Fun Fact: I actually played the very first installment of Need for Speed on DOS back in 1996 on a Compaq Presario 520 PC, which was developed in partnership with the popular automotive magazine Road & Track. The game pushed the boundaries of what was possible in PC entertainment and offered, as I was told, a very realistic driving experience (which I couldn’t verify myself as I was barely 9 at the time and hadn’t clocked many hours behind the wheel of a real car).
Cut to the present day, when the NFS franchise still manages to not only entertain and delight millions of gamers across the world, but also sets the standard for racing titles on virtually every gaming platform. Today we’re checking out the latest pony from EA’s stable, Need For Speed: Most Wanted, to see just how fun it is and whether it will carry forward the legacy of one of the greatest racing games of all time.
Pedal To The Metal
Set in the race-worthy city of Fairhaven, NFSMW takes players through bustling urban sprawls, picturesque countryside and challenging industrial areas in a variety of vehicles, ranging from forgettable commuters to spectacular exotics. In this iteration, you’re a street racer who’s constantly on the wrong side of the law looking for thrills and a quick buck — none of which make the local cops take a liking to you.
Getting started with Need for Speed: Most Wanted (aka NFSMW) doesn’t take much doing – the game welcomes first-timers by putting them in the driver’s seat of a Dodge Challenger STR8 to get them used to the controls and to set the pace for what will be a thrilling ride indeed.
NFSMW features perhaps the best controls I’ve ever experienced on a mobile device — regardless of whether you choose to tilt to steer or swipe left and right in the bottom-left corner to control the wheel, you’ll find that cars respond quickly and precisely, making every race a joy to play, even when you come back for seconds.
Nitrous boosts are a huge part of this game and are standard on every vehicle. The Nitrous meter fills up slowly by itself as you drive, but can be hurried up by drifting, sailing through the air, and by taking down cops and opponents by smashing into them. As you’ve surmised by now, the game doesn’t strive to be a real driving sim, but rather offers a sophisticated take on a fast-paced arcade racer.
EA’s new partner-in-crime Firemonkeys have put an amazing amount of care and work into making NFSMW look and feel incredible. Tracks look gorgeous with dramatic skies and realistically lit tunnels; cars are accurately modeled and see a lot of believable damage in more harrowing races; in-game physics are top-notch, attaining a fine balance of realism and fun — try aggressively taking down a cop car to see what I’m talking about.
Oh, did I mention how fast this game feels? Get in the cockpit of something exceptionally fast like the McLaren MP4 12C or the Marussia B2 and gun the Nitrous boost, and you’ll be in for a real treat — Fairhaven zooms past at blinding speed, your knuckles turn white as you grip your device and for those fleeting moments, all feels right with the world. No small praise for a mobile game.
The developers didn’t scrimp when it came to how the game sounds either. The screech of tires burning against asphalt and the roar of ready, willing and able engines are intelligently paired with the punchy stylings of such artists as Icona Pop, Heaven’s Basement, Foreign Beggars, The Who, Deadmau5 and Crosses — making for a truly enjoyable aural experience with something for everyone.
A Racer’s Life
NFSMW sees you advancing to greatness by winning races, unlocking new areas, tracks and cars, and beating 10 major opponents to become the most notorious street racer Fairhaven has ever seen. The usual race types — 6-car run, one-on-one, time trials, and checkpoint races — are all here, and gain steadily in difficulty by way of increasingly aggressive rivals.
This franchise has always been favored by enthusiasts for licencing fine vehicles from the real world, and this edition doesn’t disappoint: cars are grouped into classes like SUV, Everyday, Muscle, Sports, GT and Exotic, and players will get to drive over 50 masterfully-recreated marvels of engineering, from the humble Ford Focus RS500 to the imposing Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG.
Driving well earns you Speed Points, which unlock new cars; winning races earns you money which you can use to buy said cars and one-time-use mods for them (which means if you lose a race with $2,500 quick-refueling Nitrous, that’s money down the drain). You can also buy money through in-app purchases, but that’s kinda characterless (almost as much as it is to include IAPs after charging $7 for the game), so make sure nobody finds out.
Miles To Go Before You Sleep
After winning a slew of races, you’ll be up against one of 10 established racers in a head-to-head race. These are especially challenging, and can get really hairy when police cars enter the fray and not only chase you, but also set up roadblocks and spike strips to slow you down.
It’s worth noting that these races are usually locked to a class of car (such as SUV or Muscle), and may require you to purchase a better vehicle for the job than you can afford — no sweat, just replay a race or two to earn more cash and get the ride you need to win.
With its wide range of tracks and cars, NFSMW offers plenty of replay value, even to experienced gamers who may find the wide roads and lazy turns a bit too forgiving. What the game really needs is an online multiplayer mode, which it unfortunately replaces with Autolog, a system to connect you and your friends via EA’s Origin network so you can track and beat each other’s best race times — a substitution that I find weak and not intriguing in the least.
The game is fairly taxing even on well-equipped devices like the HTC One X, so be sure to close as many running apps as possible before firing it up. It’d also have been nice to see support for external controllers — the game looks and feels so good I wouldn’t mind carrying around my Nexus 7 and beloved Xbox 360 controller (which I love using for Shadowgun and The Dark Knight Rises) to get my Fairhaven fix on the go.
Even with its flaws, EA has a real winner on its hands in the form of NFSMW. It looks great, sounds fantastic, is a ton of fun and really raises the bar for high-end mobile games. I’d even go so far as to call it console-quality — and that’s not too far a stretch. Whether you’ve shied away from racing titles on your Android device till now or can claim to have tried them all, this is a must-play. Go forth into Fairhaven, dear readers, and make your mark as the city’s most wanted!