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Need for Speed: Most Wanted (360, Vita) Review

November 26, 2012 | Posted by Adam Larck

Title: Need for Speed: Most Wanted
Publisher: EA
Developer: Criterion
Genre: Racing
Players: 1-8
Rated: E 10+

Hearing that Criterion was remaking Need for Speed: Most Wanted created a divide for me.

On one hand, I’ve always been a big fan of the Burnout series that Criterion has made, and was a fan of their Hot Pursuit as well. On the other hand, the first Most Wanted never impacted me the way it had other fans of racing games. I enjoyed other titles in the NFS series better and never could get into the 2005 entry.

After burning through Fairhaven for a while, it’s safe to say that this is definitely a Criterion game. In fact, it’s probably the best spiritual successor to Burnout: Paradise we’ll see unless Criterion makes an actual sequel.

I’m going to spend most of the review focusing on multiplayer and the social aspects of the game, but I’ll use these first few graphs to touch on the single player.

Players will drive around Fairhaven, which feels smaller than Paradise City, completing various races to upgrade their cars. While doing so you rack up points that will progress you up the leaderboards, eventually allowing you to take on the 10 most wanted cars in the city, unlock them and become the most wanted yourself.

While trying to climb to the top of the Most Wanted list, you can find plenty of new cars to use, each with five different events to beat to upgrade different parts of the car, along with billboards, shortcuts and speed cameras to find and get bonus points for. The five different parts of cars (nitrous, tires, chassis, body and transmission) can also be upgraded to pro versions by completing certain challenges.

There are also cops to watch out for both during and after races, but they’re normally fairly easy to shake off, and can give you some extra points as well to help push you up the leaderboard.

The racing itself will feel familiar to Burnout fans. It still focuses a lot on drifting and boosting. While it can feel a bit loose at times, good use of the brake can make you into a drifting machine to overcome that feeling. After a race or two I never really noticed a problem driving, except that pedestrian cars can sometimes sawn in shortly in front of you.

I actually want to touch on a few minor complaints I had in the single player. While you can teleport to any car you’ve found and unlocked, you’ll spawn from where the car is always parked at, not from where you currently were. This also means that if you were near a race for another car and wanted to spawn into it, you’d have to drive over to the race again to start it. Why there’s no quick-spawn system in place for easier access I don’t know. Additionally, events do sometimes repeat from car to car.

All events and recommendations, which I’ll get to shortly, are controlled through the Easy Drive menu on the D-Pad. You no longer have to search races out. Just select what race you want to do, or Milestone you want to complete, select it and it will give you either a path to the race or will track your Milestone progress. In addition, you can view your driving profile, change vehicle specs or jump into multiplayer from here.

The recommendations are still made via the Autolog, the social aspect that Criterion has been fleshed out since Hot Pursuit. The Autolog tracks all races your friends have participated in and always challenges you to surpass their times or complete another Milestone they’ve already done. In addition, it also keeps track of how far friends jump when breaking billboards, going as far to put their Gamerpic on the billboard to entice you to smash their pic and reclaim the jump lead. One of the interesting aspects I also noticed was that your friend’s overall points are kept track of on the Most Wanted leaderboard as well, meaning that you aren’t just trying to top AI opponents, but your friend’s scores as well.

Now I’ll get into the meat of the game, the multiplayer. The multiplayer starts off similar to the multiplayer in Paradise: players just spawn into the world and drive around, finding billboards or just taking each other out. The real action starts once a Speedlist is started.

A Speedlist consists of five challenges for players to take on. They range from regular races to team races to trying to complete certain objectives, such as parking in an area or drifting for a set amount of time before a cumulative goal is reached. The lists can either be customized by the host or randomized by the computer. The problem with some of these goals is that challenges are quickly explained in a line at the bottom of the screen. The explanations can sometimes be missed, though, or be a bit vague in the explanation.

Another small problem that’s quickly overcome is that there’s no set start for races. After you meet up in a location, players can start any way they want to, which means you could be facing the wrong way once the race starts, costing you precious seconds. In addition, you can also build up steam before the game gives the green light, letting you get to a checkpoint quicker than others, giving you an early lead that can be hard to relinquish. Leads and routes become easier to see the more you do Speedlists.

Of course, if you don’t care about a race or challenge, or finish early, you can always sabotage your friends or other players online. This is actually one of the more entertaining aspects for me. Sometimes, I just felt like getting revenge over someone that took me down in a previous race or just slightly topped me in a challenge. Sure, it seems vindictive, but I found it to be justified.

Modifications for cars are unlocked similarly in multiplayer mode as they are in single player. Players have to complete certain Milestones online to unlock mods and advanced versions, rewarding players that focus on certain cars at a time.
I also had a chance to play through the Vita version for a while as well. The Vita version is actually a good recreation of the 360 version. The city is the same, as well as gameplay and features. The only differences are decreased graphics due to system limitations and fewer cars in multiplayer, only being able to play with three other cars. There are also less cars on the road, which actually helps make some races a bit easier. Overall, the Vita version is a strong title for the racer on the go, and a good pickup for interested racers.


  • Multiplayer is a blast to play.
  • Quite a few cars to drive around the world.
  • Feels like a continuation of Burnout: Paradise.


  • AI cars can spawn in shortly before you.
  • Starts in multiplayer can sometimes give unfair advantages.
  • Can’t instantly spawn in cars to your location in single player.

    The 411:

    Criterion continues their great racing tradition with Need for Speed: Most Wanted. Sure, there are some minor complaints, but it doesn’t stop the fun that the game has throughout. If you have some friends that enjoy racers, this is a must have for the multiplayer alone. If not, it’s still worth a look to drive around the city and cause some destruction.

  • Graphics8.5The city and cars look great as you drive around. However, there is sometimes a bit of slowdown and cars can spawn shortly in front of you because of limitations. 
    Gameplay9.0The driving is great and feels fluid, and multiplayer is top notch. Even the single player is good, but can’t capture the joy of taking friends out. 
    Sound7.0The soundtrack is enjoyable to listen to, but is comprised up of licensed tracks and not original music. 
    Lasting Appeal8.5As long as you and your friends don’t get bored, you can always make new Speedlists and compete against each other online. 
    Fun Factor 9.0I had a blast playing the game. Sure, there were a few frustrating races, but nothing is more satisfying than waiting for the right moment to take someone out online, costing them the race. 
    Overall8.4   [ Very Good ]  legend

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    Adam Larck
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