Need for Speed: Most Wanted takes place in the beautiful city of Fairhaven where the most notorious street racers call home. As you attempt to make a name for yourself, you’ll have to climb your way up the list of most wanted drivers by earning speed points. To do this, you’ll have to prove that you have some serious chops behind the wheel by outpacing your opponents, shutting down the location's most skilled drivers, and evading intense police chases.
Upon launching the game, you’ll be thrown into your first event. This one-on-one race will help to get you accustomed to the controls, without forcing you to endure a boring tutorial. After the event is finished, you’ll be free to explore the city of Fairhaven without any real restrictions.
From everyday cars such as the Ford Focus, to exotic supercars like the McLaren MP4-12C, Need for Speed: Most Wanted has a vast selection of vehicles to please even the most captious petrol heads. Each of these vehicles feel different, as some handle with precision, while others are simply built for ramming into pesky cops. It's worth adding that whichever automobile you select, the sound effects are absolutely staggering. From the roar of the V8 engines, to the pop of the exhausts, the game really captures the feel of driving a high-performance sports car.
Even better, you’ll have access to nearly all of the packaged cars from the moment you boot up the game. As opposed to tossing you into a sluggish everyday ride at first, and forcing you to unlock all of the vehicles that you actually want to drive, all you need to do is find the car that you want to commandeer on the map and jump into it. These ‘jack points’ are scattered all over Fairhaven, and prove to be extremely addictive to find.
Another notable addition is the ability to customise each car's performance to your liking courtesy of unlockable upgrades. For example, in a race that takes you across the mud, you might want to switch to a short gear transmission and off-road tires to get a head-start over your opponents. Other events will demand similar tweaks, which can be made on-the-fly using the title's Easydrive menu system.
Sadly, the ability to change the visual appearance of your vehicle is not present in this release. Driving through a repair station will randomly change the colour of your car, but that is as far as the visual customisation goes. It's not a deal breaker, but we reckon it would have been nice if you could pimp your current ride with body kits and custom paint jobs.
Throughout, the controls feel extremely responsive and smooth. It’s immediately apparent that a great deal of care was invested into making the game accessible for all players, and not just for wannabe boy racers. The title resists the temptation to implement any superfluous touch controls, mapping the majority of the gameplay to the standard buttons.
For as enjoyable as the core racing is, though, the police chases fall flat. Even when the difficulty of the events spike dramatically, the cop chases constantly remain far too easy. Despite being armed with spike strips, tactical SUVs, and massive roadblocks, it takes very little effort to avoid the law, which is unfortunate.
However, the multiplayer more than makes up for this minor shortcoming. Naturally, the excellent Autolog makes a return, allowing you to track the progress of your friends within the game. The system keeps records of everything from race times to speed points – it even decorates breakable billboards with the avatars of your friends. Obviously, this form of asynchronous multiplayer works brilliantly on the Vita, as it's constantly presenting you with new goals to tackle on the go.
Need for Speed: Most Wanted also boasts a standard multiplayer suite, which constantly rotates objectives as you compete. Events include standard racing, destruction derby, and jump distance challenges, all providing plenty of variety as you race around Fairhaven with friends.
Even more impressively, the Vita version of the game compares favourably to its PlayStation 3 counterpart. Minor adjustments to the graphics, traffic density, and online lobbies are the most notable tweaks, but other than that, the cars, map, and events (with a few Vita exclusive missions) are virtually identical to the home console release. Aside from the lack of traffic affecting the balance of the aforementioned police pursuits, this is a shining example of how Vita ports should be handled.
Need for Speed: Most Wanted's impressive selection of vehicles and vast open world should satisfy your high-speed hunger. With an impressive multiplayer suite, slick gameplay, and stunning visuals, this racer is a real treat. If you're a fan of the genre, Criterion's latest deserves a place at the top of your personal most wanted list.