It was the mid 90’s when the Need For Speed franchise first saw the light of day and it brought a new perspective on racing games with stunning locations, great crashes and of course, the cops. A far cry from an old boxy 1990’s PC, the latest version of Need For Speed — Most Wanted — is available to play on your favorite iOS portable device.
With a history longer and more complicated than the average family tree, the Need For Speed franchise has around 20 different versions of the game, over almost 20 years and 14 different platforms. With so many incarnations it does seem like The Need For Speed has lost its identity along the way and a quick stop to the App Store shows that there are already 4 different versions of The Need For Speed for iOS which do on the surface look quite similar. So where does The Need For Speed: Most Wanted fit in?
First off, to complicate things further, the game is actually a reboot of a the 2005 version of the game of the same name (‘Most Wanted’). The original Most Wanted featured an ‘open world’ city to explore and seek out races and challenges. The portable nature of the iOS version of course can’t offer all of the features of its big console brothers (and loses some of the open world style of seeking out new races) but still holds onto the fast paced street races, car customizations and a wide selection of cars.
Players are situated in the city of Fairhaven, which continues the dark, gritty, urban theme of the last few games. Different locations of the map are presented, each with a set of different race types such as racing against the clock, through checkpoints or against other cars. Alternatively, for a quick start, an easydrive option can automatically take you straight into the action of the next available event on the map. Ironically even the easydrive option suffers from the games long loading times which can range anywhere from 20-40 seconds to start a race.
Races are well paced at around 2-3 minutes and offer different routes and shortcuts. The police deploy tactics to take you out such as spike strips or roadblocks but the AI can get frustrating when police (and rival) cars often appear to get a ‘free’ catch up. The game developers Criterion borrow their ‘Burnout’ slow-motion takedowns of cop cars, which look great and are satisfying, but can also be a little frustrating because of their inconsistent execution. Once each race is finished, players earn gold, silver or bronze cash to buy new cars as well as unlocking races and other options such as being able to customise each car specifically for each race. Certain achievements also earn Speed Points which accumulate for the main focus of the game – to climb the ranks of the ‘Most Wanted’ drivers.
The game offers on-screen and gestured control styles with in-game tutorials, but like with many touch-screen racers both have their good and bad points. Swiping vertically on the screen will activate the regenerating nitro, tapping the centre the screen brakes and holding the right of the screen while steering will kick out the tail end for some drifting. Steering is where the control style differs and players can tilt to steer or opt for an on-screen joystick. Serious racers will find both quite frustrating and will cry out for controller buttons, but this is much the same as any other iOS game of this nature. It may be the ineptitude of the reviewer, but the on screen joystick seemed to slip in the heat of the race and lose control, so the tilt seems the more precise option.
One of the most striking features of the game are the graphics which give the iOS devices a bit of a push.The cars (including the new Porsche Carerra and Range Rover) are beautifully rendered and feature great ‘fly-bys’ while the tracks are more detailed and ambitious than previous iOS versions. It would have been nice to see some different environments such as forest or coast, but the city streets have obviously been the focus of the recent titles.
The game sounds as good as it looks with its eclectic selection of cars having an equally eclectic engine samples, peppered with police scanner samples which are also a nice touch. Like many racers of this type, the soundtrack is punchy and has modern tracks which compliment the races, but has a limited rotation and so can make you wish there was a skip button.
Need For Speed: Most Wanted is a great game and is overall one of the better IOS racers. While it lacks the true open world of other versions and can sometimes be frustrating, It looks and sounds great and has enough unlockables and EA’s integrated Autolog/Origin online leaderboards to have lasting appeal. The only question is whether the game can in stand out in an increasingly saturated market.