Take your street racing on the road.
First off, I have to take my hat off to Criterion for developing this game themselves. Usually, the handheld or mobile versions of the big games are developed elsewhere and we, the players, end up with what is more often than not a watered down version, if not a completely different game altogether. But Criterion wanted this title to be as close to the version found on the big consoles as possible. And they have done a stellar job. If you play the PS3 or Xbox360 version of Need for Speed: Most Wanted, then you will know almost exactly what to expect on the Vita version. There are a couple of compromises, but more on them in a moment.
In Most Wanted, the player is given a massive, open-world city in which to play. Fairhaven is pretty damn huge and within it players are given the freedom to approach the game exactly how they choose.
Right from the start, players are given access to the majority of the games cars, once they can find them. These cars are spread throughout the city, parked up in various different places, and the player simply needs to pull up alongside and hop in to start using one of these different cars. Each of the cars has five different events associated with it, and the player can earn upgrades for that particular car by locating and completing these events. This gives the player a certain amount of freedom when it comes to which car they use in events that are not associated with certain cars, and to how they upgrade as the upgrades are optional and not all of them will be appropriate for whatever role you choose for the car (offroad tyres are not ideal for high speed street races, for example). But it also prevents the player from bonding with a particular car, which was one of my biggest problems with the PS3 version of the game.
Players collect Speed Points as they play around in the city, from winning races or even just driving dangerously, and these points go towards progressing the story. The player is, for whatever reason, charged with becoming the most wanted street racer in the city (most wanted as in wanted by the police, not most desirable). This is achieved by beating the top ten most wanted one at a time and taking their cars (presumably so they can’t come back and beat you later). As the player collects Speed Points, they will unlock the chance to race against each of these most wanted racers until they become the best (or worst if you are in police enforcement).
The races within the game are varied and spread around the city. Some times the player will find themselves drifting around tight corners in a circuit race, other times they will be avoiding police traps whilst be chased by police as they race one on one with a supercar. The inclusion of Autolog means that there is plenty of enticement to try and beat friends times, and multiplayer events offer a decent amount of fun.
All of which is pretty much identical to the PS3 version of the game. But where the Vita version comes unstuck, perhaps understandably, is in the visuals. Graphically, the game just doesn’t look as good. This is something that would be expected ona handheld, even one as powerful as the Vita. But unfortunately, this has an impact on the game itself. Not only are the streets much less populated than in the games big brother, and the police are much less prominent, but it can also makes things difficult to see, which is no use if you only see an oncoming car right before you crash into it. The small screens doesn’t help, often making any onscreen writing difficult to read without a squint or some kind of telescope.
But the very fact that the Vita version is as jam packed with content as the PS3/Xbox360 version is an impressive feat. There is so much to do in the game, and the very fact that you can take it with you on the bus or whatever is just amazing.
The Vita version of Need for Speed: Most Wanted brings with it all of the good stuff from the home console versions, along with all of the not so great stuff. Visually, it can’t hold a candle and this can affect gameplay. But there is no denying that this is the best racer so far on the Sony handheld, and for that Most Wanted should be applauded.