Need for Speed (2015) Preview

“I have the need for speed all over again.”

One of EA's biggest games at E3 this year is Need for Speed, a reboot of the series courtesy of developer Ghost Games. I got some hands on time with the game after a short presentation in which Ghost explained its idea of a reboot and how that fits into the overall Need for Speed franchise. The company had an extra year to work on the new series entry, and the result is a game that tries to stay true to its roots while also spearheading a new direction for the popular racing franchise. For the most part, Need for Speed captures the best of both worlds.

Need for Speed includes five different paths to victory, though Ghost Games didn't show much of it outside of a brief custscene with real actors. Immediately the demo gets to the customization elements, which feature a streamlined presentation. The game eliminates nearly all menusplayers simply hover over parts of the vehicle to change them. It speeds up the customization process, but Need for Speed still touts plenty of options for players who obsess over unique vehicles designs. Although the playable demo only features five different cars and limited customization options, it's a strong sign of what's to come.

Customization also comes in the form handling, which can be tuned for each individual player. The main meter at the top dictates handling/drifting, a way to tweak the game to feel like older or newer Need for Speed games respectively. There are a ton of options beyond that, to the point that it feels like a simulation racer in which players tweak individual cars for hours at a time. On the other hand, it's very easy to ignore all of that. In fact, I didn't touch the tuning options at all because I was comfortable with the default controls. The simple fact that the game includes the option is appreciated though.

The racing itself is the real meat of Need for Speed, and it's an area in which the game excels. Once again the handling of each car feels spot on, much like Ghost Games' Need for Speed Rivals. The ease of drifting stands out more so than anything else, and it often dictates who wins races or drift events. My only problem is the camera, which shifts to severe angles with each sharp turn. I certainly got used to it the more I played it, but I still crashed into momentum-killing poles far too often because of the camera. Outside of that, I had no issues speeding my way through the streets of Need for Speed which promotes freedom. At any point players can drive up to a start point to begin an event, or they can simply roam the environment.

The open world represents a continuation of Need for Speed Rivals, though Ghost Games says it's roughly twice the size in Need for Speed. Much of Need for Speed is a subtle improvement over previous entries, so it seems the reboot moniker references the developer's efforts to bring together everything great about the series. In some ways it fails to create its own identity because of its many inspirations, but at the end of the day, Need for Speed appeals to fans who enjoy customizing and racing. That's about all you can ask for in a new series entry.

The Need for Speed reboot drifts into store shelves November 3, 2015 for PC, PS4, and Xbox One.