*A review copy of the game was provided by the publisher ahead of the game’s release.*
21 years. 22 iterations. 150 million copies sold. A dozen different platforms. And one horrible movie. Need for Speed is a franchise that has stood the test of time. This in part to its unique game play, fast cars and infamous car chases. Now, at the drinking age of 21, Need For Speed is back to give the racing genre a run for its money.
Need For Speed’s story is simple, you are a player in the world of illegal street racing with your rag-tag group of friends. Each friend, great in their own department of racing, is out to impress the streets main leaders. The different segments of racing involve speed, style, crew, build and outlaw. Each of these adds to a system call respect. Respect works as the game’s natural leveling system.
The guts of Need For Speed has you behind the wheel, traversing the decently sized Ventura Bay(designed around the Los Angeles area). Here, you will find various mission/quests that have to be completed. Usually, this requires you to rank in the top three or to win period. Each mission, when completed, awards the player cash for upgrades or new cars and respect points to increase your overall level. Different missions include street races, time trials, drifting challenges and out running the cops.
“Ghost Games gets the feeling of speed down particularly well.”
The driving portion of the game feels solid. Ghost Games gets the feeling of speed down particularly well. Drifting around corners can be a bit hard to grab at first but after a while, is quite fun. Cars feel planted, even more so when you use the game’s in depth tuning system (akin to that of Forza Motorsport 6, surprisingly). However, the AIs,particularly in drifting challenges, is an annoyance. Mainly because the CPUs aggression is far too high, causing them to take corners at high speeds and violently whale into the side of your riced out Subaru BRZ. This frustration grows in race challenges when you are winning, only to be side swiped and finish dead last.
Visually speaking, Need for Speed excels. Sure, the actual car models are not entirely impressive. When one thinks impressive, you have to look at what Turn 10 has done with Forza and their tremendous line-up of cars. Here, Ghost Games is working with a much smaller line up (about ten times smaller, actually) and yet the quality is just not there. This is the most noticeable when driving on Ventura Bay’s streets, which are absolutely gorgeous. The water effects create large puddles that sparkle the moon light and street lights. You might find yourself swerving in and out of traffic due to getting lost in such visual aesthetics.
Customization is also featured in Need For Speed. Customization can go as far as vehicle wraps (paint jobs), tires, tuning, exterior mods and of course mechanical modifications. Fine tuning your car to be either drifting or a racer can be a fascinating balance that Ghost Games forces you to ride. You can make one hell of a drift car but it might not be quite the same when it comes to racing. Whatever it may be, there is plenty of options here for loading out your vehicle. Unfortunately, some of these modifications are locked behind an experience wall. So, even if you have the credits, doesn’t mean you will have the ability to purchase that modification.
“The story of Need For Speed doesn’t really inspire.”
Unfortunately, the story of Need For Speed doesn’t really inspire. Each character is acted by a real life actor and unfortunately, not a single one delivers a performance of note. Lines are delivered wooden and the script is plagued with drab scenes that go on far too long. After a while you become obtuse to the obnoxious one liners. The story wouldn’t be such an issue but the cut-scene length chips quite a bit into the game’s actual content.
Technically, Need For Speed is a few faults away from being a catastrophe. First off, Ghost Games went with the infamous always-online system. Functionally, the game works as it should and never really posed a serious problem. However, it dates the game before you even open the packaging. In a year or so, when you’re wanting to play Need For Speed, you might be nixed out because the servers are shutdown. Furthermore, the game is a technical nightmare (Xbox One version). Car chases force the game’s frame rate to buckle to an unacceptable, eye tormenting frame rate. Not only that but the game is prone to hard, system rebooting crashes. Think Batman: Arkham Knight issues.
Need For Speed is as mixed of a bag as you can get. On one hand, driving can be fun and completely freeing. Tuning your car to some Frankenstein creation adds quality hours and drifting is a ridiculously entertaining mechanic. However, the car lineup is limited, the story is non-existent and the game is a technical nightmare. Ghost Games made a charming racing simulator but ultimately dated it with its online only functionality and small roster of cars. This is a rent at best.