By Steve Wright
Reviewing mobile games has never been high on my to-do list. They're usually uninspired knock-offs, or such bite-sized chunks of gaming that I find I never have much to say about a title. That being said, we're ever-increasingly being presented with games that have depth, style, and graphically are becoming closer and closer to their console counterparts. This has never been more true than with Need for Speed: Most Wanted on iOS (and soon, Android).
Similar to Criterion's inheritance of the console iterations of this newest Need for Speed title, Melbourne-based Firemonkeys -- of Real Racing fame -- have been handed the keys to Most Wanted's mobile version. Unlike with recent console versions though, Firemonkeys haven't had to emerge like a phoenix from the ashes an unsuccessful franchise – Gameloft's most recent Need for Speed mobile endeavours have actually been quite solid. So, how have Firemonkeys changed it up?
The mobile version of Most Wanted has the same graphical style as Criterion's console versions, but has a general narrative from the previous Most Wanted; you'll move from street race to street race -- and then throw in some speed runs and versus races to boot – all in an effort to be the best. The open-world that makes the console version a delight isn't there, but that's understandable in a mobile version.
The solid mechanics of Real Racing are easily identifiable in Most Wanted, with steering just as you remember it; hold your device like a steering wheel (dare I say Mario Kart Wii-style?) and tilt to move. Your left thumb can be pressed on the screen for a brake (which I never used), and your right, to drift. You can also flick the screen to activate nitro – though initially, I kept trying to do it three times in a row, going back to my Gameloft-playing days. The controls are easy to pick up, and fun to master.
Graphically, the game sparkles. It's highly polished, and in some screenshots, I reckon you'd have trouble telling if the console or mobile version was pictured. Unlocking new cars is always a treat, as they look so good in their little promo pieces. I'm not a car guy and I was still drooling.
Autolog is in this version of Need for Speed as well, and it works as you expect… as a means to try races again to do better than your friends. You'll need to keep racing, too; there are a plethora of vehicles to unlock, each with the ability to customise paint jobs or modify your chassis, wheels or nitro from race to race.
It can't be all good, though. There isn't a ton of variety in the races – though there are tons to take part in. Once you've done a speed run in a muscle car, you can do one later on in an SUV, and another in a sports car… and so on. It's not boring, but you wouldn't want to sit and play the same variations for hours on end, either. It brings attention to the fact that whilst highly polished, there's not a tremendous deal of content in the game.
Another gripe I have is with the in-game police – surely, if I'm competing with other "most wanted" racers, the cops would try to take another racer out once and a while. At times, I had three police cars trying to pull me over while my competitors got free and easy rides to the finish line. Boo. Also, whilst I appreciate cool looking takedown sequences, I wish I could turn them off so I could see where my car was actually going, rather than being continually presented with a rear-view that had me crashing into a wall when I came out of it.
Most Wanted isn't a huge game, but it's a great little portable version of Need for Speed that will satisfy any racing fan or mobile gamer. At $7.50, you really can't go wrong.