Need For Speed has been a very prominent arcade racing franchise for the last 21 years. They've had many shifts in the types of racing games they wanted to deliver, from luxurious cars like their Porsche Unleashed, to the street racing scene in Underground, to the straight up criminal escape games like in Most Wanted. One thing has definitely remained is their ridiculous sense of speed. EA and their internal development studio Ghost Games have worked hard at figuring out a way to spark new interest in the series once again, and have chosen to mirror one of their more beloved entries "“ the Underground series. Need For Speed is an open world racing game for the PS4, Xbox One, and PC.
This Need For Speed aims to tell a story carried out through the eyes of a nameless player joining a ragtag group of racers, all seeking the attention of real world motorsport and street racing figures such as self-confessed Tokyo Underworld delinquent Shinichi Morohoshi, car builder Akira Nakai, and self-proclaimed Urban Outlaw Magnus Walker. It's very interesting to see real world figures from different avenues of racing be incorporated in some way. Another really cool feature is that when players inevitably face these icons in a showdown, their own personalized cars are unlocked for use. Each figure represents one of five main themes in Need For Speed: Outlaw, Speed, Crew, Style and Build. The biggest drawback for me during this experience is some of the acting in general. To be fair, it's tough to pull of believable acting and expressions when you're talking to a camera, but it's still a little jarring at times. As a whole though, the story is enjoyable and a great rags to riches formula that has you seeking out your races and marking your spot in the world, however it is fairly short in length.
Gameplay is your typical racing game, set out in a decently large open world. Races seem to be all done from dusk to dawn, and it is a little silly when you're going about the world continuously, finishing a race that appears to be sunrise, only to transition to the world and it's night time. A full 24 hour cycle would have been wiser, despite the whole notion that street racing is done solely at night time. Throughout the game, you can select various main story races or side races that vary from drifting, to one on one races, circuit races, and distance races. Your performance ultimately affects the respect you garner from races along with cash to help tune and modify your existing car, or purchase a newer more powerful vehicle altogether. There are loads of collectibles scattered throughout the fictional tracks of Ventura Bay, like finding specific landmarks for photoshoots, or doing donuts in select areas. One thing to note is that there is no option for manual transmission, so those used to shifting gears on your own may be a little disappointed. There is also an omission of a traditional cockpit view, which is a little odd.
Races can be pretty intense, with style points earned for typical stunts you will have come to expect from past games like Burnout or other Need For Speed games, like drafting, drifting, damage and oncoming traffic. One glaring issue I've noticed early on is the rubber-banding AI that seems to be prevalent in any race. I managed to farm enough cash to really tune up a Toyota AE86 to the point where it ought to have left opponents in the dust, but thanks to this system of artificial intelligence, races are designed so that players are never too far ahead from opponents. Some may perceive this as a continuous challenge from beginning to end, but it almost delegitimatizes the necessity to fully upgrade cars. Upgrading cars just enough to pull ahead will seemingly yield the same results as fully upgrading only to have similar distances between your position and those behind you.
Another pesky nuisance is that Need For Speed requires an internet connection at all times. The purpose is to have real players racing around in the city for you to race and challenge against. But in all honesty that could still be done as an optional mode, not something mandatory. It prevents people from simply playing the main storyline. Your game is ended immediately if you needed to hit up your main menu, and one simple throttling of your internet would also result in your game being ended, even if you're racing an AI opponent. Having always online would be justifiable if there was a rich online that was interweaves multiplayer aspects throughout the main campaign. The reality of it is that online is pretty standard fare, with daily challenges and sharing snapshots.
A good way to show off a game engine is to typically showcase automobiles, as the geometry of a car is easy to pull off, and the way light reflects of their surfaces also adds nice ways to showcase a lighting system. Wether in motion at full throttle or pacing about to take in the scenery, Need For Speed is a gorgeous game. Utilizing the Frostbite 3.0 engine, Ghost Games manage to pull off some very impressive car models, and since the Ventura Bay seems to always have some sort of rainfall, the water beads trickling off the hood of your car is a nice touch. There are occasional hiccups, like some blurry textures for some buildings, and dips in the framerate. The latter is the most problematic, especially in racing games as it screeches a race to a halt and can impact your performance. I wish more care was placed in maintaining a solid framerate, especially when there was a conscious effort to lock the game at 30FPS.
Overall, Need For Speed is a pretty enjoyable albeit flawed game. It does a lot of good with the enjoyable but short story, the great gameplay formula of selecting one of the five mini-stories surrounding reputable racing figures that all highlight an individual theme, and of course the open world that is fairly bulky and full of stuff to do. The unjustifiable mandatory online connection, rubber-banding, dips in the framerate, and peculiar omissions like no manual transmission or cockpit view unfortunately hamper the overall experience. It is tougher to recommend at full price, especially at this time of the year when so many other games are either coming out or have been released around the same time.
|Great car models overall, and the design of Ventura Bay is fairly large and nicely laid out for races.|
|Nice use of real world motorsport enthusiasts and street racers.|
|While the acting can be hokey, the story is still pretty enjoyable.|
|Always requiring an internet connection can end your game if youâ€™re not careful, even when racing an AI opponent.|
|Framerate issues for a title already locked to 30FPS.|
|Weird omissions of features that are essentially standards in todayâ€™s racing games, like Manual Transmission or a Cockpit view.|