The App Store has been lacking a truly great street racer for a while now. There have been plenty of valiant efforts, but none has perfectly captured the essence of throbbing engines and screeching rubber.
At least, nothing until now. Need for Speed: Most Wanted is a breathtaking arcade racer that deals out tension and high octane action in equal measure, all the while setting a new standard for polish and presentation.
There are a few niggles and omissions, but Need for Speed: Most Wanted is a gorgeous reminder that iOS devices are as much a legitimate platform for triple A experiences as they are for exciting indie diversions.
Very most wanted
The game takes place on gritty urban streets to the beats and squeals of angsty mainstream rock and dance. From the get go it sets its scene with aplomb, dropping you instantly into the driver's seat of a Dodge Challenger and walking you through the basics of the controls as you duke it out against computer controlled street racers.
From that very first corner you're struck by how impressive this world looks. From the sleek lines of your growling automobile to the glittering puddles that lay across the blistered asphalt of the city streets, everything is stunningly detailed.
It doesn't take long for the details to fall away into the background though. Tearing through the city is a joy. You'll pass trucks at break neck speeds, dart through traffic with your breath held, and smash through billboard-hidden shortcuts to gain a valuable few seconds.
It's the controls that really make the experience work. Your acceleration is handled automatically, leaving you to control your brakes by tapping on the left of the screen, power slides by tapping on the right, and your nitrous boosts by swiping a finger up the screen. Steering can be handled either with the accelerometer or on-screen buttons.
Drive of your life
The tilt controls are by far the finest I've ever come across. Your car reacts quickly and precisely, and steering through the long sweeping corners of the game feels great. After seeing so many games hobbled by their tilt controls, Need for Speed: Most Wanted is a breath of petrol-scented fresh air.
The game is broken up into bite sized races, none lasting more than a couple of minutes, that are spread across the city. While finishing at the front of the pack is your primary concern, the police are also on hand to throw a spanner in the works.
Patrol cars bear down on you, throwing out spike traps and trying to smash your expensive speed machine into lumps of broken bodywork. Even when you're leading a race, you're always on the look out for the red and blue smear of a siren as it appears on the road ahead.
Every victory earns you cash to spend on new cars and Speed Points that let you work up the most wanted leaderboard. Earn enough SP and you can challenge the other hoodlums to one-on-one races to prove your skills on the street circuits.
The only glaring omission is the lack of online multiplayer. Battling it out with your friends would have been a brilliant addition, and while you can challenge them with your lap times, it doesn't quite replicate the thrill of nudging them into a spike trap at 200 miles per hour.
Need for Speed: Most Wanted is the street racer that iOS devices have been waiting for. From its slick menus to the neon signs that blink at you from the side of the track, everything about it screams quality. And, for once, the game underneath that polish is every bit as exquisite.