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Developer(s):  Criterion Games
Publisher(s):    Electronic Arts
Platforms:         PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PC, PS Vita
Release Date:  US – October 30th 2012, EU – November 2nd 2012

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This Need for Speed: Most Wanted review is being reviewed purely for the PS Vita, whilst this game is essentially the same game on all systems, the PS Vita version has some differences that are unfair to judge alongside the console version. 

Need for Speed games have been around for years, the ever popular series takes racers to the street with a cut throat experience that offers a great deal of realism mixed with a bit of crazy.  Well it is once again that time for another instalment on this occasion brought to us by Criterion Games, the guys who brought us the Burnout series and Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit.

This may not feel like your normal Need for Speed if you haven’t played one in a while, especially Hot Pursuit. You are no longer kitting out every section of your car with cool bumpers and neon lights, the attention is focused more on the racing and detail around the open world that you have to explore. There is some customization for vehicles but it doesn’t change the appearance of the cars, other than the colours that is.

So you are the new kid on the block, you arrive in Fairhaven and your only goal is to race in order to move up the most wanted list. There are 10 racers that you must go through in order to become Fairhaven’s most wanted. You have to earn XP by racing and going through speed runs in order to take on the most wanted racers, as you build up enough you can race them and if you win you have the chance to take them out and take their vehicle in the process.

That literally is the whole story, there is no plot whatsoever other than becoming the most wanted racer. Now don’t get the wrong impression by this, Criterion clearly had a goal in mind and providing a innovative story wasn’t part of it. The racing is great, it all controls beautifully and once you have a bit of practice in certain cars you can really get a real for things and get those big drifts going.

Your Autolog is your central hub, it allows you to view the entire map with speed cameras, bill boards to break through and jump distances. Instead of having to hit the pause button you can actually control everything whilst still racing in game, you just use the D-pad to navigate different options like your cars, customization and races. Whilst it is a cool idea to let you change your vehicles components I wouldn’t recommend it at high speeds.

When you first start exploring Fairhaven you are in an Aston Martin so there is no stepping stones here, you can find all of the cars from the very start except for the most wanted ones. I would have rather had to work for them to be honest, I mean it’s nice to have all of the cars available to find from the start but it also just takes away from the run of having to earn these cars. You can literally find them on the side of the road, in warehouses or pretty much anywhere your car can get, you just drive up to them and press triangle to hop in, simple as that.

The cars all look great, you can see such attention to detail in all of them and whilst the PS Vita is slightly restricted by its graphical capabilities it still showcases these vehicles in a good light and it is thoroughly enjoyable to drive these cars. All cars can take damage and you can see that on the vehicles, on the Vita it is fairly limited to a few dents and scratches and wheels being burst. There are around 41 cars in total, some classic ones and some really modern ones and there are even a few concept cars. There really is a great selection here and such different types of cars that it makes a change from just being in super cars all the time.

If you did ever play any of the Burnout games you might notice that the crashes are very similar, I mean the chances are you will crash a hell of a lot towards the start of the game. When you do crash everything goes slow motion as you watch the other racers zoom past you. The difference with Need for Speed: Most Wanted is you are thrown straight back into the race if you crash, they will throw you back on the track at a good amount of speed so you are right back in the race, this can be seen as a huge positive when you crash, but it can also seem a little too crazy at times.

You have to take your hat off to how good these cars sound, every one sounds individualistic and if you put your foot down whilst going through a tunnel, boy can you feel that roar of the engine.

With each car you have five races that you can compete in, there is a mix between lap races, a first person the finish line race, an average speed check race and one where you have to escape from the cops. Each even allows you to place first, second and third for XP and also if you place in the top two you can see upgrades for your cars. These upgrades include NoS, different car body’s, wheels and gear boxes which can change the stats at the click of a button. You can’t visually see any of these changes but you really can feel them when you get on that open road.

One of the best parts about Need for Speed: Most Wanted are the cops.  Sometimes they are a bit stupid though, I have gone past a few at 90 mph and they didn’t clock me but when they are on you, they don’t give up easily. When you are being chased you can actually hear the police radio and some of the one liners are brilliant, it makes me wonder is that how cops would really react with these kinds of races? They can set up road blocks, spike traps and they even have some heavy hitters that can take you out pretty easily. They are a great addition just like in Hot Pursuit but they can truly screw you some times.

Other than the security gates and bill boards that you can smash through, you have the speed cameras which clock your speeds at certain locations, I have to admit I do love seeing my speeds especially when you are in the Bugatti Veyron. But there isn’t a whole lot to do other than racing which isn’t a bad thing at all, the racing is great and you can end up with some heart racing experiences.

The online mode also works great on the Vita, just like single player you are able to explore the open world with a certain amount of people in the same server as you. After a while a race will be logged at a certain point on the map and the first one who gets there gets extra points. There are again a good variety of modes and all of the cars in the single player are available if you have them. You are able to constantly increase your most wanted score to compete against your friends online to show that you are the best racer out there.

Overall Need for Speed: Most Wanted is a joy to play, whilst things might seem slightly unrealistic at times the final product is great. You can race some of the best cars in the world with no restrictions, they look and sound great and some races can go right down to the wire which just gets the blood pumping. It’s a shame that there isn’t just a little more in the story but Criterion clearly wanted to deliver a solid racer with a race pace and great execution and they did.

Post by Alex Sodhi

Alex is one of the founding members of Casually Addicted. When Alex isn't yapping away about Halo or wishing that Chromehounds 2 would be made, he likes to make all the amazing photos and pictures for Casually Addicted. Follow Alex on Google + and Twitter @AlexSodhi.
  • doubleblue02

    I’d rate this as the most impressive Vita game I’ve seen and played so far. Criterion have done a great job with this version, which is basically the full console game on a handheld system. All the speed and crashing fun of Burnout merged with the auto love of the NFS series – a must purchase for anyone wanting some driving and racing on their Vita.

    • AlexSodhi

      I couldn’t agree with you more, it is also nice to see that these console games can be brought over to the Vita without loosing much other than visuals! What’s your favorite car in Most Wanted?

      • doubleblue02

        The graphics here really are top notch, regardless of the obvious tech limitations compared to a console or PC. Many driving games cause me difficulties in determining detail at speed, and therefore creating confusion and ultimately accidents – not so with Most Wanted, which is something I thought would be an issue on the Vita. Sony really should be using this game to help push the system, it’s one of only a few true AAA games they’ve currently got available.

        Favourite car – Audi R8 GT Spyder. As you noted in the review, the engine sounds are fantastic for most models, and this Audi is one of the best!