Developer: Ghost Games
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Platforms: Xbox One (Version Reviewed), PlayStation 4, PC (2016)
Release Date: November 3, 2015
For the first time in over ten years, the Need For Speed series skipped its yearly release cycle in 2014. With developer Ghost Games’ intention to embark on a new direction for the franchise, this year’s game reboots the series by rediscovering its essence, while introducing a few ambitious design choices of its own.
Need For Speed delivers where it matters most; behind the wheel. Cruising down the freeway at high speed feels fast and exhilarating, while each car contains subtle nuances which offer variety throughout the game’s fairly extensive roster of vehicles. Initially, it’s easy to dismiss the game’s handling mechanics as poorly implemented, but after tinkering around with the various performance tuning enhancements in the garage, the game emerges as an in-depth and satisfying street racing experience.
As you navigate the fairly large open world, you’ll earn reputation points. Rep is split into five areas: Speed, Style, Build, Crew and Outlaw. Performing well in any of these categories will acquire points, but combining these elements over a short time will multiply your score, and merging all five simultaneously will result in a Perfect Moment, earning maximum points. It’s a smart system that rewards a varied driving style.
Police chases are another way of earning rep points as well as cash. Your potential earnings rise as the chase heats up, although you’ll need to bait the cops for a while as it’s far too easy to outrun them. Aside from an extensive number of events which can be accessed at any time, you’ll also find collectibles throughout the city, while daily challenges help to increase the game’s longevity after the main story has been completed.
You’ll also find collectibles throughout the city, while daily challenges help to increase the game’s longevity after the main story has been completed.
Another prominent aspect of Need For Speed’s reboot is the re-emergence of car modification features. Each car contains a vast number of parts which can be upgraded with reputation points and cash, giving you free reign to customize each vehicle to your liking. That extends to visuals as well, as different aspects of each car can be altered using a range of smart tools to create your own, personal design. Even I, a self-confessed amateur in the design department, was able to craft a stylish-looking racer.
Need For Speed is easy on the eye, and although it’s not as polished as say, Forza Horizon 2, its graphics are certainly befitting of a current-gen game. The city is well detailed, but it’s a shame that the game is restricted to night-time lighting, as many of the intricate details of Need For Speed’s world are shrouded in darkness. While there’s a hard-hitting set of EDM tunes which blend in nicely with the tone of the game, the loudest soundtrack that you’ll hear is the continuous roar of car engines, which sound excellent.
The game’s story takes the form of a first-person live action adventure. Other characters address the screen as if they’re talking directly to you, and the resulting experience isn’t as jarring or awkward as you may think. There are four main characters in the game’s narrative who are well defined and genuinely interesting.
There’s nothing worse than holding a lead before your opponent darts past you at an absurd speed as you approach the finish line.
Although I can’t say I relate to the absurd levels of fist bumping, energy drink consuming, and bizarre vocabulary (bae, cray and jelly don’t register in my dictionary), these clips remain engaging and fun to watch, and that’s down to some excellent acting, particularly from the characters of Spike and Amy. Cutscenes are a little too short for my liking, but they’re still a fun way to progress through the otherwise mediocre story branches.
Story missions follow the game’s five-point structure, offering a variety of different events, from time trials to drift contests. There’s a lot to do here, and every character bombards your phone regularly with calls and text messages to keep you engaged in the story while you’re busy racing. Unfortunately, Need For Speed’s AI is susceptible to a high degree of rubberbanding. It doesn’t start to become a grind until the latter half of the game, but there’s nothing worse than holding a lead before your opponent darts past you at an absurd speed as you approach the finish line. It’s rage-inducing, and enough to ruin your enjoyment of the game as it nears its conclusion.
By far the biggest drawback to Need For Speed is that it requires a constant online connection. While the game provides a smattering of fun online perks, such as inhabiting a world with other players, joining crews, and the possibility of instant head-to-head races, the restrictions surrounding this always-online universe mean that you can’t pause the game at all, there’s occasional instances of lag, and most importantly, you’re at risk of being kicked out of the game if the servers go down. Also perplexing is the absence of a lobby system to host online races with your friends.
There are other strange design flaws too, including no manual transmission options and no first-person camera view from inside the car. Additionally, events can only be started when you’re stationary and facing the correct direction, which is an unnecessary annoyance in a game that’s concerned with high-speed driving.
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Need For Speed is a smart arcade racer which combines a fun method of storytelling with excellent driving mechanics. Ultimately, it feels like wasted potential as bizarre design decisions and poor AI hamper the game’s overall performance. While I commend Ghost Games’ ambitious nature, their eagerness to innovate in too many areas at once is detrimental to the experience. There’s still plenty of fun to be had, but this isn’t quite the definitive Need For Speed title that we were hoping for.
A copy of this game was provided to GameSided for the purpose of this review. Click here to learn more about our Review Policy.