Need for Speed Most Wanted Hands-On

We check out the PSP version of EA's latest entry in the Need for Speed franchise.

Electronic Arts' upcoming PSP version of Need for Speed Most Wanted, the latest entry in the NFS franchise and the follow-up to the PSP launch game NFS Rivals, is looking like a smart next entry in the series on Sony's portable system. Most Wanted is based on the forthcoming console game of the same name, but it offers a host of unique features that make it its own unique animal. We had the chance to try a work-in-progress version of the game today and were impressed by the assorted improvements we saw over the original game.

Most Wanted will mirror its console cousin's new themes, although it will go about things a bit differently. The career mode will feature new event types and a unique game of chance that bold players can try. Once you make it through a section, you can opt to "double-down" by betting everything on the outcome of a single race. If you win, you can double your earnings. But if you lose, you're hosed. All told, the game will feature roughly 140 events and 15 bosses to face off against, who will cough up cars when defeated. The mode that's likely to have the most appeal to fans is the new variation on cop mode, which puts you behind the wheel of a police car. You'll be able to work your way through and can earn better cars to use as you head out to stop miscreants.

As far as the multiplayer component goes, Most Wanted is set to top its predecessor with a solid offering of returning elements, such as the stat-tracking and ad hoc play found in Rivals. Additionally, there will be new content, such as infrastructure online play.

Control in the game feels better than Rivals already. There are still some rough spots, mainly around the new speed-breaker feature that's been brought over from the console game (and works like bullet time). While the feature works fine when you initiate it with the D pad, handling is a little tricky right now. However, the team is working to ensure that Most Wanted handles as well as it can.

The presentation in Most Wanted showcases a different look and feel that keeps with its tone. The new tracks improve on the work done in Rivals by offering detailed environments. Though the game is set during the day at various times, you'll never race at night, which makes for both more variety in the environments and a great excuse to show off some nifty lighting effects on the PSP. The tracks have gotten wider, and the car models look a bit smaller, which gives the game a broader scope and a grander sense of scale (which is kind of nice). The audio is on par with the quality work done in Rivals, and it features a good mix of sound effects and licensed tunes that set the game's tone.

Based on what we played, Need for Speed Most Wanted is shaping up to be a strong follow-up to Rivals. Improved modes, better visuals, and tighter control all add up to a game worth checking out when it hits stores. Need for Speed Most Wanted is currently slated to ship this fall for the PSP, so look for more on the game in the coming months.

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