Review: Need For Speed: Most Wanted Vita puts the pedal to the metal
For years, players have been practically begging for a sequel to Criterion's 2008 release Burnout Paradise, a game that provided hundreds of opportunities within a city, from stunt runs to high-speed chases against cohorts – some ending in vicious crashes. Well, with Need For Speed: Most Wanted, you pretty much got it, as the console versions definitely live up to the Criterion standard when it comes to opening up a racing universe.
So then, what about the PlayStation Vita version? In the months leading up to the game's release, we heard so little about it, fearing that Criterion wouldn't put the time and effort into making it shine like its big brethren. Well, rest easy, kids. Most Wanted is just as enjoyable on the Vita as it is on home game systems. This is one ride you definitely won't mind taking on the go.
The game drops you into a city built for racing, then gives you a basic car to start out with. From there, you'll start to boost your reputation, running past speed traps at a rapid pace, outrunning the cops and eventually winning enough races that you can start challenging the elites of Fairhaven – the Most Wanted. Taking them down adds a new car to your garage, and moves you that much closer to dominating the city.
Most Wanted gives you hours' worth of tracks to race on, from speed runs to high speed competitions to checkpoint laps, and they're all done significantly on the PS Vita. We didn't once have any issues finding where we needed to go, thanks to a pinpoint marker that provided us the closest route. What's more, you can switch to other vehicles over the course of the game, jacking them within a matter of seconds (relax, it's legal) and hitting the road.
For gameplay, the Vita version of Most Wanted is a slight bit more limited without the two additional shoulder buttons. (Changing music is tricky.) But nevertheless, Criterion has filled this game with splendid control. You can drift like a champ with ease while also maintaining high speeds and ramming other cars off the road, Burnout-style, to earn boosts. It's hardly an innovative system, but it worked so well with Paradise, so why not bring it back? The only downside is that it's painful to watch the crashes – like always.
This version of the game also has some limitations with multiplayer, as only four people can join you in racing functions. That said, despite the lack in traffic on some courses (I could've sworn this was a tourist town), it works just fine. A number of events open up with ease, and the game didn't drop in performance once during our races. In addition, you can unlock some killer goods to pretty up your car, including license plates and paint jobs. And there are some hidden classics out there as well…
If Most Wanted comes up short in one particular area, it's graphics. But even then, the game excels. There are some slight issues with draw distances and frame rates during the more hectic events, forcing you to turn on a bare-knuckle curve when you barely see it coming in some situations. That said, the game still performs admirably, with solid details that bring out the best in the Vita, a fairly large represented city that comes off well, and beautiful cars that still hold up to peak performance, even after getting crushed like crazy. (Thank goodness for the paint checkpoints throughout the city that can pretty you up again.)
Like most racing games, EA has packed Most Wanted with a few alternative rock tracks, along with some interesting additions. It's hardly anything you'd listen to on the radio, but it's enjoyable driving tuneage – though we would've preferred the option to blare our own down the road. The sound effects are good, and hearing the police chatter pick up during "hot pursuit" is quite wild. Just make sure you watch out for those spike strips. Ouch.
Need For Speed: Most Wanted may be lacking the peak visual performance and stacked multiplayer of its console brethren, but in itself, it's still one of the best racers for the Vita, and a ride around the block you shouldn't miss. Besides, where else can you take your aggression out on the cop cars and still get away with it?