Need For Speed: Most Wanted Review
This has been the game most Need For Speed fans have been waiting for since Burnout developer Criterion first got behind the wheel for Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit.
In between Hot Pursuit and Most Wanted came the very lacklustre Need For Speed: The Run, which was pretty mediocre especially when sat side by side with Hot Pursuit.
Now Criterion has full control of the Need For Speed franchise and they decided to go flat out and reimagine their favourite game, Need For Speed: Most Wanted, a game that is fondly remembered as one of the high points of the series.
Criterion has dispensed with the need for any kind of story instead opting to create a playground for racers to explore, mess around in and ultimately compete to be the Most Wanted racer around.
The only real story is that there are 12 racers that comprise the Most Wanted list and you have to earn the experience needed to take them on in one on one races to take their spots on the leaderboard. Enhancing this competitive element is the latest version of Criterion's Autolog system allowing players to match up against their friends records and attempt to beat them.
All of this is set in the massive free-roaming backdrop of Fairhaven a rich and diverse region filled with jumps and speed cameras top find and set records on as well as the Burnout Paradise-inspired billboards and security gates to find and smash through.
Every action in the game allows players to earn Speed Points, Most Wanted's version of XP that allow you to unlock upgrades for your vehicles. These range from completing set events to setting speed and jump records around Fairhaven to simply clocking up the miles in your favourite cars.
In true Need For Speed style you'll also earn SP for aggressive driving such as takedowns, drifting, drafting and, of course, successfully evading the police.
Speaking of cars, there are around 40 cars in NFS: Most Wanted, concealed in over 120 different spots around Fairhaven. Most of them are available to drive straight away by simply finding them and pushing a button while parked next to them. The only cars that require an unlock are those on the Most Wanted list and they will appear around Fairhaven once you defeat them in one-on-one races.
Each car also has its own set of events pitched at different difficulty levels. Completing these events allow you to unlock upgrades to your car from track and off-road tyres to body options and even gearing options.
All options are available through the Easydrive menu which appears in the top left-hand corner of the screen and is accessed using the D-pad without leaving the game. It allows you to jump between cars and Jackspots that youve discovered, change the mods on your current car and choose races or challenges to mark on your GPS.
You can use this menu while driving but it is much better to pullover as you will wipe out if you're not paying attention to the road as well as what options you are selecting.
The multiplayer mirrors the single-player mode in the free-form approach to competition. On the Vita four gamers will be invited to convene at a certain location to begin a series of different events testing their driving skills to the max.
Sadly, while the single-player can be described as a free-form fiesta of speed the same can't quite be said of the multiplayer. It's not that the multiplayer mode for Need For Speed: Most Wanted isn't fun. In fact it is a lot of fun. It's just crammed with glitches.
When racing with other cars and high speeds the fluidity drops out of the animation and opponents cars tend to jump around the track. It feels far more laggy that it should and this is a serious disappointment especially when you compare NFS: Most Wanteds multiplayer performance against Ridge Racer or the rather excellent WipeOut 2048.
On the plus side, the full multiplayer mode isn't the only way to compete with other players and Autolog seems to be a competitive system that is tailor made for the PS Vita especially for those that have the 3G version.
Autolog is the main selling point of Criterions Need For Speed and on the Vita it allows for competitive gameplay no matter where you are. Simply connect to a local Wi-Fi spot or hit PSN with 3G and the Vita will have access to all your friends records. Pick one from the Autolog option in the Easydrive menu and your GPS will plot a route to the event, jump into the event and have a go at smashing your friends records. It's as simple as that.
The PS Vita has been inundated with racing games from MotorStorm RC to WipeOut 2048 ( and the truly woeful Asphalt) so Most Wanted has plenty of competition. Despite its glitchy multiplayer Need For Speed: Most Wanted stands not only as a superb example of a HD home console experience in your pocket but also as an intelligent use of the Vita's mobile connectivity features. Most Wanted is a great racing game and should definitely be on the most wanted lists for PS Vita owners.