The latest installment in the Need For Speed franchise, simply called Need For Speed, is somewhat of a reboot of the series. It tries very hard to go back to the time of “before”, when NFS was a fun arcade racer with just enough realism to satisfy more serious racing fans, but easy enough to get into that you don’t need to be an actual mechanic to enjoy.
As this is the first game to release exclusively on the new console generation (and for PC sometime in Q1/Q2 2016), graphics are obviously top-notch. Everything, from the world to the cars, looks gorgeous and inviting. Even after a long race when your car has obviously taken a ding or two, the scratches in the paint and bumps in the bodywork look good. There is also the franchise’s famous visual customization, where you can go full-barbie and doll up your car with custom paint jobs, decals, aftermarket body kits and much more to make your ride really unique before adding a drop of torque.
When talking about customization more relevant to the racing side, Need For Speed offers you two ways to do so. First, there is the simple “one slider to rule them all” metric that allows you to globally set your car’s settings between a “Grip” and a “Drift” setup. This automatically adjusts all the other parts towards that particular setting and you’re good to go in a flash. The second option is the individual tuning of each part – this is the part you can spend hours on, tinkering and adjusting to your heart’s content, until you find the perfect settings for you.
Once you got your car all set up, it’s time to race. In this installment of the series, racing is split up into 5 different categories, each one relevant to a different play style: Speed, Style, Build, Crew and Outlaw. Each category is fairly self-explanatory, with “Speed” races are your time trials and “Outlaw” races involve ditching the cops as you zip around Ventura Bay.
The different styles all relate to the game’s story in a direct way – at the beginning, you’re a nameless newcomer who just met the big boys (and gals) in some dingy diner. As you progress down each path, you unlock more of the story and move closer to the final goal of becoming Ventura Bay’s top street-racing icon. Eventually you take on the big names of the city like Magnus Walker (a real-world collector of Porche cars) or the world-famous drift rally racer Ken Block. The story is progressed through a series of phone calls you receive during gameplay, as well as live action cutscenes filmed from the first-person perspective. Yes, completely live action – and while the actors and script aren’t bad, they do tend to drift a bit towards fist-bumping bro-isms that seem just a tad goofy.
With everything else out of the way, the important part of the game is, of course, the racing itself – and I’m somewhat conflicted as to how to label it, exactly. On one hand, there is a definite difference brought on by the tuning options – especially in the two extremes of the scale. Those differences will be the tipping point when you’re tackling the high-difficulty events. On the other hand, the experience still feels more like an arcade racing game than a professional one in terms of control and difference between the vehicles. You can quite happily clear the first 2/3 of the game using whatever starter car you picked, if you spend the time and money to maximize it for whatever race you’re tackling next.
Of course, NFS is not without its quirks and glitches. Most notable are framerate drops that occur rather frequently, especially during crowded events or intense moments – just when you need the most control over your car. Then there’s the matter of always-online, even if you’re playing an exclusively single-player game. In theory, you share the vast area of Ventura Bay with up to 7 other players you can challenge to instant events. In practice, there didn’t seem to be that much of a multiplayer action going on, which makes it the weakest component and it’s quite a shame.
Need For Speed does a good job of rebooting the franchise. It goes back to when NFS was about racing in a large and open setting, and does an admirable job of it. What few quirks it has aren’t game-breaking when you look at the overall game and it’s a decent attempt at getting the franchise back on track.Some of our posts include links to online retail stores. We get a small cut if you buy something through one of our links. Don't worry, it doesn't cost you anything extra.