Speed is sexy
One word comes to mind when playing NFSMW…er, Need for Speed: Most Wanted. And that word is ‘Sexy’. Sexysexysexysexysexysexysexy. And alright, if we’re being pedantic about things, I suppose other words such as ‘Speed’, ‘Need’ and ‘For’ come to mind as well. But you know what I mean.
Anyway, it’s as sexy as a sex-machine and a sex kitten drinking Sex on the Beach while having sex on the beach. On second read-through, that is a very vulgar choice of words. Forgive me.
It’s just that everything about the game exudes an oily-slick-slippery-sexiness. Take the graphics for example; some iOS games look great in screenshots, but merely OK when you begin playing them. Need for Speed: Most Wanted looks fantastic in both.
Car models are detailed and slick enough to make you lust after each new addition to your virtual garage. They’re also solid, with each handling as differently as you’d expect. Unlocking a new vehicle, then finally accumulating enough cash to purchase it for races is always a pleasure due to how faithfully they’re represented. Ever turn your head at a real-life Ferrari roaring past on the street? Imagine doing that with about 50 other supercars. Even unlocking something as commonplace as a Ford Focus gets your pulse racing.
And don’t get me started on the backgrounds. Yummy, yummy. Super detailed, beautifully atmospheric. It’s the first racing game I’ve played where I’ve wanted to slow down to appreciate the moonlight on the horizon.
We may have now reached the stage of iOS gaming where saying a game looks amazing for a mobile title is a little patronising, but it rings truer than ever here. Look at it this way, if a game’s visuals are impressive enough to remind you that a mere six years ago your mobile gaming highlight was beating your own top score on Snake, surely that’s a good thing. I can guarantee you’ll have one of those ‘I can’t believe I’m playing this on an iPad’ moments.
Where sound is concerned, it’s your standard mixture of too-electronic-for-me-to-appreciate techno, and angry, shouty, somewhat disturbing rock tunes. I’m sure I heard the words ‘I’m the tormentor, I am the cancer’ in one of the songs. And I can’t decide whether ‘Crashed my car into a bridge’ is the least or most appropriate set of lyrics for this type of game.
Every arcade racer lives and dies on one thing: the feeling of speed. The Need For Speed series has always had it, and nothing’s changed here. The classic blue streak of nitrous is unleashed with a simple swipe of the thumb, leading to speed boosts galore, and the sensation of blasting past those lovely environments is satisfying. However, I think may have been spending too much time with that other iOS arcade racer – Asphalt.
Gameloft’s three stage nitro is something I really miss here. I kept flicking the screen one, twice, three times a nitro, only to remember that NFS is a‘Flick Once And Go’ type of gal. I have to admit I’ve become addicted to powering up on nitro in Asphalt and watching the screen morph into the worst hallucinations of a rollercoaster-riding LSD enthusiast. There, my car would routinely break the barriers of both sound and light. It’s not realistic, but it’s damn fun. In comparison, NFS’s top gear can feel a tad sedate at times. Make no mistake, it’s still fast enough to be satisfying, just not fast enough to make you travel through time, if that’s your thing.
And I apologise for turning this review into a Gameloft appreciation article, but the other thing I miss from Asphalt is the crazy jumps. NFS tracks and rewards your airtime with Speed Points, but when you see ‘Jump: 14 Yards’ appear on screen, you snigger because that’s not a jump, that’s a hop. In Asphalt, I didn’t merely skip down the road every now and then, I nitro’d off a bridge and jumped over other cars. Here you wouldn’t even know you caught air if the game didn’t tell you, it feels more like driving over roadkill.
There’s an unmistakable lack of depth here too. For all it’s flashy looks, there’ a paucity of things to do. The game takes place in the fictional city of Fairhaven, USA, across a pretty large map made up of different events. Completing these earns you Speed Points and cash, which you can use to upgrade, re-spray your car, or purchase a brand-spanking new one (did I tell you they look lovely? They do). You can of course, also purchase more fake cash with real cash; although mercifully, the IAP system is how I think all IAP systems should be: subtle and unobtrusive. I certainly can’t say that about Asphalt.
The problem is that there are only a handful of race types. Once you’ve played through one time trial, one straight race and one head to head, you’ve pretty much seen it all. Asphalt doesn’t have a billion variations on the theme either, but mixed in some novel game types such as King of the Hill to keep things interesting.
Having the Police hunt you down while racing definitely adds to the cool factor though. Only Need For Speed can give you the rush of taking first place just before the finish line after narrowly avoiding a head-on collision with a truck while two cop cars grind your vehicle against the railings. Although to be honest, that also sounds a lot like my first driving lesson. Add the excellent-sounding radio chatter from the Police radios and you’ve got atmosphere aplenty.
Single-race previews make an appearance from the console versions, allowing you to have a go with one of the more expensive cars without having to stump up the cash right away, but disappointingly, free-roam and online multiplayer mode do not. To it’s credit the Autolog system which sees your friend’s best times for each race posted on your Wall can’t be faulted, and is a great way of keeping you interested in the a single player only experience, but if Asphalt can do multiplayer, well…
So I’m torn between a 3.5 and a 4 with NFS:MW (even the acronym looks sexy), on one plain old hand with crusty fingernails and dry skin, it doesn’t do anything much different from previous NFS iOS titles, and is quite shallow. But the other hand is more seductive; it’s dolled itself up with painted fingernails and a shiny ring. This thing is just too sexy for half points. I feel like giving it a 4 out of 5 with the word ‘Just’ in brackets. It may not reinvent the wheel, but it doesn’t do anything much wrong as such and if all you’re looking for is a fix of speed, you won’t be disappointed. When something this good looking comes along, you just have to give in and give it what it wants. It’s sexy and it knows it.
Get sexy with Kevin on Twitter. @KevThePen. Not too sexy, mind.