Need for Speed skids back onto the scene following a two year hiatus with Ghost Games once again in the driver’s seat. Following the rather disappointing Need for Speed Rivals, can this reboot bring the series back to its street racing roots with success? Here’s the 4-One review.
[PC Review Update at the end of the article]
Like any of the traditional Need for Speed titles over the years, this Need for Speed makes use of the live action cinematics, with the characters on screen talking to you in first person. You never see yourself, but you see ‘your’ hands every now and again, drinking Monster, fist pumping, giving high fives and drinking Monster. I said that twice, purposely. The amount of Monster energy drink that is consumed in these cinematics is hilarious. Clearly it’s product placement, but the fact that you meet your crew every so often in the pub, the club, the garage, the trailer parks, it’s all just Monster, Monster, Monster. I’d say the actors were buzzing during recording!
The game sees you being introduced to some car enthusiasts, after you pulled off an amazing drift (before you start the game). You’re introduced to Travis, the head of this ‘crew’, as well as Amy the diehard mechanic and tuner, Robyn the eye-candy drift enthusiast, Emanuel the stylish driving enthusiast and ‘Spike’, the youngster who envies high speeds. As you progress through the game, you will see these guys quite often. It’s almost a shame that they don’t feature on the box art, as the likes of Nakai-san, Ken Block and Magnus Walker; the racing icons, rarely feature until the end of each ‘career path’.
There are five disciplines to get involved in. Tuning, style, speed, outlaw and drifting. Join each of the crew members on their own journeys to attract the attention of the icons, and work your way up the ladder, granting you access to more money, more options and parts for tuning, and harder races to beat. I’ve read that some people managed to complete the whole game in under 10 hours with their EA Access trial, but it took me 21 hours in total. There is quite a lot of content in there, with time trials. multiplayer races, and a host of collectibles to find; in the form of donuts (not the edible ones) in car parks, or trucks with ‘free’ car parts on the trailer. Consider it stealing whenever you find one of these collectibles!
Fast & Infuriating
I guess you want to know about Need for Speed’s driving mechanics, eh? Well, they can be frustrating. The game is fun to play, but sometimes the car feels like it has a mind of its own, as if it’s wrestling with your position on the track. Sometimes I found myself adjusting my line constantly just to keep the car in one lane, otherwise I’d end up in the back of another car or wrapped around a lamppost. When at a low speed, such as every time to leave the garage, which you will visit a lot, it feels like you’re driving a tank. Only when you’re at a decent speed, will the car feel easier to navigate. This can frustrate when mid-race, you take the wrong turn or miss the turn off on the highway, and have to u-turn. The car feels really sluggish.
It’s difficult to put it in words, but I feel the driving mechanics could have been much better, but it’s still a fun game. So many times I’d shout expletives at the screen, at the car, at the AI, but still I continued playing. There were some races which were both challenging and frustrating. One crash or missed turn and you had no hope of catching the rest of the grid. Many a time I’d go back to the garage, adjust my car settings, try buying another upgrade, and restarting the race. Still, I’d fail. I’d then give in and by another car, a more powerful one, spend all my money on upgrading it, and still struggle. Eventually, I’d finish the race successfully. Frustration. I probably needed a Monster.
As for the cars. There are about 50 on offer. Many are your typical Japanese tuner cars like the Mazda MX-5, Subaru Impreza, Mitsubishi Lancer or Honda Civic. These are surprisingly good, even in the latter half of the game. I used my Subaru GT86 for the majority of the game, choosing other vehicles only when I struggled for one or two of the races, or had to use a specific car for a specific challenge. Other cars on offer range from American Muscle cars like Mustangs and Corvettes, as well as hyper cars like the Lamborghini Gallardo and Porsche 911. I didn’t even touch these, believe it or not.
Garage space is limited, with room for a minimal amount of 5. In Need for Speed, it’s not about building a collection, it’s about focusing on a handful of perfectly tuned, modified and painted beauties, personal to you. I bought the BMW M3 for nostalgic reasons, as it resembled the Most Wanted livery, but used it twice. It’s still in my garage. I’m sentimental. One of the car slots is switched out whenever I need to use a certain vehicle.
Sights and Sounds of the City
Graphically, Need for Speed looks good. The whole game is set on a 12 hour clock; it’s always night time. Illegal street racing and all that. Ventura Bay has loads of spots to visit, and the world is expansive. Loads of highways, parking lots, construction sites, city streets and alleyways, a few ramps here and there to discover, and the collectibles to seek out. It’s generally always wet and raining, which way sound grim, but it actually serves the game well, with the raindrops on the screen and the glow of police lights and rear lights from the car adding some varied colours to the screen.
The engine sounds from the cars are beefy, with hissing, immense revving, down-shifting and NOS all making delicious sounds to make any car lover excited. The customisation options, whether cosmetic or performance, look, sound and feel great. Some cars have more options than others when it comes to body work, but all cars can take advantage of the performance upgrades available. You will spend some time in the garage fine-tuning the slider settings to get the right grip and suspension, as well as front and rear brake bias, differentials and more. It’s not as detailed as a simulation racer like Project CARS or Forza Motorsport, but for an arcade racer, there’s a good amount to play with.
Regarding Need for Speed’s soundtrack… It wasn’t for me. I feel it was one of the weaker offerings in the series, and I always remember previous titles having much more memorable tracks to race around to. Maybe I’m just old, but some of the tunes just felt like noise, and nothing on the soundtrack was familiar to me, and I have a varying interest in music.
All in all, Need for Speed is a fun game, with loads there to keep you occupied. As I said, I got through most of the game in about 21 hours, and that was while making use of the fast travel option to go from race to race. It probably explains how I missed a few of the collectibles, avoiding the long journeys to get through the story, which was a bit dramatic at times, with a few too many hashtags and a few too many cans of Monster.
Need for Speed can be an infuriating game, but hard to put down once you get sucked into it. The police make a cameo from my experience, and considering you’re racing at breakneck speeds through a city, I expected more of them. Trying to locate a police car to initiate a chase sometimes proved time consuming, as if they were all on a day off.
I wouldn’t call it a ‘must play’, but for fans of driving games, you may well enjoy Need for Speed. It’s not perfect, the driving mechanics can make you scream, but you will eventually get through the difficulties and more often than not, have fun.
[Update to review]
Since Need for Speed’s launch, Ghost Games have been fantastic with post-launch support and content. With updates to the wrap editor, also allowing you to share and download wraps, there was the manual transmission update, new DLC for free, and loads more cosmetic options. The Legends add-on brought Eddie back from Need for Speed Underground, we saw more music being added to the game, much of which is from previous Need for Speed titles, as well as emblems from the game’s historic crews.
New race types were also added such as Drag racing and features such as the Snapshot PRO camera let you show off your car in style. The PC release also came about this week, and from what we’ve been told, it’s a very faithful port.
“Ok, so I’ve had at least one crash as soon as I started the game but it was only once so I don’t count it against the port. However, the online-only problem made it so that the game did freeze once or twice most likely due to a server issue. Hell, at one point, I came out of the garage and couldn’t continue playing cause the game would respawn my car a block away every single time. Had to kill the game through the task manager. But technical problems aside, it doesn’t seem to have the Showcase or Hot Rods Update though. Only the Legends and Icons update. Everything else that I would and could write about would be more of a review of the game’s content rather than anything relating to the port. There does seem to be some lag though just like on the consoles whenever I drift heavily with other cars through corners.
[A racing] wheel can be used, with options to choose which buttons you want to redefine. Not just for the wheel though, but for the keyboard AND an Xbox controller. All buttons on the controller can be redefined. I’ve seen no bugs yet or and haven’t had any performance problems. It’s quite stable and even if it is online-only, I haven’t been kicked out of the server once. I’d call it a straight up polished port.”
All this talk about Need for Speed, I might just hop back in right now and get racing again!
Need for Speed was purchased by us and reviewed on Xbox One. The added PC review update was supplied by Igor Polyakov.