Need for Speed is back nearly two years after the last game within the franchise saw the light. Just as NFS: Rivals borrowed the basics of a previous NFS game (namely, Hot Pursuit), this new iteration (simply called “Need for Speed”) does the same, this time with NFS: Underground’s premise. The game is really well made, you can try here to play the demo.
Need for Speed
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Developer: Ghost Games
Available on: Xbox One, PlayStation 4 (tested), Microsoft Windows (tested)
Original review made for PlayStation 4
Need for Speed is developed by Ghost Games (studio formerly known as EA Gothenburg), and runs on Frostbite engine. What Ghost has been able to achieve in graphical terms simply surprised me; the game looks gorgeous, every spot of the fairly big city looks authentic, and so the cars do. In fact, the cars look so good that they are blended into the live action cutscenes that tell the game’s story, and it took me a time to realize that some of the cars used in there were rendered and not actual cars.
Yes, I said “live action cutscenes”. Need for Speed tries to tell the story of an amateur street racer making his way to stardom with said cutscenes. You start off joining a crew of experienced street racers, each of them having a specialty: speed, style, build and crew. That’s how the game divides its missions in four sub storylines, every one of them featuring some famous street racer in real life; Magnus Walker for Speed, Nakai-san for Build, Ken Block for Style and the Risky Devil Crew for… well.. Crew.
I found the story itself not engaging at all, as it is pretty standard and the live action cutscenes dialogues and acting felt unnecessary most of the times. You progress through the storyline receiving phone calls from each of your mates, who in turn will tell you “go to point A to run a race”, after some of those calls, you will probably receive another phone call saying “meet me in the dinner”, where a live action cutscene will trigger, unveiling a little piece of the story. This dynamic, while not totally awful, felt dull after the 3rd or 4th cutscene; acting seems forced as well as the dialogues, and you will end up wanting to skip every future cutscene.
Luckily, the game is fun to play and features lots of concepts from the Underground days. You start off with one tuned car for free and as you progress through the game, you start earning Rep and money; Rep works as XP, which allows you to level up and in turn, gain access to better parts for your cars as well as new races. You can earn Rep only for driving and performing certain actions (drifting, destruction of things, high speed values, etc). Money works as money, which is pretty self-explanatory; basically you use it to buy parts, cars, and occasionally pay a fine (not).
As you progress through the game, you will be getting better cars and better parts. The tuning aspect of the game is very simple, almost trivial. Basically, you can tweak some sliders to either have a car that performs better on drifting events or sprinting events. That’s tuning in a nutshell for you. You can also tune the appearance, adding props, decals and playing around with the painting system.
Events in the game are divided into various categories; the most fun for me was the Gymkhana, where you have to mix style and speed in order to succeed. On the other side, I didn’t enjoy the Drift Trains events, as the AI of the game decides to go on vacation for these runs, making winning a matter of luck (seriously, I spent a LOT of time with the last Risky Devil challenge, the AI’s randomness is just nuts). Besides the aforementioned modes, you have your classics sprints, time trials, drifting competitions, etc. One type of race I missed was the Drag ones, as usually you prepared a car specially for that and added a little more fun to the mix.
Controls remain on the arcade-side of the spectrum, which is really good as it has been a staple of the Need for Speed franchise; try to be the most real racing game while providing a fun time to gamers that are not that used to driving concepts and get crushed by racing simulators (yours truly, for example). There are a couple of downsides in gameplay valley though; the two most notorious being the lack of a “manual” alternative regarding shifts and the fact that the game needs to be always online to run. This last one proved to be jarring from time to time, as you lose the option to pause the game and players sometime appear out of the blue to ruin your races. Don’t get me wrong, it’s cool to run around the city and seeing other players out there who you can challenge with the simple press of a button, but it would be even cooler if the game recognized whenever you are playing a story event that doesn’t require other players, letting you pause the game and removing any random encounter.
Sound department made a good job overall, providing the appropriate sounds to make you feel like you are driving on of those rides in real life. The music selection for the game is ok, although it falls mostly on the techno side. I would have really appreciated a couple more rock tracks, as I recall Underground titles having a really good amount of those back in the day.
Should you play it? Yeah! The game is fun, goes back to the Underground roots and has jaw dropping visuals. You will definitely have a good time with this one, even if it has it minor drawbacks.
Need for Speed for PC
After almost four months, the full reboot of the very well known racing franchise came to the PC. While a simultaneous release would have been fine, we have seen longer times (looking at you Rockstar). But was it worth the wait? Let’s find out.
The first and most notable difference that any PC gamer will appreciate, is the optimization. Yes, it is optimized for PC, and the good news is that on a modest rig the title runs flawlessly. It also features an unlocked framerate and you can pump up those lovely graphics up to 4k. The original impression everyone had when it was first released for consoles was the amazing and realistic graphics. It was hard to differentiate what was rendered and what was real, even in the cutscenes. Now it looks even better.
To appreciate even more the visuals, you can now play with a steering wheel or any peripheral you want. Most of the brands are already supported, including well known manufacturers including Logitech, Thrustmaster and Fanatec.
Unfortunately, there isn’t any other big difference. Both the highs and lows are still there. The AI rubber banding is still there, which pretty much means you can win with any car since the AI primary goal is to keep up at your speed. It won’t try anything special or smart in any way, it will simply try to keep up. That’s it. Missions are still straight forward and formatted in the same way: Sprints, Circuits, Time Trials, Drift Trials, Drift Races and Gymkhanas with the occasional cutscene to spice up the story with real life icons and actors who look up to these people.
The max level is 50 but soon coming out to 60. The always online experience without any kind of pause is still there. And this is not a minor issue: I was kicked out to the main menu in mid race when my internet decided to die. Not a single warning. Customization is still outstanding and where the game most shines: You can customize the front and back bumpers, body kits, side skirts, rims, tire treads, exhaust tips, bonnet hoods, splitters, trunk lids, diffusers, back and front fender, headlights, back lights, window tint, color, vinyls, preset wraps, you name it. You can achieve pretty much anything you want, and while this is not a simulator, any racing fan will appreciate it. I know I found myself smiling when I was watching cutscenes with my car in there.
Is it still a must play? Yes, it is. Need for Speed features a super fun gameplay. Police chases are also super fun, and be able to play with others and challenge them to a street race with just the press of a button is super enjoyable.