Not many developers have been too hot on Vita development but there is nothing to fear because Criterion has your back! It’s a safe assumption that the Vita will see a lot of console ports in its lifetime and if Need for Speed is going to set the trend then it’s a trend worth setting. Criterion set out to make the Vita experience the same as the console and they pulled it off perfectly. The Vita version of Need for Speed has everything that is on the console and PC versions and feels like nothing short than the total package which really just goes to show how great Most Wanted is on a whole. There’s no useless touch controls needlessly added to the game or any other of the Vita’s unique features. Criterion knows how to handle their hardware development so nothing feels shoehorned in for no reason. This is exactly how the Vita should be handled.
Most Wanted is a reboot of the previous Need for Speed Most Wanted that was on Playstation 2. This time however it involves taking down the top ten cars on the Most Wanted list as opposed to the top ten racers on the Black List. This game has followed the path of the last few Need for Speed games (aside from The Run) and stripped out all of the character that the original Most Wanted had. There are no names on the Most Wanted list but instead it’s just comprised of bigger and badder cars. Although something that does return is the open world city that feels very much like a city out of Burnout. This game could have easily been called Need for Speed Most Wanted Paradise and that wouldn’t be a bad thing at all.
Criterion knows their way around a racing game and knows what the fans want to play and they deliver in spades. Need for Speed’s driving takes some minor getting used to, like with any racing game, but afterwards feels fantastic. Once you get the feel for the driving it becomes very easy to execute perfect drifts around corners which is great because there’s lots of it. The single player puts you in an open world where there are gates and billboards to smash, parked cars to locate and unlock, and cops to run from. There’s a lot available to do in this game and that doesn’t even include all of the races. Each car you find has its own set of races that unlock different customizable performance parts and speed points depending on how you place in the races. The more points that you unlock then the more Most Wanted races you unlock which are single sprint races with the rival car which if you win gives you the chance to take out the other driver and unlock that car.
While driving around in the single player you can also engage in cop chases like previous NFS games but this time around it doesn’t feel like a fully fleshed out feature. That doesn’t mean you can’t have fun running from the cops but it doesn’t really add anything to the overall experience. That being said, when you get into an accident during a high speed chase then watching your or the other cars go flipping around is extremely satisfying. Unfortunately the damage isn’t much to brag about because of the issues with licensed cars. There’s a lot of crashing as the game really puts an emphasis on trying to take out other drivers during a race so you will see some pretty amazing crashes quite often. This however has led to some of the few problems I have had with the game where the hit detection around cars can seem a little off. Sometimes when it looks like I am going to just barely miss a car I may end up hitting it anyways even though there was some space between us. This was a rare problem and never really felt like it was an overlooked flaw but rather just a freak occurrence.
The online modes are really the highlight of Most Wanted. Autolog returns and gives you the best reason to come back to this game over and over to compete with your friends over different challenges in the game. The online multiplayer drops you into the open world with other drivers and has a chain of driving events set up that range from taking down other drivers, making the longest jump, or straight up racing. Each even is bridged by a race to the meet up zone where the first one to arrive is awarded with bonus points. The online is complete chaos and that’s what makes it so great. You drive to each race event and the game doesn’t even bother to reset all of the racers at the starting line. Once everyone is at the meet up then the race counter starts to count down and the path appears on the map giving you the opportunity to start the race before anyone even notices what’s going on. The game even encourages you to take out other opponents after you have finished a race for extra points or during the jump events to eliminate them from the competition, giving you a better chance to win. If you completely skipped the single player modes and only played the online then you would still have a complete and amazing experience. And what helps is that the points you earn in multiplayer will contribute to your single player progress as well.
Need For Speed Most Wanted, while having identical content the console versions, does have some downplayed graphics but is still one of the best Vita games I have ever seen. There’s a great sense of speed and the frame rate is solid which is important for a racing game. The car models looks pretty fantastic but show some of the lesser qualities when you get into an accident or flip over. The bottoms of the cars are basically completely flat with what looks like a picture of what the bottom of a car looks like slapped on there. The damage is also pretty weak looking compared to previous Criterion games but that mostly comes from the weird business involved with using officially licensed cars. The worst looking thing in this game is that sometimes oncoming cars headlights can look a little blocky and pixilated which is saying a lot for a game that has a lot of other amazing things to look at. Overall Most Wanted is one of the best looking games on the Vita.
Most Wanted is probably the most fun I have had with a NFS game in a long time and even on the Vita this game is very addicting and a blast to play on the go. The Vita has had a rocky first year but here at the end we are seeing some significant game releases and Most Wanted is a game that belongs in any Vita owner’s library. This game has a lot to offer with the Autolog alone that can keep you occupied and having fun for hours. Criterion has always nailed the online aspects of their games and with the Autolog there is great sense of competition among your friends list and the best part is that it will pull in stats from your Playstation 3 friends as well but you can’t race against them. The single player mode of working up the Most Wanted list is fun for what it is but the real meat of the game lies in the expansive multiplayer that is very diverse and worth every penny. I never had more fun online with any other racing game.
Criterion has proved themselves as the first developer to really figure out the Vita and what can be done with it. Need for Speed Most Wanted is a must have for any Vita owner or any fan of racing games. The single player and multiplayer are both hearty and fun experiences that well worth the price of admission. Whether you are competing with your friends Autolog challenges or blasting through the Most Wanted list this is one of the best racing games out there right now and easily the best racing game on the Vita and just one of the best Vita games currently on the market. I can only hope that more developers follow Criterions path and take as much care with their Vita ports as they did.