In the realm of virtual racing, few franchises command as much reverence as EA’s Need for Speed series. I, for one, can attest to this passion, having spent more than 50 thrilling hours immersed in the world of Hot Pursuit on my PC, according to my Steam records. Now, the latest offering from the high-speed universe, Most Wanted, has arrived, and it’s causing quite a stir among console gamers, thanks to its development by the racing aficionados at Criterion. However, for those who lack an Xbox or a high-end PC but possess a mobile device brimming with horsepower, fear not, for EA has brought Most Wanted to Android at a reasonable price of $7.
NFS Most Wanted: Driving into the Mobile World
The mobile rendition of Most Wanted manages to capture the essence of the franchise in several ways, offering a diverse selection of cars, extensive customization options, an exhilarating sense of speed, and visuals that stand as a testament to mobile gaming’s graphical prowess. Yet, in its quest to cater to touch-based controls, it occasionally stumbles into common pitfalls. The game’s simplified gameplay, linear progression system (in contrast to the open-world version), and persistent encouragement of in-app purchases can leave a bitter taste despite an otherwise solid racing experience.
Your Ticket to Speedster Glory
As you embark on your racing journey, you’ll accumulate Speed Points, the currency that unlocks a world of new and exciting cars. These sleek machines can be yours with in-game cash, which you can earn by claiming gold, silver, and bronze accolades in races or, if you’re feeling a bit impatient, through in-app purchases. It’s worth noting that some players might frown upon in-app purchases after shelling out seven bucks for the game upfront. Additionally, while the current car customization options are limited to paint jobs, there’s a promise of mods in the Google Play listing that can truly enhance your vehicle’s performance.
Chasing the Dream
Need for Speed Most Wanted holds universal appeal: you step into the shoes of a street-smart racer, perpetually defying the law while evading relentless police pursuit in almost every event. Your journey is rife with challenges, pitting you against not only the authorities but also fellow racers, all while racing against the clock and striving to complete bonus objectives for maximum rewards. Each race grants both currency and experience points, with the latter unlocking new events and vehicles. However, to acquire the cars and upgrades you desire, you’ll need to dip into your hard-earned winnings.
The gameplay itself is refreshingly straightforward, possibly a deliberate choice to accommodate the quirks of touch controls. In the default configuration, you steer using the accelerometer, brake with a simple tap on the left side of the screen, initiate drifts with another tap, and unleash nitrous with an upward swipe. Unlike Hot Pursuit, Most Wanted opts for a more “pure” racing experience, with no option to play as the police. You are the hunted, except for a few one-on-one showdowns with rival racers. Various modes, including time trials that challenge you to maintain a specific average speed, add variety to the mix.
Scaling the Ranks
As you progress through the lower tiers with less exotic vehicles, you’ll unlock new city areas and fresh events to conquer. Achieving excellence within a specific class grants you the privilege of challenging one of the “Most Wanted” elite racers, who pilot the game’s top-tier cars. Defeating them allows you to claim their rides, but you’ll need to purchase them using in-game currency. To boost your odds, consider outfitting your cars with enhancements such as speed strip-ready run-flat tires, extra nitrous, or reinforced chassis. It’s worth noting, however, that these upgrades don’t persist between events, necessitating repurchases even if you’ve previously equipped them on a particular vehicle.
A User-Friendly Approach
Perhaps in recognition of the challenges posed by mobile controls or in a bid to appeal to a wider audience, mobile developer Firemonkeys has taken steps to ensure that the Android version of Most Wanted is highly accessible. Tracks boast generous widths, curves are forgiving, and traffic is sparse. The drift feature sees little use, even in the most potent exotic cars, thanks to the lenient track design. Tight tunnels and hairpin turns are absent; instead, you’ll find yourself on a leisurely 180-mile-per-hour Sunday drive.
While law enforcement remains a constant presence, they pose minimal threat. Pursuing police vehicles primarily targets the first and second-place racers, and even then, a few minor collisions will incapacitate them and replenish your boost meter. Roadblocks and spike strips present a more significant danger, but the expansive highways offer ample opportunities for evasion, even when using tilt controls. To clarify, Most Wanted is undeniably enjoyable, offering a profound sense of speed and a diverse array of cars to enjoy. However, those seeking a challenging, high-stakes racing experience may need to seek out alternatives.
A Visual Spectacle
For those in pursuit of eye-catching visuals, Need for Speed Most Wanted delivers in spades. Car models and roadways shine brilliantly on the Nexus 7, adorned with reflective surfaces and dynamic lighting effects. Real-time car damage and backgrounds may lack the same level of detail, consisting mainly of flat polygons with uninspired textures. It’s worth noting that the screenshots featured on the Google Play Store appear more impressive than what I’ve witnessed on Tegra 3 hardware. This discrepancy raises questions about EA’s promotional tactics, as they may have simply lifted screenshots from the iOS version.
Regrettably, the game falls short in offering run-of-the-mill online multiplayer options. Unlike competitors like Real Racing 3, which introduced asynchronous multiplayer, Most Wanted misses the opportunity to provide engaging multiplayer experiences. It’s an area where other game developers are making strides, and we can only hope for future updates to address this gap.
Coins, Cash, and Combustion
In the Android rendition of Most Wanted, in-game currency reigns supreme, encompassing every facet of the gaming experience. Acquiring new cars necessitates both unlocking through experience and making outright purchases. Upgrades for each vehicle are limited to two slots and must be repurchased after every race, even if you suffer defeat. In fast-paced races with lightweight cars, minor collisions with opponents or obstacles can quickly erode thousands of dollars spent on enhancements. Even a simple paint job carries a substantial cost.
Naturally, the option exists to expedite your progress with real-world currency, a practice that often irks mobile gamers. Combining a paid game with in-app purchases may be seen as excessive, especially given the initial $6.99 price tag. Virtually every aspect of the game, from progression mechanics to individual races, appears tailored to coax players into spending more on a game they’ve already invested in.
The Bottom Line
To be fair, it is entirely feasible to accumulate sufficient in-game currency without resorting to in-app purchases. Players are free to replay events as many times as they desire, effectively transforming their racing endeavors into a lucrative grind for rewards. Furthermore, the in-game purchases, facilitated through Google Play, remain reasonably priced. For a mere three dollars, you can acquire half a million in cash, more than adequate for unlocking numerous cars. While this approach may appeal to some gamers seeking instant gratification, it undeniably carries shades of the profit-driven tactics employed by Glu Mobile. It raises the question of whether console players, who pay a premium upfront and enjoy instant car unlocks in open-world environments, would tolerate a similar structure.