Smartphones as a platform are strangely suited to racing games. That’s not to say that racing games lack depth or anything, quite the contrary, racing games offer some of the deepest and compelling gameplay among all other genres. No. What I meant to say was that racing games are oddly suited to quick 1-2 minute play sessions, which is quite convenient to play on portable devices like smartphones and tablets.
Right off the bat, the game boasts production values. The menus are slick and animations are fluid. You’re just simply thrown into your first race without having to go through any menus. This is where the game introduces you to its controls. After this race, you’re free to pick whatever event you want to take part in, and after a couple of more races, you get the ability to equip your car with mods that give you different bonuses for that race.
The world’s smallest steering wheel
When it comes to controlling your car, you get two options. You can either go for the traditional accelerometer-based control scheme, or opt for an on-screen steering wheel. It is worth noting that this is the first game in the mobile versions of Need for Speed that let you use an on-screen steering wheel.
The accelerometer is a much better way to control your car here
The accelerometer control scheme is responsive and detects your tilts and turns easily. You even get a sensitivity slider to fine tune how well you want your device to pick up your movements. The on-screen control scheme, however, isn’t pulled off that well. Instead of opting for an Asphalt-like option that lets you tap on either side of the screen to make the corresponding turn, the game gives you a tiny steering wheel on the left side of the screen. The wheel feels awkward and it’s easy to get it mixed up with the break, depending on where you touch the screen.
You can drift your car touching the right side of the screen. Drifting is one of the most important skills to master in the game, as race courses tend to have many sharp turns, and drifting is one of the easiest ways to fill up your nitrous bar. Nitrous is activated by flicking upwards on the screen, but there doesn’t seem to be any way to deactivate it. This means that when you make that flick, you’re going to keep going at high speeds till your nitrous bar runs out. The regular brake/reverse is executed by touching/holding the left side of the screen.
The nitrous bar fills up very easily, and the game gives you a visual queue that lets you know when the bar is full. The bar can be filled through the Burnout-styled risk-reward method. Doing risky things gets you higher amounts of nitrous. The risky things include pulling off near-misses, drifting like a maniac, and taking down competing vehicles. A funny way to go about using the nitrous is to activate it and take cars down while still in nitrous. This gives you what essentially amounts to infinite nitrous till you can’t find any more opponents to take down.
Most Wanted for mobiles is a gorgeous game
Fairhaven is a lonely city
The only opponent you get in the game is the AI. Curiously, EA decided to forego multiplayer with the game, which gives its biggest competitor – Asphalt 7: Heat – a major advantage. Instead of multiplayer, EA opted for a scoring system. Much like Criterion’s recent Need for Speed game – Most Wanted – you are awarded Speed Points. These Speed Points decide your ranking on the titular Most Wanted list. The main aim of the game is to become number one on the list. EA has decided to integrate Origin with Most Wanted, leading to your friends being placed on the Most Wanted list as well. This was a clever way to integrate high-scores into a game, but a couple of multiplayer modes would’ve been preferable.
One of the biggest ways the mobile version of Need for Speed: Most Wanted differs from its cousin on other platforms is that the main multi-platform version decided to forego currency, and instead let you unlock vehicles by finding them and car mods by racing for them. In the mobile version, you have to win races to get money, which in turn you can use to buy vehicles and mods.
The developer’s execution of vehicle mods in this game is disappointing. Instead of letting you get permanent upgrades for your car, mods work like temporary bonuses. You get to equip your car with up to two mods before every race. These mods can bequeath different bonuses on your car, and the better the bonus, the more expensive the mod. Mods range from decreasing the weight of your car – thus resulting in faster acceleration – to giving you a heavier body – thus resulting in a car that can take down other cars more easily.
Mods could've been done so much better
Loading times as long as Pluto’s orbit
The AI in the game is good, but sometimes it seems to live up to its name and feels artificial. They rarely make any mistakes, and once you screw up, getting back in the lead is a very difficult task. The cops are like that too, and they seem to be able to catch up to your completely decked out exotic car very easily in their regular police cars. The cops also seem to have no plan to arrest you. All they do is ram into you so that you’ll lose a race.
Another major problem that plagues the game is the time it takes for anything to load. It has incredibly long load times, which to be fair, is understandable, considering the visual fidelity the game is trying to pump out from smartphones and tablets. The load times still make it borderline unbearable, though. Starting the game feels like it takes ages. Deciding to play the game when you have to wait for a couple of minutes is a bad idea, as half that time will be taken up by the loading screens. For some inexplicable reason, the game also tends to reload the graphics assets even if you so much as lock your device. Woe is your patience if someone calls when you’ve almost won a race.
Wrapping things up, the iOS and Android versions of Need for Speed: Most Wanted are decent games in their own right, but are also flawed. The game is definitely fun, and there seems to be a lot of racing events to take part in, but some of the problems with the game sometimes overshadow its goodness. Long loading times, lack of multiplayer and unnecessarily badass cops turn what could’ve possibly been one of the best mobile racing games ever into simply a better-than-average mobile racing game.