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Need for Speed: Most Wanted review

AT A GLANCE
  • Fun and varied multiplayer racing modes
  • Challenging racing system that values skill over luck
  • Great leaderboard implementation
  • Underwhelming singleplayer campaign
  • Poor feedback regarding racing routes
  • Occasional bugs that will boot you from online sessions

Editor's Note: The following review pertains only to PS Vita edition of Need for Speed: Most Wanted. Please see Page 1 for GamesRadar's review of the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and PC edition.

EA has thus far found success with its decision to hand off its uneven Need for Speed franchise to Burnout creator Criterion Studios. In addition to the console version of Need for Speed: Most Wanted, Criterion was also charged this year with crafting a PS Vita installment, and the results play like a Greatest Hits. The beautiful open-world city, which features multiple vistas, slow-motion crashes, and Takedowns, are lifted straight from Paradise City, while the focus on real-world luxury vehicles and intense police chases is pulled from 2010's Hot Pursuit playbook. This excellent design choice makes Most Wanted on the Vita a spirited effort.

Your goal is to get to the top of the Most Wanted list of Fairhaven, the setting for all your exploits. To do so, you’re put behind the wheel of a variety of licensed high-performance cars and tasked with accumulating points that allow you to climb that ladder. To get those points, you’ll enter races for each vehicle you come across or engage local law enforcement in high-speed pursuits; it’s a simple and straightforward process. Autolog makes it even better, as you’re not only battling in-game racers but chasing your friends’ best scores as well.

Many of the races are spectacularly intense, and the variety of modes and settings is impressive. Circuit and Point-to-Point races tend to be the most fun, as you’re pitted against other racers as well as the Fairhaven police in an effort to finish first. You’ll use any and all options to take out your opponents and the cops, whether those are other vehicles or the natural obstacles that present themselves along the route. Other races will charge you with averaging a particular top speed along a pre-defined route, achieving a specific time, or taking on someone one-on-one. Locales are constantly shifting, from heavily trafficked tarmac city streets to twisting mountain roads to dirt-based abandoned airfields.

Each race typically takes a few go-rounds to win, as many of the courses have nuances that take a bit of learning to maneuver. Whether it’s a particularly tight turn with a well-placed concrete barrier that you (repeatedly) crash into or an aggressive competitor that simply won’t give up, it’s clear that each path was carefully designed to challenge you without ever feeling cheap. Conversely, the most challenging races are those where your only competition is yourself, as no amount of assistance can help you achieve a specific time or speed average if you keep smashing into things.

The controls are feel natural and are responsive. Upgrading your car is easy, too; as you win individual races, different options become available for the vehicle you’re driving at the moment. These include multiple types of tires, nitrous boosts, transmission upgrades, and so on. The elegant way to configure your vehicle is particularly welcome as well; a click of a button gets you on your way.

Simplicity is a theme in Most Wanted, as it recognizes that it’s on a handheld platform and uses that to full advantage. One of the game’s best features is the well-named Easy Drive system. Controlled by the directional buttons, you pull up the Easy Drive menus at any moment to change cars, start an available race, modify your vehicle’s upgrades, and more. Many games could learn from Easy Drive’s format to provide instant access to anything you’d want to do. Free-roaming is a fun option as well, which helps to accumulate additional points based on escaping from police chases, smashing through the billboards and fences strewn throughout Fairhaven, and spotting parked cars that you can hop into. In addition to the intuitive navigation, the vast majority of the races are relatively brief and the ability to hop almost anywhere in a moment’s time is extremely welcome in a mobile situation.

Overall, Most Wanted looks and sounds great; the cars have a high degree of detail and sound distinctly different from each other. However, headlights of oncoming vehicles are highly pixelated, a stark contrast to the otherwise crisp visuals. The biggest disappointment, though, is that there’s little momentum to keep pushing forward through the single-player campaign after awhile; the sameness of the pursuits begin to blur together. Without a story or character arc (just why is it you’d want to become the most wanted criminal in Fairhaven, after all?), Most Wanted relies on your competitive nature to make it to the top of the list as opposed to anything else.

With an impressive list of real-world luxury cars, intense races, solid visuals, and a seamless social connection that drives you to continue, Need for Speed: Most Wanted vaults itself to the top of the Vita racing games list. While it gets a bit repetitive after awhile, the astoundingly powerful vehicles provide an impressive amount of racing fun with a great balance of challenge and accessibility.

Score: 4/5 stars

More Info

Release date: Oct 30 2012 - Xbox 360, PS3, PC (US)
Nov 02 2012 - Xbox 360, PS3, PC (UK)
Available Platforms: Xbox 360, PS3, PC
Genre: Racing
Published by: Electronic Arts
Developed by: Criterion Games
Franchise: Need for Speed
ESRB Rating:
Teen

18 comments

  • oldbboy25 - August 20, 2014 6:06 a.m.

    you can download full version of Need for speed Here : http://bit.ly/1pL6yQA
  • rsnben - July 17, 2013 2:26 a.m.

    first of all awesome when compared to most wanted 1.but its very easy to shutdown all the cars within 24 hours..need more races...
  • Elvick - November 1, 2012 9:14 a.m.

    I agree about the turn indicators and mini map. I have to check it constantly to make sure I don't tank during an upcoming turn. Which makes races more stressful than they need to be. I think it's worth the $40 on Vita though. That's the only reason I decided to get this game. I don't have a racer like this on Vita, and since it was done inhouse I knew it would be a good port. And it is. I've never played Most Wanted before though, so I have nothing to compare it to. Only NFS I ever really cared for was Hot Pursuit.
  • dana-ray - October 31, 2012 7:52 p.m.

    I AM VERY DISAPPOINTED WITH THIS GAME NO STORY LINE JUST RACING ITS MORE LIKE BURNOUT THAN NEED FOR SPEED ILL NEVER BUY ANOTHER NEED FOR SPEED MADE BUY THIS COMPANY I THINK RUN WAS BETTER
  • archnite - October 30, 2012 10:01 p.m.

    Awe, I has hoping for a robust sequel to Paradise with some Most Wanted peanut butter in there. Both are my favorite racing games guess it didn't work out. But hows the Vita version?
  • taokaka - October 30, 2012 6:03 p.m.

    Can anyone tell me whether the cops are still as annoyingly prevalent as the original where I couldn't hoon about for more than two minutes before cops started showing up to ruin the fun.
  • DefaultGen - October 30, 2012 5:42 p.m.

    Why is this game ranked in stars and not puppies?
  • halopower67 - October 30, 2012 3:21 p.m.

    I just came here and signed on after several years of not doing so to say.....yay Rorie! As for NFS, I'll give it a try but the problem is that i don't have people to play online with.
  • taokaka - October 30, 2012 5:53 p.m.

    WOOT! YAY RORIE! GO RORIE! RORIE, RORIE, RORIE! YAY ROZAAAAAAAA! wait, who's Rorie?
  • halopower67 - October 30, 2012 9:55 p.m.

    He's the guy who wrote this review and an all around awesome guy. Granted, I only know him from Gamespot and Whiskey Media. He also loves puppies.
  • Jahbu - October 30, 2012 2:02 p.m.

    This game is GREAT!!! Check out my gameplay vid if you get a chance:) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qosxaVeCms4
  • pl4y4h - October 30, 2012 1:18 p.m.

    So disappointed that they got lazy with the singleplayer. Probably will save my money on this one
  • Fuzunga - October 30, 2012 11:04 a.m.

    I'm not a huge fan of these "open world" racing games. I bought Burnout Paradise because I love Burnout, but the game just pales in comparison to its linear/arcade predecessors. It's just not that fun to race around. I hope someday that Criterion returns to that oldschool style.
  • taokaka - October 30, 2012 5:57 p.m.

    I like the open world aspect to just go and hoon about between races but the races themselves would be so much better if they were linear.
  • MidianGTX - October 30, 2012 6:11 p.m.

    Learn the city and it essentially becomes linear. The only route you want to be headed is the shortest one.
  • larkan - October 30, 2012 9:17 a.m.

    lol an hour or two to stop from driving like an idiot seems a bit much, I picked up on it after the first couple races. Although this game is great in it's own light, it really doesn't deserve the Most Wanted name, as it's a shell of the former game by the same name. This is seriously Burnout with cops. The old NFSMW had a super cheesy story, but the races were better, and you felt more invested in the cars you drove. In this one, you simply swap cars on a whim, do the same races for the same upgrades, and it just doesn't have that challenge feel, most of the races are pretty simple once you memorize the routes. Race rewards for defeating a top 10 opponent were a lot better in the old one too. You would choose one of multiple vouchers and could win the pink slip to their car, cash to upgrade yours, or other things, and in this one, you simply have to t-bone the opponent's car and you win it, kinda boring. While I will enjoy this game for awhile, I am disappointed overall, and I'll probably go back to playing the old NFSMW after this.
  • Moondoggie1157 - October 30, 2012 6:41 p.m.

    Razor was a badass...

Showing 1-18 of 18 comments

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