Developer: Ghost Games
Release Date: November 10, 2017
Platforms: Xbox One, Playstation 4, Microsoft Windows
Need For Speed for the past few titles has been finding it’s way out of trying to be the Fast and Furious game everyone always wanted to becoming its own independent franchise known for characteristics you can only find within the series. Bouncing from developer to developer like EA Black Box, Criterion Games and Slightly Mad Studios. And now Ghost Games, who’ve now reached their third game in the franchise with Need For Speed: Rivals, Need For Speed, and Need For Speed: Payback. Ghost Games well recognized for Rivals for expanding and improving on the ideas from Criterion’s Hot Pursuit and rebooting the franchise which was decently received.
Going back to June, Need For Speed: Payback was announced at EA Play for E3 where including me as well as a few others from the Rectify Gaming team got to demo the game after the show. The insanity of the franchise giving players an more open world with a more immersive experience against both racers and police by slamming and disabling cars in a ball of crushing metal and flying glass. The demo as expected has you placed in set boundaries following the objective. In the 10 minutes chasing a truck to steal high priority car, it felt scripted and at times on a guide rail. But excusing it for being the game’s debut and waiting for the full game.
Need For Speed: Payback is here and from what I played of it, it seems Ghost Games didn’t change much from the demo and even left out from their older titles, creating new problems for the newest installment in the franchise.
Payback sets you in Fortune Valley, a fictional area based off the Las Vegas city and the surrounding Mojave. Playing up to three players: Tyler (Racer), Mac (Off road) and Jess (Wheelman), the three planned a heist against the House who runs the casinos in Fortune Valley. The House hosted a high-end circuit in the streets of the city and with help from an House insider Lina, she got them a spot in the race. Planning to steal the car, flip it and to include Lina in a cut.
Tyler would race, Mac would set up the ramp to extract the car, and Jess was security. Before they could make it with the car Lina double crosses them, steals the car for herself, and sabotages your crew. Leaving Tyler after getting caught in the situation of either going to jail or quit racing and working for the House. Giving Marcus, the one who hosted the circuit, to plan against Lina and give Tyler what he wants: Payback.
The characters of Payback is more likable than of Need For Speed (2015). Holding a more direct role with each other and cooperating in heists had more realistic feeling of character development than the awkward dialogue, fist bumps and the constant consumption of Monster Energy. Even though in-game conversation may be much at times, it’s more driven and grabs my attention to stay interested in the story.
From the start of the game it’s easy to tell the difference between Payback and the previous. Payback can be picked out more computer generated than 2015’s Need For Speed. And that’s not a bad thing either. Leaving the urban streets of the fictional Los Angeles to the arid deserts opens a lot for how the game will look. And with a new day/night cycle is a major improvement from the constant night to dusk and back to night gives more visual variety. Even when boosting the NOS to max, the entire composition of the screen increases its vibrancy for a quick second and it works perfectly.
But that’s it really. The desert with all the detail in rock formations and the sometimes rolling tumbleweed gets old fast. The city for the most part is only 1/4th of the map and the strip for the casinos is next to nothing. Especially when you physically can’t look up unless you’re far enough to see the top of the building. At least the reboot had the occasional rain with the orange bouncing off the puddles from the street lights.
For cars they look as good as they can get. From the standard clean to powdered in dirt from off roading, it’s impressive to say the least. When it goes dark, the lights seem to work better out of the city as the head lights shine ahead on the area, making it feel more desolate which works for the game’s setting. But there’s not much else to go.
The HUD is the standard minimap, speedometer and occasional position leaderboard like all others. The leaderboard was more obnoxiously big than the previous, but in long-term works for the game.
Probably the most attractive part about Payback is how this game actually plays. The drifting still fits perfectly from the previous, even when off road. How cars turn and control giving the more arcady feel that some of the first titles of the franchise played. While it plays a tad comicy, you still feel in control when in the most intense races.
From the pavement to the barren desert, it all works. Roaming through bushes and running over sand, slowing you down, to reaching back to the concrete roads to gain more momentum is the perfect equilibrium. It’s what lacked in Need For Speed as the city only had so many lamp posts and mailboxes or stopping completely when ‘nicking the side of a building, holding you back from any chance of making it first that race. Another mechanic they perfected was air time with the cars as I found out when off roading. As before the car would awkwardly try to stay on the ground as if it was a magnet when in air, but now it’s more enjoyable when making some major air time.
But here’s when I’ve started hitting some problems. As I played the story missions more, it reflected a lot of what was happening in the demo back at E3. It lacked a lot of freedom that seemed to be promised from trailers and demos. Locked to the objective and pushed to the right spot. Even when doing a drift or hitting a major jump turned the game towards a cutscene, making it more cinematic rather than interactive. The game started to feel more restricted than liberating when progressing through the story and only limited to so much as how to play. There was a variation of class per car for certain missions, but overall it’s not enough.
The biggest problem was the game felt as if it started to come apart the more I played. Loading times for the previous was understandably long for it’s time two years ago and this game showed the improvement. But when I pulled up to a mission the load time was countless minutes and ended with me having to restart the whole game. And when pulling up to a tune up shop to upgrade, I’ve lost my mimimap in the process when exiting too fast.
When exploring the new world laid out for us, I expected there to be more, but was left disappointed. With just the main missions as the most to get out of it while they litter the map with fewer collectibles and drifting/speed trap activities that just get repetitive fairly quick. Leaving the game empty just like the game’s main location.
One thing that really annoyed many from the preceding game was the constant online connection that help players back from both playing if they had networking issues or to even pause the game. For Payback that’s not a problem no more. Including the standard races and mission leaderboards, but not much else expanded on it.
Another taken away from the game’s freeroam was the police encounters when riding around. Countless titles previous of Payback had it included and this being one that emphasizes heavily on police chases to push the game and it’s not even included is just disappointing. With not much to encounter as it is, a major role absent from the open world doesn’t give much reason to even explore. And this will help expand on to another buggy encounter I’ve had that practically took life away from the game. One point I started driving through the game to another mission in freeroam and the cars on my side of the road weren’t moving. Standing in the road as I passed them and eventually discovering that I can drive through them also.
Major technical problems I’ve encountered were present when freeroaming if that helps. Textures popping and not loading making the emptiness of the desert harder to look at. Another occurrence was when I rode off the road towards a hill as the textures were still trying to load. As I reached the hill and started climbing up I was hindered to do so as I stopped immediately, slamming into an invisible wall. Not even near the boundaries of the map to make things better.
Continuing on the game’s complications: the only one that I found in the game’s story was during a cutscene out of the possibilities. When Tyler exited his car to another his rendered skin was not showing. Similar to a locked character in a fighting game taking his place. With a mix of solid color pixels replacing his hair leaving me baffled on what was just witnessed.
Carrying over Need For Speed’s customization and adding more standing out decals works well for the new variant classes help to depict from one another. But what was left from the game’s predecessor was the upgrade system and tried something more unethical. Instead of leveling up to unlock better tier upgrades for specific parts and doing side missions that unlock more distinct parts for drifting or speed, it’s randomized completely taking customizable freedom from you.
Similar to The Crew as doing certain races and activities reward you with a random tier part specifically for what’s related to that class, but instead only randomizes giving you three speed cards to choose from to aimlessly give you. Each car goes up to six different upgrades that vary like brakes, nitrous and ECU. Instead of the many different parts that the previous game had for every car, this takes a lot of personality away from them.
The Tune-Up-Shop that’s offered to the game is just as bad as the main speed card idea. Just as they’re random after every race, the store is randomized every 30 minutes. So if there’s a specific upgrade you saw one time, won’t be present the next time you visit. And for cards that you have no use for anymore you have the option to either sell or trade for speed token to use towards a slot machine for a better speed card, hopefully.
As a whole, Need For Speed: Payback had a lot of potential to look forward to when originally announced, but resulted in offering less than the games before had to offer. Stripping main game mechanics that several previous offered that gave the game life and made it fun. Even with a more enjoyable story and still fun to play, what’s actually left of the game is not much to get out of it.
And for the constant bugs that I’ve ran into in the time I’ve played, it’s disappointing to see that an EA game from 2017 seems like it belongs in 2014 along with their other titles that experienced similar problems at launch. As they are minor, they shouldn’t be as frequent as they present to be. Especially after the line of games of before, they should of known better.
If you’re a big enough fan to still excuse what I’ve encountered and play what’s fun in the game, go right ahead. But for those new or not too crazy for the Need For Speed franchise, it’s worth holding off until the mess is cleaned up.
- Arcade-esc Driving
- More liked story
- Variation in driving
- Scripted missions
- Too many bugs
- Bare open world
- Lack in visual aesthetic
- Unpredictable upgrades