how bad the games were.  It seemed that Electronic Arts could never appease to their fans.  Then they teamed with Criterion and made Need for Speed: Most Wanted.

Criterion’s Most Wanted was not the first time the name had come to the franchise.  There was a Need for Speed: Most Wanted on the PlayStation 2, but this was bringing back the name and the idea of Most Wanted racers.  The new game came to a multitude of platforms.  Along with the PlayStation 3 and the Xbox 360, the game was released on the PlayStation Vita as a Multi-Platform Title.  Here is our in-depth review of the sandbox-style racer, Need for Speed: Most Wanted.

Story

The plot and setting of Need for Speed: Most Wanted is set in the city of Fairhaven, home to the most dangerous street-racing on the planet, or so the game says.  Although the story is nowhere near the depth of involving character development for each character, it is simple enough that it sets in stone the area you’re in and what you are supposed to do.

The premise is simple.  You’re a street-racers arriving in the city and want to make a name for yourself.  There are ten racers in the city that are high above the rest and on the “Most Wanted” list for being the best at racing and evading the Fairhaven Police Department.  Your goal is to find cars and race to earn enough reputation to challenge each of these drivers.  You then need to defeat each in a race and name yourself the Most Wanted racer of the city.

It’s simple, yet has an exciting twist to it.  Each race is unique, and some are comedic.  A certain Most Wanted race in itself, is a direct reference to the incident from 2011 when a Bugatti Veyron swerved and dunked itself into a nearby lake.  There are plenty of Easter eggs and references as you progress through the story.

Gameplay

In essence, this is a sandbox and arcade-style racer.  From the very beginning of the game, you are on the streets of Fairhaven and are directed towards your first car and first race.  A tutorial voice and pointers helps you close the distance for this all while explaining how many parts of the game work in the process of this.  After you complete these tasks, you are set loose in the city to do anything you want.

Anything you want.  That is one of the biggest fun factors of Need for Speed: Most Wanted.  From the very beginning of the game, you have the entire city of Fairhaven available to you and can go anywhere at any time.  If you don’t want to do any races and just drive around the city for fun, you can.  After all, there is a rather large selection of things you can find and do without touching actual races.

Aside from the Most Wanted cars, every car in the game is available at the start.  As the Tutorial explains, you can find cars around the city with logos of their company above them, such as Ford, Chevrolet, Mitsubishi, etc.  If you drive up to one of these cars, you can jump from the car you were in before and into this one.  Once this happens, the car becomes yours and where you found it becomes a possible spawn point.

Spawn Points are used when you want to drive a specific car.  In the Main Menu, you can access any car you’ve found and driven.  When you choose to drive this, you are able to choose a Spawn Point, which is anywhere in the city where you have found that specific car.  Some cars only have one Spawn Point, but others have many.  It is useful to know your way around the city when using these Spawn Points when you want to drive specific cars.

Speaking of specific cars, each car has its own set of races.  There are about ten races per vehicle and, to complete everything in the game, you will have to win races with each car available to you.  Winning races at high places is crucial, as winning races in these positions will get you upgrades used for increasing the power or giving your car benefits, from nitrous charges to tires that re-inflate once they are blown out by spikes.

If you drive around the city, you will find many things around, from Paint Shops to Gates and Signs to Police Cruisers.  Paint Shops allow you to drive through them and change the color of your vehicle.  So, if you spawn in a Ford GT and don’t like red, just drive to a Paint Shop and maybe you’ll get Blue or Yellow, or perhaps something else.  These also fix any damage that has been done to the car, which is a factor that happens whenever you hit something.  Your car will slowly wreck as you run into things and the car will crack, tear, and break.  Getting this fixed will help the performance.

Gates and signs are breakable pieces of environment that you can come across and break.  Some signs require you to go off of ramps or staircases and bust through.  Each time you break a sign, it will be replaced by a “Wanted” sign with your PSN Avatar plastered on it.  Gates are just metal gates that you can drive through to break to access new areas.  There are dozens of these around the city, and plenty to look for.

Police Cruisers are a big thing that people who play these games love.  Find a Police Cruiser and either speed or ram into them and you will initiate a Police Chase.  When this happens, you will have policemen on your tail and your goal is to escape.  At the beginning of the game, this is easy.  You can get away from their line of sight and a timer goes off.  As long as you stay away, you will have a successful escape.  To help this, you can also knock out police cruisers.  As you progress through the Most Wanted races, though, they upgrade, from getting SUVs to even Corvette ZR1s chasing after you.

Speed Points are a huge factor in the game.  Whenever you complete an event, whether it is finishing a race, escaping the cops, or breaking a sign, you earn Speed Points.  These are sort of like Experience Points that count towards leveling up your Rank.  Increasing your Rank is crucial to the game as your Rank determines whether or not you’re allowed to challenge Most Wanted racers.  Once you earn enough SP, you can challenge Most Wanted racers to take their vehicles and move yourself up the list.  There are ten Most Wanted racers in total.

All in all, the game will take you quite a long time to complete.  I would not expect to be able to get through the entire game in any less than 8-10 hours, not counting going around to get all of the signs, gates, and collecting all cars.  That is strictly racing and slowly earning SP to challenge the Most Wanted racers.

As far as replay value is concerned, you can still do any races you want, including the ten races exclusive to the PlayStation Vita version of the game, as many times as you want and explore the city for the fun of the sandbox-style exploration.  There is also Multiplayer, which has its own set of races and a few exclusive vehicles for that mode.

The game has tons of content and is great, but there are two factors dragging it down.  The first is that there is less traffic for civilians than there is in the PS3 and Xbox 360 versions of the game.  The second, and more crucial piece, is that the Downloadable Content for the home console release did not make it into the Vita version of the game.  So, all of the DLC areas, races, and cars that are in the home console release aren’t in this game.  There is a ton of content without it, but it’s sad that Vita owners didn’t get it.

Controls

As far as controls on the Vita go, one thing that people want to know is if there are touch-only controls and what they are used for.  Thankfully, Need for Speed Most Wanted mostly stays out of Touch Controls.  The only feature that uses the touch screen and/or Rear Touch Panel is switching between Music Tracks while you’re driving.  All of the other controls, other than the Title Menu, are handled by the physical buttons on the PlayStation Vita.

There is only one control scheme when you’re driving and it’s the same across all cars.  You use the R button to accelerate and braking is done with the Square button, with L service as the Emergency Break.  You can control your car through the use of the left Analog Stick.  All in all, it’s a very basic set of controls that doesn’t take too long to get used to.  The most adjustment you will have to do is learning to use R for the trigger instead of Square or X, as other racing games on PlayStation platforms normally use.

Presentation

Despite the sizeable task of getting the entirety of Fairhaven into a portable package, the game looks very well on the eyes.  The environment and cars are not near perfect renders, but they look very pretty and detailed.  On the Vita’s OLED screen, from a distance, it may be hard to tell you’re not actually playing the PlayStation 3 version of this game.

The game also runs very smooth.  I do not recall ever having lag in the game as I played through the Single Player, and that’s saying something, considering how much they threw into this game.  There are no frame issues and the game is a smooth ride that any racers will find to look exciting.

As far as music is concerned, there is a huge range of tracks.  While there isn’t an original score for this game, there is a wide range of tracks and artists included, with The Who and more.  The sound quality is loud and clear, just as it is in the console release.  You won’t see any shortcomings here.

Overall

Need for Speed: Most Wanted comes racing to the Vita with every bit of the content the base game had on home consoles.  It is fun, exciting, and will last you more time than you could care to imagine.  While the game is brought down by less traffic and the lack of the Downloadable Content that the PS3 and Xbox 360 got, it is the most fun racer you will find on the handheld.

The PlayStation Review Network rates Need for Speed: Most Wanted an 8.5/10

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One comment

  1. Hey, great review. However, there are a few things I can’t agree with so let me comment on that. I know it’s a matter of personal taste but I didn’t really find the game that much fun in the long run. It really doesn’t offer much except for racing and that’s not something that will keep me coming back to a driving game. I mentioned it in my own blog post where I discussed Most Wanted – http://wp.me/p3KJOA-bh – and I try to compare it to Criterion’s Burnout Paradise, which to this date, is the most fun driving game I played. There was just so much more to do in that city, much more challenges and stunts to perform.

    Also, the game does look pretty on the Vita but I don’t think we can compare it to the PS3 version. Especially if you take into account what you mentioned, that is the limited number of traffic vehicles and overall the stripped-down quality of the graphics. I’m not saying they could’ve done better but I just think the differences are visible.

    Anyway, I enjoyed the game enough to platinum it, although it did require some grinding to get some of the upgrades, so I can’t say it wasn’t a fun game to play. Also, the races are not unique to each car – there is a pool of races that can be found for different cars so you don’t need to win every race with every car to beat the game 100%.

    Keep up the fun writing and see you around!

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