Electronic Arts’ flag ship racer is back for the Xbox One, PS4, and PC with a pseudo reboot, at least that’s what I think it is since it’s not Need For Speed: (Insert racing subtitle here) and just back to Need for Speed. Anyways, the last couple Need For Speed games have been fairly fun, especially the Hot Pursuit and Most Wanted games which had you playing either as a cop or someone speeding from the cops. Outside of of Mario Kart I’ve never had that much fun playing a racing game with four or more people, but I guess those didn’t sell as well and since EA is all about franchises (fuck fun one-off games) and if something doesn’t sell the way they want it to, they gut the concept, sometimes the development teams and start anew.
This appears to be what has happened with Need for Speed. The game, developed by Ghost Games is a new direction for the series complete with an actual cast and cut-scenes straight out of the 90’s with live actors instead of digital animation. Before I go any further in my review, the real actors are fine, they’re not terrible but going from a video game presentation to a second rate Fast and the Furious movie (and not the good ones) is a bit jarring, especially since I’m also playing Halo 5 and just finished Metal Gear Solid 5, in which both games handle cut-scenes brilliantly and totally immerses you in the story, going from a digital race car to a movie just reminds you that you’re playing a video game and takes you out of your immersion.
This NFS has a story attached to it, one that feels like a rejected Fast and the Furious script. I mean I get why they put it in there, the game is about street racing and it’s a way to get you from race to race. Your crew calls your up or texts you and tells you to meet them somewhere to do some drifting or a circuit race, or a sprint and you go there and the event starts, but it feels a bit cheesy. I didn’t mind the opening cut-scene where you meet Spike, rich college boy, who introduces you to the rest of the crew. Quick side note, the rest of the crew gives Spike shit about going to college and that his parents are wealthy, not sure what EA is going for here but in spite of Spike being a totally one dimensional character and a goofball do we really need to make fun of him for going to college? I mean should that be commended?
In the opening Spike introduces you to his crew made up of Robyn, Amy, Travis, and Manuel, in the early stages of the game these are the folks who call you up to go race. Later on you’ll meet some more folks but that may or may not be spoiler-ish so I’ll leave that be. Anyways, the crew sending you messages to let you know about races is a nice touch, There are also events scattered throughout the city that you can activate if your Rep level is high enough.
Speaking of your Rep level, it’s basically like XP in your standard RPG, you increase it through winning races, out running cops, pulling off cool tricks while just driving around town. This seems to become a standard affair for racing games these days. You don’t just earn money anymore jut XP as well.
At the start of the game you can choose between one of three cars, a new Subaru BRZ, and 90’s era Ford Mustang and Honda Civic. Once you buy the car you can upgrade it buy buying parts, though some parts you can only buy once you’ve completed certain missions from Amy or by raising your Rep level up to a certain level.
NFS is a fun game to play but I found that it fell in this weird in between of the Forza series and Burnout Paradise (two of my all-time favorite racing games). The graphics in this game are gorgeous, but not at the level of Forza, and where the game is fun to play the way it’s set up of you just driving around town reminds looking for races also reminds me of Burnout Paradise (another EA racer), but it’s just not quite as fun to play. Also this game can’t decide if it wants to be a serious racer or an arcade racer and the handling of the cars suffer for this. Steering feels a little too lose for a serious racer but at times too tight for an arcade racer. Where a game like Forza is so finely tuned that even when just using a controller it feels like you’re really driving or like in Burnout you’re just having so much fun you don’t care about the ridiculousness of the game. Even though I enjoyed playing NFS, while I was playing it I really just wanted to play Forza or Burnout.
Even though there is a variety of races the only one I particularly enjoyed were the sprints. The circuits were kind of boring and I wasn’t a fan at all of the drifting events. But the sprints were just an adrenaline rush since one mistake would cost you the race so it tested your reflexes like no other, especially when the race inexplicably made you drive down the wrong side of the highway. Speaking of driving down the wrong side of the road whenever you use your GPS to get to an event it is constantly giving you a route going to wrong way down a one way road, so it’s just like real life Google Maps.
Like most modern street racing games there are cops roaming the cities and if they see you breaking the law they’ll give chase, however the cops kind of suck at pursuing. After your first run-in you’ll get a text from a mysterious person named outlaw who will challenge you to different ways of avoiding the cops. The very first one is to get the cops to chase you for two minutes and then you have to escape. This was only difficult because it’s not hard to ditch the cops so keeping them on your tail for two whole minutes if tough. I got lucky and narrowly avoided a head on collision but the cop did not. He was stuck so I just did donuts around him for the two minutes then drove off. Outlaw was pleased.
Final Verdict: Overall NFS is a fun game and a nice new direction to refresh the series. It has some faults, one being it’s identity crisis, it either needs to go full-on for either arcade racer or serious racer. The other fault I found with it was EA’s annoying online all the time feature that requires your to be online to play. Why? I have no idea but luckily this whole weekend I didn’t lose internet or that could have disrupted my game. I had fun playing the game but like I said above it made me want to play better racing games. For that I give this game a 7 out of 10.