Need for Speed Most Wanted (hereafter NFSMW) is the latest in the Need for Speed series of racing games that dates all the way back to 1994 (wikipedia) and is a series that over the years I’ve had the pleasure of playing on multiple consoles, PCs and of course mobile devices. NFSMW carries on the series in fine fashion, however there are limitations to the mobile platform that keep the game from really reaching it’s potential.
Disclaimer: This game was supplied on a Galaxy SIII from EA for the purpose of review. No… I didn’t get to keep the game or the SIII. (Sad Face). Based on published information – the game is identical between iOS and Android. Game play has been reported as smooth across multiple iOS devices. YMMV.
Let’s start off with the biggest question everyone seems to have – unlike the console/PC counterpart there is no open world. Like recent iOS/Android versions of the Need for Speed series there are different areas of play (Downtown, Beltway, etc.) but once you’re on a track that’s it. You’re not going to go wandering around the city looking for races as there’s no way to venture off the beaten path and forge your own way. Yes, it’s a huge downside but with an iOS install size of 1.7 GB and a 1.85 GB install size on Android I’m sure you can image how large the download would need to be for a much larger world size. Ok, maybe that’s an excuse. Honestly I’m not the one to explain why there’s no open world but I’m sure there’s some hardware limitation (processing, memory, graphics) that prevents it. If that’s not the reason and the decision was made simply due to install size I think it was the wrong choice. If pricing was an issue since we all know iOS/Android games are much cheaper than console games of the same title, I would have appreciated an in app purchase to unlock the full experience especially on my iPad.
There really isn’t one. Unless you consider driving fast a story line. The whole game revolves around two main goals – collect cars and move up the Most Wanted board. There’s a total of 10 slots on the Most Wanted board. As you earn experience racing you earn the opportunity to race against one of the Most Wanted. By completing those races you unlock better vehicles such as the Ford GT, Audi A8 and the Viper GTS. Once you unlock a new vehicle (unlike the console versions which require no unlocking) you still need cash to buy them. The more you race and the higher you place, the more money you have. We’ll cover money shortly. There’s also a social aspect (which uses Origin not Game Center) which allows you to compete against friends by comparing times. No, you’re not going head to head as there is no multiplayer. Sad I know.
Gameplay is very straightforward especially if you’ve played Need for Speed Shift. Acceleration is automatic, braking is pathetically lacking, and drifting is optional – but highly recommended as it makes the nastiest of high speed turns a thing of smoking beauty. Brakes are on the left (you won’t use them), drifting (considerably easier than it was in Shift) is done by holding the right side of the screen and turning – no twitch required. Nitrous is triggered by simply flicking up on the right side of the screen. There’s two control options – a virtual wheel which I didn’t try because I’ve never liked them, and gyro steering. From what I’ve read the virtual wheel is rubbish, but again I’ve never used it in any game so I’d be a terrible judge. Driving is driving. The control doesn’t feel overly realistic (unlike the Real Racing series) but the vehicles all handle a little different, and with the increase in speeds as you move up the ranks you’ll definitely be happy that it isn’t a real world simulation.
Speaking of (the lack of) real world simulations, NFSMW police officers are insane, kamikaze, blood thirsty teenage drivers. They’ll do everything they can to run you off the road, they’ll fail miserably on some moves and drive you batshit insane on others. Many a time I’ve been smoothly cruising around the track only to be attacked viscously from nowhere by a Corvette doing what would appear to be twice my speed. At other times the same crazy coppers will go flying past me (as I’m doing 230 MPH) and run themselves straight in to a bridge divider. As for how you end up destroying one… don’t ask me. I’ve t-boned a cop at 200 MPH and had them fly over me with little damage, other times I’ve run in to them at a snails pace and had the cool crash cut scenes. Random as random gets.
There’s a good variety of tracks (10 in all) which you’ll race in different events, in all kinds of vehicles and times of day, from a bright sunny day in a Lambo doing 200+ MPH to the dead of night in a lumbering Hummer H1 doing 120 you’ll find enough changes in the racing to keep it interesting. Plus the soundtrack is great (detailed in this thread on Touch Arcade)! Unfortunately, you’ll also find it missing a ‘personality’ for lack of a better word. The tracks are beautiful, there’s tons of scenery, but it just feels off. For example, these are high stakes street races on public highways. But where are the cars? When was the last time you went racing down the highway (don’t answer that!) and only saw one or two cars the entire time? The same cars are in the same spot every time you race an event. So if you’re running a time trial and trying to get gold, you can tell how well you’re doing based on the clock and where you run in to a certain vehicle. It just feels like there’s a missing bit of realism to the environment… and don’t get me started on there being nobody on the sidewalks.
IMHO In-App Purchase (IAP) is the biggest rip off in the history of gaming. Again that’s simply my opinion. I know it’s been a huge boon for developers, but as someone who is OK with paying $5-10 for a game, I really don’t like being bled to death by achievements that can only be made by spending more and more cash in the game. Now, depending on the forum post or the review you’re going to get split opinions on how necessary IAP is with NFSMW. I’ve played through darn near the entire game, and I’ve not used IAP once. I’m second on the Most Wanted board, I’ve got 11 vehicles (some I regret purchasing and wish I could sell back) and a couple vehicles I’m working my way towards. Again, not a single IAP. So, if you’re willing to grind – and by grind I mean put in the effort to get better than a bronze on most rounds, then I really haven’t found a paywall yet. If you’re the type who just wants to blaze through the game in a day and not work your way to better cars, well you’re going to feel like you’re being pushed towards IAP. There’s times you’re going to need a better car, and you’re going to need to either earn it… or buy it with real money. For me (buying parts upgrades every race) I’ve rarely felt pressured to pay up but maybe that’s because I specifically try to avoid it.
Gameplay… In Motion
Gameplay recorded with an iPhone 4s – game played on a Galaxy SIII. Obviously it’s a bit harder to play while avoiding the camera tripod, so forgive some of the stupid wall/traffic encounters. A few wrecks I got into just for the sake of the demo.
All In All
Look, I know it seems like I’ve spent a good amount of time pulling up the negatives in NFSMW, but if I didn’t I wouldn’t be doing you any good. As a gamer, when I read a review I want to know the pain points. I want to know where something shines and where it sucks. NFSMW is a good game. It’s engaging, fun and keeps you coming back for more. I’ve put in somewhere between 10 and 20 hours on NFSMW and I anticipate putting in a lot more. That speaks novels about NFSMW because if a game absolutely sucks, I don’t bother with it, let alone put in hours and hours.
If you’ve got a few extra bucks and are looking for a great racing game that you can just pick up and play, and play, and play… look no further than Need for Speed Most Wanted.