If you've been a fan of the previous Criterion games such as Burnout Paradise, you'll feel right at home with this open world racer. The cut scenes, crashes and game mechanics are virtually the same except licensed cars are being smashed around instead of your generic look-alikes. Graphically, it's about as detailed as you can hope for in a portable racer. The textures are nice with only a few anti-aliasing issues with headlights and far away buildings. There were some graphical glitches that I couldn't overlook such as clipping right through a mountain side when my car caught a little too much air or my car looking like it's having a seizure if it lands awkwardly on the ground. Those were rare, so it was rather excusable. The game is beautiful. Because it's the full version of the console equivalents, sometimes the fonts were a bit too small to read on the loading screen and during dialogue captions.
The gameplay is definitely on the arcade side of things with the cars driving and handling relatively the same across all makes and models. Tap the brake while accelerating through a corner and your car is sure to drift. Since the obvious formula the developers were going for was the Burnout style of racing, this didn't feel entirely disappointing. Although you would hope that there would be a larger difference in handling when comparing a rear wheel drive powerhouse muscle car like a Z01 and a rigid compact cornering machine like the Ariel Atom. Sadly, this was not the case. The only real notable differences were changing to off-road tires to boost handling in the dirt. All in all, it's still a blast to zoom past on-coming traffic as they look like nothing but blurs on your screen. Also, adding to the arcade feel, there seems to be a lot of rubberbanding in each race. You are never too far from the back of the pack as other cars seem to slow down to let you catch up. This might sound great, but it's a double edged sword and works in favor of the CPU cars as well. They can always catch up even if you're doing 225 mph in the Veyron on a straightaway. Again, arcade feel.
The sound is definitely compressed and the crashing sounds are more reminiscent of a thunderclap than metal colliding. From the Vita speakers, it's not very noticeable as they can't produce low decibels very well, but once you put on a good pair of headphones, these details all come to light. Overall, it's nothing overly distracting and doesn't take away from the gameplay and only audiophiles would truly penalize the game for it.
Overall, this is a solid game that warrants you spending your hard earned $20, especially since this game doesn't lack anything that its console counterparts have. All the cars, all the races (and even some nice exclusives), and all the options are here. Although, I will say that there is no DLC available for this version so you'll have to settle for the normal versions of each car instead of your ever so slightly tweaked versions you can buy in the DLC. No complaints here. They're fine for me. As a final remark, for all those who continue comparing this version to the console version, it would be like comparing Little League baseball players and MLB players. You just can't do that. The hardware just can't produce the same amount of detail, so just judge it for what it is; a beautiful and full spectacle on a completely portable platform. So just stop ragging on the kid for not being able to hit 30 homeruns a year.