Ever since I purchased my PS Vita, I’ve been craving a decent racing game for it. MotorStorm RC made the wait a little easier as it was a surprisingly challenging and well thought out game, but Criterion’s Need For Speed: Most wanted is finally here and it’s on a different level altogether.
Before playing this game I made sure to resist the urge to play the console version in an effort to be a bit more objective and judge the game separately from its big brother. And also keep in mind that the last time I played a Need For Speed game it was on the PS2.
The first glaring thing you’ll notice about Most Wanted is its lack of a real narrative. The game has a very “sink or swim” approach and puts you, the player, behind the wheel and racing right away. Less than 2 minutes after putting the game in my PS Vita, I was flying down some highway at nearly 100 mph trying to figure out which button does what. I quickly figured out the many different ways of bringing your car to a complete stop as I repeatedly crashed my car against other cars and concrete walls before finally getting the hang of it. So to put it mildly, the game doesn’t really try to hold your hand as you try to climb your way up the Most Wanted ladder.
Though I’m sure it cannot be compared to the console version, Most Wanted is very pretty on the PS Vita. The world is quite detailed and the cars you get to drive are gorgeous. Of course the draw distance suffers a bit as sometimes it gets tricky trying to decipher if the turn ahead is left or a right one. But nonetheless, for a handheld game, you will not be disappointed in the visual department.
The default controller setup uses the Right Trigger button for acceleration and the Left Trigger for reverse, and the Square button to brake. I’ve fiddled around with the menu to see if there are any ways of customizing the controls and I’ve found none. Not that you’ll really find it necessary to change them in the first place as the controls layout feels natural. The game features an “on the fly” menu with “EasyDrive”, meaning that you don’t really have to pause the game to gain access to the features that you’ll find yourself using most often. For instance, as you drive throughout the Most Wanted world, you’ll come across many different cars that you can hop into and drive, so if you ever want to go back to your previous car you simply have to press on the Right D-pad button and access the “Change Car” menu which will have a list of all the cars you’ve come across thus far, and it will transport you across the map to your car you choose.
The whole point of the game is to become the “Most Wanted”, and you do that by earning “Speed Points”. There are quite a few ways of earning speed points in the game. The easiest ones are by smashing through billboards and gates and running away from the cops of course. The other way of earning Speed Points is by taking part in the races that are available for the cars you’ll be using in the game. Each new car you come across has a series of 5 races that you can compete in and earn Speed Points as well as upgrades for your car. The upgrades varies from Tires, Nitrous, Chassis, Body, and Transmission. And once your car undergoes an upgrade you can actually tell the difference as the car doesn’t only become a bit faster, but handles a lot better as well. To compete in a race, simply access the Easy Drive menu with the Right D-pad button and select “Races” and you’ll be on your way. Once you’ve earned enough speed points, the Autolog feature in the game will inform you that you can now begin to challenge the racers on the “Most Wanted List”.
The Multiplayer portion of the game is a blast. Basically, you get online and you have these “Meet Up” points set up on the map where all players drive to. and from there you’re given the challenges that you have to fight for. Sometimes it’s a race to the finish line, sometimes it’s a speed test from point A to point B, and sometimes it’s a test to see who can record the longest and highest jumps. You get to smash your opponents’ cars in the process as well. I found myself spending some 2 to 3 hours daily on the multiplayer as there’s always new challenges and new players popping up.
Need For Speed: Most Wanted is a very good title on the PS Vita and if you’re a fan of racing games, then you’ll be spending lots of time with this title, especially on the multiplayer. The game does have a few cons though; for instance, there’s not that much traffic on the road. But given the draw distance and the way the game plays, it might be a blessing in disguise. The AI for the few cars on the road seem to be non-existent, as the cars would ram you if you’re stopped in the middle of the road. It’s as if they can’t tell that you’re there and will make no efforts to avoid you ( I don’t know if this is the case for the console version).