The smell of burning rubber, the rumble of the engines and the thud of bass heavy music, welcome back to Need For Speed!
Released, not as a sequel but a full reboot to the series, Need For Speed stands as the twenty-second title in the franchise. From the minute you begin, it’s easy to see that Ghost Games have stripped back what the franchise had become and went back to the original themes of street-racing and visual customisation. Ghost have taken a look back in the franchise’s history and developed a game reminiscent of the ever popular titles, Need For Speed: Underground 1 and 2 and of course, Need For Speed: Most Wanted which still to this day has one of the best soundtracks featured in any game. PERIOD!
On first impressions, the visuals aren’t dazzling. Although they’re clean cut, it looks like a well polished title from the last gen, rather than a market leading current gen game. Gameplay generally takes place during the night and it’s nearly always drizzling, giving the game a constantly sodden look that before long, get’s old. On some occasions you’ll be racing all through the night, allowing the game to briefly show off how dawn would look in the fictional city of Ventura Bay, before being violently thrust back into night time for the next race. The harsh transition between day and night can sometimes be a little sudden and off-putting, especially when the game teases the beauty of the streets in sunlight.
Surprisingly, all the cutscenes are filmed using real life actors. This isn’t something I’ve seen for a few years and it took a little getting used to. Once I did eventually warm to the live acting, I felt myself cringing through most of the dialogue. Cliché teen racers, loud clothing and enough energy drink to wake my wife on a Sunday morning, are the flavour for these videos. With product placement like nothing before and enough slang to make Shakespeare turn in his grave, these cutscenes are the ultimate in try-hards. These cutscenes however do successfully introduce the main characters, your “crew”.
These five nobodies are apparently local racing celebrities in search of attention from iconic real life racers, Ken Block and Magnus Walker to name a few. After a short race, you’re welcomed into the crew by the ever irritating kid of the gang, “Spike”. His name alone should probably give a pretty good representation of who this character is. The prepubescent teen, buzzing off his tits on Monster Energy drink, managed to not only get a driving licence but a pretty sweet ride as well. Through a combination of words I’ve not heard before and fist-bumps, you’re introduced to the gang members and that’s it… you’re in! Throughout the game your crew act as the quest givers, phoning you every time they have a new race for your to partake in. On to the road…
The cars all handle pretty well and, as in most NFS titles, upgrading them will make them handle even better. Through a combination of sliding-bars and purchased upgrades, you can tune your car to become the ultimate racing machine. Favouring one of two styles, “drift” or “grip” will give your car it’s own unique feel, perfected to how you want to throw it around in a race.
I never counted exactly how many cars were featured in the new game, but it neared at least fifty. A large selection of different manufacturers from across the years all made for a very detailed and varied choice of cars, each with hundreds of modifications to make, both visual and performance based.
Whilst racing, you’ll also earn experience points through a variety of divisions; speed, style, build, crew and outlaw. Each of these divisions can be progressed through completing certain types of challenges or feats. This adds a surprising level of tactical thinking on the racetrack and will change the game from a “normal” racer, to something a little more thought provoking.
And of course, what would a Need For Speed title be without a memorable soundtrack? With songs from Avicii, Major Lazor, The Chemical Brothers and The Prodigy, Need For Speed has, once again, created the perfect sound track for this high-octane racer.
The always online feature has two annoying factors. Firstly, being always online, this game cannot be paused, which means if you’re being chased by the police and really need to hit the toilet, well tough luck, you’ll either be caught by the feds but relieved or escape but piss yourself. The choice is yours. The second downside to this, is that if there are ever any problems with the network (much like the recent problems Xbox Live have encountered) you’ll be unable to play the game.
Sadly, drag racing is once again missing. It was a fundamental feature in some of the older games and since it’s dismissal, fans have continued to ask for it’s return. It’s absence has left fans questioning, but still hopeful it’ll make a comeback in the future.
Overall, it’s great to see Need For Speed back on our consoles and in very good form. Although it might not be the best looking racer out there, nor the most original, having the new Need For Speed back is like having your favourite Uncle over for Christmas. He’ll tell the same old jokes, give you the same pair of socks he did last year and he’ll always fall asleep after dinner, but you love him all the same.
“Need For Speed – Just Like Your Old Uncle”