Vita games have been somewhat of an anomaly this year. There have been truly outstanding titles ported from consoles, such as Mortal Kombat, and highly original titles like Velocity and Gravity Rush. There have also been a slew of quick and dirty ports that simply lack polish and features. Need for Speed: Most Wanted breaks all of those traditions by offering up nearly the same experience as the console option, with only minor omissions. This is largely because Criterion (the developers of the console version) worked directly on the Vita port.
Almost everything is still present in this bite-sized version of Most Wanted. You still have the ten Most Wanted races that pit you against the city’s best drivers, cops still chase you around and the extremely fun multiplayer makes a welcome appearance. You can also sync your Origin account across versions to share your SP (Speed Points) across versions, giving you access to more stuff. The Vita version also contains all the same races, tracks and tunes you saw in the console outing, as well as a few exclusive races of its own.
The rest of the game functions much like its console counterpart. I won’t go into too much detail, you can read my review of that right here, but it feels very reminiscent of Criterion’s famed Burnout Paradise. The additions, of course, are cops and the Most Wanted races. Porting the game to Vita obviously came with some challenges, though. These are the things that drag down some of the most amazing parts about the game.
For starters the visuals have obviously taken a hit. Little touches such as dust and dirt are absent, and the damage modeling is even less impressive than before. There are also amenities made to compensate for the lack of raw power on the Vita. For example the city of Fairhaven felt somewhat empty on consoles; on Vita it feels nearly barren. You simply cannot have as many cars on screen at once. Races are scaled down to feature fewer drivers and cop chases are definitely easier as you won’t have a pack of 20 on your tail at once. These are small nuances, but ones that greatly affect your experience.
Maneuvering your car remains slick, but the Vita’s design left my hands feeling a little cramped at times. You use the triggers for gas and brake, which is fine, except that the unit isn’t designed for holding them for extended periods of time. I had to hold the Vita at a weird angle to stay comfortable most of the time. Once you get it down, though, the controls are smooth. Drifting around corners is second nature; I am just thankful that you don’t have to focus on the face buttons too often.
Where Most Wanted shines on Vita is its attention-focused gameplay. This is the type of game where you can hop in for 20 mins and feel satisfied with what you accomplish. The game also lets you progress without actually winning races outside of the Most Wanted list. You earn points for everything, which makes it fantastic for quick sessions. One quick gripe about the Vita is that when you put it in sleep mode, it kicks you offline. This means you need to manually log back in once you start playing again. Minor, but still worth noting.
Multiplayer also returns with the same setup as the console. You are tossed into a collection of racers and then given a set of challenges to complete. Everything is competition and even getting to the starting point first is worth bonus SP. Online is truly where Most Wanted shines, and it ran smoothly in our play tests. If you plan to get the most out of the game, this is where you will likely spend the bulk of your time.
As I mentioned earlier, the visuals take a hit, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t still good. The car models look good and the city is just as expansive as its console counterpart. There are some weird things here and there, though. For example, the drivers are not modeled in the cars like the console versions, but their hands are still present. Most people won’t notice this, but when you do it is jarring. The music remains the same from the console and is an eclectic mix of genres. It fits the bill nicely. The cop chatter is cool, but limited, and the crashes can sound great.
Need for Speed: Most Wanted on the Vita is the perfect compliment to its big brother version. If you own both games it almost feels like cross-play when you share points across the board. The omissions are noticeable, but not game breaking, and the experience is just as fun as the console version. If you want Most Wanted on-the-go you are in luck, this is a masterfully crafted version with only a few setbacks. Vita owners take note, this is how racing games are done right on a handheld.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.