We’ve all heard of Need for Speed, what seems to be the gaming equivalent to Fast and Furious. It’s an arcade racing game, with normal npc cars driving around alongside with you, as well as racer npcs. The endgoal? Be the best dang racer out there.
The most recent Need for Speed game (before this) was Need for Speed: Rivals, where players could choose to play as either racer or cop, each with their own campaigns, in the vast climate of Redview County.
This newest Need for Speed has the player as an underground street racer in Ventura Bay, a large area with a gritty city and rustic country area. Ventura Bay isn’t as big as Redview County, but the sheer difference of urban jungle from open highways gives the feel that there is actually more square footage of roads in the urban area than the county. These roads also provide greater ability to avoid or escape from the police, who will hunt you down if you speed past them, drift, or slam into them.
That being said, the police in Need for Speed are…not threatening. Even Rivals’ npc police vehicles presented a challenge the odd time, but in this Need for Speed, simply drifting around two corners is enough to get enough space to escape. And I wouldn’t complain, except for the fact that if you are doing an “Outlaw” mission that requires a long chase or a large fine, you will find it hard to actually keep the police on your trail.
The mission system in Need for Speed is similar to others before it, but it gives a sweet variability that hasn’t presented itself before. The player’s peers each offer different types of races; drift races, touges (my personal favourite), gymkhanas, sprints, and several others. Each of these peers is generally allotted a theme to them as well, for instance: Manu, one of the quest givers, has (Style) written after his name, implying that there is a lot of drift races he offers.
Eventually when far enough through a peer’s races, the player is requested at a cutscene area, where a live-action scene is played out in first person. Cheesy camera effects, Monster Energy Drink, and over-the-top acting are what the player experiences, as well as Monster. But these effects, including Monster, really bring the game together and makes you feel like you are a part of something, as opposed to just some dude who decided to race and leave your opponents in your exhaust trail, well drinking Monster. Oh, did I mention Monster?
With the varying styles of races, players can feel like they can do what they want to do. There is absolutely no pressure on a player to do all of the races, and one could easily just drift or race if they wanted to–not having to do both (unless they want to complete all the campaign missions). I’ve heard some complaints people have stated about needing two cars, one for drifting and one for racing, but throughout my 40 hour plus playthrough, I only ever needed one car, and it was my starting car. The sheer amount of upgrades one can buy (with in-game currency) can turn any machine into a beast. But upgrades aren’t everything.
The player also has complete control on the car’s handling and tuning. That’s right, everything from brake drift assist, steering response, sway bars–the works–are all put on sliders so the player can make the car handle exactly how they want, whether its to make smooth and grounded turns, or wide drift turns. These sliders open a vast area for customization and in the personalizing of your ride.
But besides performance upgrades, the game really shines in its visual customization. Past games in the series have allowed the user to paint their car in many colours, and possibly add several pre-designed decals and wraps, some ‘meh’, some awesome. But this Need for Speed gives the player thousands of different shapes and designs in which they can place where and how they want, with a large amount of layers per each of the 10 (or so) sections the car has. This allows for some pretty tricked out rides.
But the player isn’t limited to mere paint and colour options, no no, the player also has the availability to choose body modifications on their ride as well, from side skirts, bumpers, hoods, and many more. This variability does seem to shrink on the more expensive cars you can own, but the beginning cars (which you will most likely use throughout your playthrough) have a plethora.
The cars themselves are a decently-sized roster. From pre-90’s vehicles to 10’s, there is a large diverse group to choose from. The player only has 5 spots in their garage however, and although you can get through the game with 1-2 cars, it is a little sad that you are limited to such a small amount. My garage is full of fully designed, upgraded, and styled cars, mostly just for looks when I livestream it though.
The graphics of the game? Fantastic. I’m not one to judge graphics in general, but how lighting effects cars and the beads of rain falling and spreading on your windshield is fantastic. The world is generally at night and dark, and so your reliance on light and civilian head/rear lights is key to staying on the dark roads, especially going uphill in the country. The game has a type of ‘pre-dawn’ setting as well, which is quite bright compared to the 85% darkness you’re used too, but it comes in handy when driving. Skid marks seem realistic and well-rendered, there’s no weird mark on the upside of a curb, or facing the complete other way your tire was. Smoke from burning rubber seems a little iffy, as it is obscenely opaque and seems rather low-quality compared to the vista the game portrays, and I found it to ruin my sweet donut or the feel of revving my engine.
The UI is beautiful and is never in the way, but I feel as though sometimes the map (located in the bottom left) is in an odd position, and found that when I was looking at the route ahead, I could sway into an accident and lose my place in the race. Another thing–making sure you make the right turn is also of utmost importance. Many times you will see a turn coming up, and actually turn early or incorrectly because there was a unsurity in the paths you could take (it had cost me a few races). Sometimes the arrows on the road leading you to your next checkpoint are hardly visible, and you can find yourself straining to get a glimpse of one well trying to dodge a sudden group of traffic. Needless to say, it causes alot of head-on collisions.
The sounds of the game are fantastic. Each car’s engine is distinctly different, and I found I was actually able to tell what cars my opponents were driving based on the sound of the engine after playing the game for some time. Squealing tires present themselves not to be annoying, which is beneficial for those like me who are drift-kings.
The soundtrack is good; a lot of songs that are not common to hear, but soon you start choosing favourites and become excited when they play during your races. They all seem to fit the intensity of driving, and really help the experience of blazing past your opponents at 210mph. In fact, the only time music didn’t impress me was when you are being pursued by the police. The awesome radio-esque playlist stops and plays a dreary melodic tune, which is actually a good soundtrack piece–until you’ve heard it for the millionth time.
Just like other Need for Speeds, this was an arcade racing game. Is it realistic? Heck no, or at least not for 99.999% of people. The stunts and drifting, high speed slams, and crazy physics-defying actions all exhibit that. If racing isn’t your style of game, these kind of games would suit you best (if you want to race, that is) because they don’t rely on realistic traction and damaging mechanics: The only time a crash actually effects your vehicle is when you are going at an extremely fast speed and you get T-boned or ram yourself into something.
As I previously stated, racing isn’t my favourite genre. Not that its a bad genre, I just prefer action-based shooters or platforms. But the main reason I picked this game up was because it reminded me of a previous Need for Speed game I played as a child and fell in love with: Need for Speed Underground (and Underground 2). It has a very similar feel and brought back many fond memories as I was playing it, and after 10+ years, I can finally say I have a new favourite racing game.