Starting on the EA backed 3DO console, Need For Speed has grown into a bit of a behemoth and essentially swallowed Burnout too. The good news is that as EA has a roster of developers working on NFS branded games, Criterion got to do the newer, 2010, Hot Pursuit and then two years later, they brought us the new, 2012, Need For Speed: Most Wanted.
With the game being a direct port of the PlayStation 3 version, albiet with slight alterations for the hardware specifics, the question is how does the title do on the handheld format?
Take me down to the Paradise City… kinda. There’s no getting away from it, from the moment you start playing Need For Speed Most Wanted (2012) it’s blindingly obvious it started in development life at Criterion as the sequel to Burnout Paradise (which was fantastic, by the way.) One branding change and the switch from fictional to real cars with the licensing from a whole host of manufacturers and the result is, unfortunately, Criterion’s final full game before losing key staff and being merged into the rest of EA’s UK operations.
Now I’ll get this out of the way now – I really enjoyed Burnout Paradise and Need For Speed: Most Wanted (2012) on the PS3, so comparison of this handheld version to it’s home console sibling is inevitable. Oh and while you are wondering why I keep adding that 2012 tag, it’s because there was already a Need For Speed: Most Wanted game developed by Black Box and released by EA in 2005 on the DS, PC, PS2, Xbox, Gamecube, GameBoy Advance, and was the first Need For Speed on the Xbox 360 (an altered version of the game also came to PSP, Need For Speed: Most Wanted 5-1-0, while the PS2 title was recompiled for play on the PS3 and released as a PlayStation Store download… in 2012. Not at all confusing.)
Most Wanted is presented as a fully open world, with you being presented with your first car, an Aston Martin V12 Vantage, with you already at the wheel being guided to your first jack point where you pick up a Porsche. The tutorial guides you to the first event for the Porsche and you are away. Access to events is by driving to their starting points (though, unlike the initial release of Burnout Paradise you can restart a race from within it or just after it’s finished, via a pop up menu) and you are thus encouraged to explore the game map to find all of the events. As you play AutoLog (upgraded since it’s appearance in previous games) which is essentially integrated completely with Easydrive – the side HUD menu system, issues you with suggested challenges/races as well as challenges from players on your PSN friend list.
By winning races you earn vehicle upgrades as well as speed points which you can also gain from escaping cops when a pursuit kicks in (either by you being clocked at too high a speed or by hitting a police car), smashing through billboards, breaking down security gates or triggering speed cameras. This then unlocks races to take down the ten most wanted cars which you have to beat in a race and then destroy to add them to your car collection. Further cars are also unlocked by finding them which pops an icon on the in-game map. Different cars can be used in different races so finding all the cars and thus accessing all the races gives you a better chance or earning more speed points. Every car handles differently and very slight tweaks do come into play with every tyre, chassis and engine upgrade, but even the twitchiest handling car or non-cornering beast can be gotten used to, to win races and further points.
The whole of the initial PS3 release is here plus some PS Vita exclusive content in the form of special events, and there is a collection of multiplyer gameplay modes from races to jump challenges, so there is an immense amount of content here for a handheld title. But that’s a whole problem in itself – this *isn’t* a handheld title, and in fact actually works better as a PlayStation (Vita) TV title in a way. When it first came out it was as near as it could be to a full console racer on the Vita. It was the best racing game (well involving wheels) on the PS Vita too, but doesn’t really take into consideration the PS Vita’s peculiarities, and certainly wasn’t designed to take advantage of the full capabilities and ways of doing things that are Vita specific. Plus, nothing in the game is really new as such – just like it wasn’t on the PS3 – it a melding of everything Criterion have learned since starting off on Burnout, including Burnout Paradise, and the feedback from previous NFS titles (including those they didn’t do themselves. It is an evolution. This, however, turns out to be no bad thing.
This is a great game on the PS3, and it’s a fantastic game on the PSVita – it is a distillation of Criterion’s finest and is probably the best combination of the Burnout and Need Speed Speed knowhow. Though it is an embelished port to the PS Vita from the PS3, to all intents and purposes with graphics as close as the machine could manage, that didn’t stop it from being the best racing game on the Vita at the time of the game’s release, and you know what, it still is!
At A Glance
- Title: Need For Speed: Most Wanted
- Publisher: EA
- System: PS Vita
- Format: PS Vita Card / PSN Download
- Cross Buy: No
- Cross Play: No (though Speedpoints transfer between PS3 and PS Vita.)
- Online Multiplayer: Yes
- Local Multiplayer: No
- PlayStation TV compatible: Yes
- Memory Card Space Needed: Download version: 2.6GB, Vita card version: Minimum of 8MB