It's crazy to think that in a couple of years we'll be celebrating the twentieth anniversary of the Need for Speed series. The games have come a shockingly long way since the original 3DO release in 1994, and while Need For Speed Most Wanted [$4.99] definitely has that highly-iterative EA feel to it, they're getting closer and closer to perfection.

I'd find it hard to believe that anyone reading TouchArcade hasn't played a Need For Speed game, but assuming you're part of that confusing demographic, here's the gist: If the title wasn't a big enough hint, all the racing games in the series hinge around the idea of going really, really fast. That sensation of speed is a cornerstone of any racer, and Need For Speed Most Wanted is no slouch in that department. In fact, I'd say Most Wanted provides the best sensation of speed I've experienced on an iOS device- particularly when played on the wide screen of the iPhone 5.

Like other games in the series, Need For Speed Most Wanted is home to a whole bunch of licensed cars. There's 35 in all and they range from boring starter cars like the Ford Focus moving right on up to exotics like the Bugatti Veyron. The Tesla Roadster is also included, and, amusingly enough, hitting the nitrous doesn't cause flames to come out the back. Joining these licensed cars is a host of licensed music which seems to fit the overall mood of the game quite well. Most Wanted also offers both touch and tilt control options, and though I don't normally prefer them for most games, I found the default tilt option to be far superior to touch in allowing precision and subtlety in movement.


Unlocking cars involves performing well in races, earning in-game currency, and buying whatever you can afford. Of course you can also buy this in-game currency using real-world currency, but it feels exceedingly optional and like the game is paced to just allow you to unlock a new car every few races anyway. So, unless you just want to immediately buy the Veyron and completely break the game, the initial $6.99 to get in the door is all you'll need to fork out to enjoy it- A welcome change from Gameloft's offerings, comparatively.

Each of the different members of the Need For Speed family have a slightly different flavor, and Most Wanted's chief variant is the addition of a police chase system. During races, you'll be harassed by various layers of police pursuing you. There's a hefty amount of audio cues telling you when things like roadblocks are coming up as well as when new police cars are joining the fray.

Overall, the police don't provide that much challenge, but they do add quite a bit to just generally making you feel awesome while playing. Need For Speed Most Wanted is an arcade racer to its core, and its strong suit definitely is providing you those moments that have you saying to yourself, "OK, that was really cool."

Case in point involves a recent race I was playing, where I was sparring with the first place racer. I had a police car constantly buzzing around me which was continually thwarting my attempts at a successful pass as I'd lose a bit of speed and control each time he bumped me. Spotting a divided tunnel up ahead, I positioned myself next to the police car to send him slamming directly into the pillar dividing each side of the track. The cop crashes, the camera spins around to provide a cinematic view, and my nitrous instantly recharges. I swipe up to send my car boosting forward, and manage to swerve right in front of the first place driver moments before crossing the finish line.

It's moments like that where Need For Speed Most Wanted truly shines, as that sort of excitement almost makes you forget that you're playing this game on your phone. The graphics in Need For Speed Most Wanted are incredible, and feel like a taste of what's to come in the studio's upcoming Real Racing 3. The level of detail is incredible, especially as it remains consistent across the whole scene.


It seems like all too often in racing games you can "cheat" better graphics by dumping most of your assets into making the cars themselves look good, as when you're staring at the back or your car for the whole race it's easy to not notice how low resolution everything else is- Particularly at speed. This isn't the case at all in Most Wanted, in fact, being able to actually read all the details in the game (like road signs, billboards, etc.) is even a little distracting when you realize you can.

As far as a quick pick up and play arcade racer is concerned, Most Wanted absolutely knocks it out of the park. If you're on the hunt for a game that'll allow you to play a race or two, have a great time, unlock a car or two, and come back later, you need to stop what you're doing and just download Need For Speed Most Wanted right now.

Where Most Wanted really begins to falter is in the depth department. Unless there's some sort of major UI failure and I'm completely overlooking it, the only car real customization to speak of is changing your paint job. This costs in-game money too, which is a little annoying. There's the most basic system of performance upgrades, but that's it. Also, if you're playing in a marathon session, the few included race types all start to feel a little same-y, as do the limited set of locales they take place in.

There's some social features, but they all rely on Origin. I'd be vaguely interested in the times my friends were getting in races if it didn't involve setting up yet another social gaming network with its own login, friends list, and achievements. This could be an up-side to you, however, if you're heavily invested in Origin and the Need For Speed Autolog, as Most Wanted hooks in to all of that. I'm more of a Game Center kind of guy, so it's lost on me.

With that being said, I'm having an absolutely fabulous time playing Need For Speed Most Wanted. It's not the deepest racer in the world, but I've never felt that arcade racers need to come with loads of depth as they're all about just driving cars you'll never be able to afford, going fast as you can, and rapid-firing "that was awesome" moments: Three things Most Wanted totally nails in my book. If you prefer racers that lean more towards the simulation side of things, keep an eye out for Real Racing 3. I'll be slamming into cop cars in the meantime, if you need me.

TouchArcade Rating

  • karmarogue

    Feed me more

    • Idris

      Just Bought It c; So Freakin Epic !

  • epikninja there free roaming?

    • jakemat94

      I second this question. Will decide wether or not I'll stick with real racing 2.

      • azsxdc

        No there is no free roaming.

        I also disagree with the 'exceedingly optional' nature of the in app purchasing of game currency.  Despite winning every event, I still find myself having to repeat races because different races demand different types of cars and you can't afford everything you need by just winning each race once..

    • Jonathan Bernabe

      As far as I know, there is no free roaming. The only portable NFSMW I know of that has free roaming is the PSV version. 

  • Apache7X

    If only they could make need for speed underground 2 for IOS.

  • Charles Albert

    so, this NFS for iOS don't suck? Unlike all the other ones? (except Hot Pursuit, that was fairly good)

    • Sebastian Gomez

       I bet Hot Pursuit sucks if you compare it to Most Wanted 🙂

      • Charles Albert

        i hope so 🙂

  • squirpe

    I think you mean 20th anniversary...

  • Tondog

    Waiting for the inevitable comments saying how Eli was bought by EA....

    Seriously though, great review Eli! I'll have to give this a shot.

  • Pray For Death

    Why the 5 stars if you criticized the game for lack of depth? 5 stars implies that the game is perfect.

    Also, how's the performance on the iPad 3?

    • E_7

      Five stars does not imply the game is perfect, in no universe. Not even in console reviews.

      5 stars means the game does what it does exceedingly well, not that it's flawless.

      • kirby83

        regardless of what is being reviewed, a book a movie or a video game, it doesnt make sense to give it maximum score while saying it could have been better.

      • Thaurin

        So, you're saying just never give out maximum scores? This isn't a report card; it's more of a tilt score or a recommendation meter. In fact, TA can give whatever meaning to the number of stars attached to a review they want (which they did).

    • Professionalbum

      Plays awesome on my "new" iPad; can't wait to try it out on the iPad 4 Friday.

  • Sean Yuan

    Two reviews in a week from this 2010?!


    • Harti

      No... they pay more as a motivation 😉

  • BruteOutlawz

    Its not just paint jobs you can get, you can add mods to cars like weight reduction and engine tune ups for more speed. Really good game, sets the bar for ios racing games. As D:Ream says "things, can only get better"

    • ducksFANjason

      That's what I wanted to hear! Customize cars...

      • ducksFANjason

        I just realized my comment sounded sarcastic. It wasn't meant to be. I enjoy upgrading my cars in racing games. Anyway, i'll be buying this soon

      • BenchWarmers Clique

        the damage is already done, jerk!

      • ducksFANjason


  • Alan R

    uh, did you mean the 20th anniversary?

    anyway, thanks for the review. I think I'll be getting this soon

  • MarkyMarc

    Thanks for the excellent review. I've been watching this one, very glad to see that it has been released.

  • MidianGTX

    Well, you've convinced me it's worth looking at the console versions.

  • iJoashFoo

    Awesome game so far. Don't be quick to call the Focus boring when you have a Prius though, I'd take it over the Veyron any day.

  • Respeto12

    I have it nd its totally worth it nd the graphics r just awesome???? 😀

  • mudd

    It's hard for me to hit the buy button knowing that pretty soon EA will drop this price significantly. Sorry EA, you've set this precedent .

  • Greg

    I have been given the option to upgrade my vehicle. It happened when I bought a Range Rover before the first SUV event. I also get the offer when I chose the Range Rover for another event. Looks like there are two mod slots and a good variety of mods to choose from.

  • Supercupid

    It's freaking awesome must buy for any racing fan

  • Zephram

    I'd also like to know if free roam is available,and how much of the city is drivable compared to the console versions.

    • xzeldax3

      No free roam. The PS Vita has it though.

  • Supercupid

    Free roam not available it's like need for speed underground mission based and wanted level wall climb but still cool

    • Zephram

      I guess for 6.99 you can't complain, as long as it runs okay on devices other than just iPhone 5.

  • Andrew ☜☆☞ Forbes

    runs silky smooth on the iPhone 4 great review and a epic games best one yet out of all the series on ios

  • wim

    Ar the grapicks on par with the vita version?

    • mguniverse

      Absolutely, especially on the retina enabled iPads.

      • Marcin Winkowski

        Ermmm nope ? iOS version is a lot worse. Closed tracks , no free roaming, no dynamic lights/shadows and level of detail of the cars and environments is also a lot lower. Vita version is almost the same gameplay wise to big consoles edition.
        And retina is just a screen resolution nothing else ;].

  • GSJ1977

    I would definitely have bought this game, but now that TA have given it 5 stars I'm not so sure...

  • Lakeshore

    Dear TA, it's a universal game. Does ist support iCloud?

    • Thai Khoa

      Unfortunately, it doesn't support any cloud services.

  • Octopus Erectus

    I cannot agree with five stars. Yeah, it’s an arcade racer = dumb physics. OK. Racing game = no plot. OK. Modern iOS game = bunch of IAPs selling money. OK. But what about it? This game is not fun at all.
    Carmageddon is better in every direction. 

    P.S. I hate when the roads are made of mirror glass.

    • Charles Albert

      so, if it is an arcade racer and it have no plot it does not deserves five stars?

      wow that was dumb.

      • Octopus Erectus

        Bad games does not deserve 5 stars. 
        In this case the game is not actually bad but not outstanding, not creative, not anything at all. 

  • Sebastian Gomez

    I wish it looked like on the screenshots on my iPhone4 xD

    I'll keep dreaming... maybe one day I'll find an iPhone5 lying on the floor =)



    PS: I didn't read the review... For me it was a 5/5 just by watching the E3 video where they were testing it xD

    • Sebastian Gomez

      For the record of it... It's been over a month since I bought an iPhone 5 x3

      It was too late for this game to show off, because I had already finished it on my iPhone 4 😛

      Anyway, I installed it and play it from time to time 🙂

  • Laszlo Tuss

    Still no gamecenter EA? Than leave me alone

  • Tranceaholic

    Whoa...A Need For Speed iOS game that's awesome!?

    *reads that it was developed by Fire Monkeys*

    Aha! That explains it!

  • Jonathan Riggall

    If you want a good portable racing game, and you want to play it on an iOS/Android device, etc.. it ain't gonna happen.
    NFSMW is good *for an iOS racer*. No iOS racer has come close to even mediocre last generation console racing games. 
    I am not hating on iOS or Android - I'd love to play a great racer on either, but even the limited racing options on the Vita and 3DS are a ton better than anything I've ever played on the iPhone or iPad. It comes down to controls - touch and tilt just don't hold a candle to physical controllers. 
    NFSMW on Vita is developed by Criterion, and is more or less the same game as the home console versions. When we can say that about an iOS game, I might buy it.

    • ConceptNormal

      Bingo! Don't have this incredible free-roaming system and a billion other options on the console version and then skim out and make the game literally different for iOS, but I guess Ignorance is Bliss and iOS fans will play this and just compare with titles in the iOS' past catalog instead of playing "Criterion's" Masterpiece.

    • Dimitris Katsafouros

      I think the limited racing options is a fault of the iOS developer and not due to the limited capabilities of iphone ipads. I think it has more to do with the fact that the iOS title is 4-5 times cheaper than the Vita title.

    • GSJ1977

      Last generation? Not sure about that. RR2 (still the best racer on the App Store IMO) is not as good as a current gen console racer (GRID for example) but I honestly find it more enjoyable than, say, Gran Turismo 3.

    • cyberpyrot

      It is not the ios/device we are seeing alot of advancements in the ios area... I have the DUO-Gamer controller and the game loft racer and it does feel like a console game im hoping the controoler gets licenced to other developers..

      • ConceptNormal

        Once again I have a ps3 for anything that anyone in any of these "forums" desperately" neeeeds a controller for... I bought my touch device for games that tilt, and I touch and possibly gyroscope. That's the point I would hope everyone gets out of a touch implemented gaming system. I enjoy both my touch device and ps3 for 2 different things and would never stray from my expectations. My point was simply why buy a game that's out for the ps3 that's a trillion times better and then play this ploy of a game for money purposes, sttictly devrloped because Criterion made a masterpiece on the condole regardless of it being 1/6th the price. RR2 is still tops. I'll wait for RR3 that is strictly made with rules that are meant for a touch device.

    • Charles Albert

      wow thanks for contribuiting with nothing

      • Octopus Erectus

        We’ve got a dev here. Are you open for suggestions? 

  • Jignesh Padhiyar

    NFS needs absolutely no promotion. Tell us you've got that iPad app and millions will buy it instantly. It's time the gaming shifted to mobile too... and faster.

  • GSJ1977

    Eli, you get car mods on the 7th or 8th race, and they are impossible to miss.

    I guess you didn't get that far before submitting your 5 star review?

    • GSJ1977

      Oh and Eli, there's a pay wall at around race 10, at which point you must either pay more real world cash or grind previously completed races for more in-game cash. To make matters worse, those car mods I mentioned cost in-game cash and last just one race.

      You obviously worked real hard on this review.

      • What


        Dunno what game you're playing bud, there's no paywall...

    • Eli Hodapp

      I'm talking an extensive simulation style thing that people are always chomping at the bit for, not a weird cash sink.

  • Phil_Lapineau

    Firemonkeys did a good job copying Criterion on this one. It looks and plays nearly like the AAA versions of Burnout and Hot Pursuit. Perhaps they had a producer from Criterion helping them out on it?

  • Mekklesack

    Wow! It's as epic as the first time I played Burnout 3. Nice work you Monkeys that are on Fire. And geeze it's pretty.

  • september

    I'm not sure why the consumable car mods aren't mentioned (unless I just missed it), after the first 6 races you're giving the option to either grind the same races or pay up for IAP cash.

    Not sure how this would get 5 stars. Great racer until it turned into a slot machine.

  • James Kapherr

    I'll just add it to my watch list and in a weeks time, it will be on sale for 69p 🙂

  • guitarlife

    Almost perfect!But it seems no full retina display for ipad 3~

    • Estagmar

      Looks like the menus are retina but the 3d environments are at a resolution between the iPad 2 and 3 and also is lacking the blur effects when using nitro ... Sadly i've seen this in a few games :S (Bastion, Nova 3 ...), the iPad 4 is gonna be the one able to pull graphics and retina at the same time (and i bought the 3 two months ago ... Why?! Haha ... Yeah i know, welcome to the technology world)

  • makitango

    What is it with the big companies that they don't understand a thing what the term icon means? In the old days in a DLC-free environment, EA was able to pull an iconic wheel on the NFS:Underground 2 retail cover, yet they put a full car in a small bitmap, plus the title (which is displayed below the app icon, too), plus EA branding, plus a frame. It insults every designing mind...
    Oh, and consumable IAP's in racing games are just meh. Besides insulting the Most Wanted title with no ability to roam around, it's just a bad joke. All I see is Real Racing 2 (since they bought the guys and all tech along with it, EA finally got a decent 3D engine for iOS) with brand bloating and mirroring streets.
    I am really wondering if EA will ever be interested again in the player's play experience rather than his payment behaviour.

  • Ahiru Nakamura

    why would EA launch a game with the very same name from a '05 release?? 

    • Jeff432

      I agree. They should of named it, Need For Speed: Most Wanted 2.

  • Jeff432

    I'm buying the console version of Most Wanted, but I'm not buying this game for my iPhone 5 because without free roam, it'll get boring too quickly.

    For racing, I'd rather play Real Racing 2 or 3.

  • Akmal Muhammad

    Great game! Sad there is no free roaming and multiplayer thougj

  • drewpoc

    Great game...but clearly all the bells and whistles are being put into RR3 🙂

  • jonnyfoxmagic

    Best looking game for iPhone 5

  • Maximjke

    Nice game, Real Racing 2 - delete 😀 


    Dumb question: does drafting get you more boost?

  • kubawas

    I like game graphics, I am fan of nfs but that game has serious problems that I must tell you.
    First of all game is not cheap but since it's premium title you would expect that you will have high quality product in terms of gameplay and graphics. Yes it really looks nice but after playing a couple of hours I would not recommend it anyone. Maybe I will change my mind when they will fix some problems.

    First of all game is designed to pay money for game currency, it's hard to beat opponents to get first prize and next races are against better cars so you just have to pay money to be able to buy better car. The biggest disappointment is that YOU CAN'T SELL YOUR CARS, so you have to be all the time first or buy currency to progress.

    Other thing is that some races are too difficult, maybe I am bad player but I play nfs since first edition and I can tell that it's not nice when you try to win and 3 cops are chasing ONLY YOU, not other opponents, just you.

    I paid that 2,49 EUR to get 500k for cars but now I realized that I wasted to much time, this game is result of some serious bad design decisions, if they really wonted ppl to buy currency that should price it lower. After playing this game I personally  feel cheated.

    Sorry for such review but I play a lot of games, on console and on mobile. I really waited for this game but for me in current state is unplayable, there is very small line between fun and disappointment when you have to drive 10 times the same level to win more money.

  • sadaN

    no matter how good it looks, auto throttling is for kids

  • Anthony Maranto

    No offence, but this game sucks. I tried playing it at my friends house, and it wasn't very fun. I have the ORIGINAL Need for Speed Mostwanted from 2005, and it didn't feel the same. Then I realized. The new NFS are made by Criterion, the people that make burnout. I will stick to Midnight Club and Need For Speed Underground 2 instead. Sorry EA.

  • diaskeaus

    Does this have an Open World like the other NFS games? Or is it race-by-race like RR3? That's really the key for me, in terms of putting another gigantic racer on my phone.

  • joshua logan

    this app could be better, if they not let us repeat races.

  • GameIoft

    Game is great but be got asphalt 8 coming your way

Need for Speed™ Most Wanted Reviewed by Eli Hodapp on . Rating: 5