City nights for traveling fast.
For car enthusiasts, finding a proper racing arcade game can be difficult. To that end, every so often, a game series attempts to reinvent itself, almost beginning completely from scratch. This year, hanging around the 20-year mark since its creation, Need For Speed has decided to do just that; hitting the reset button and getting back to the starting line.
Of course, everything isn’t fresh-out-of-the-box brand new, but there are soft touches of creativity sprinkled throughout. From the starting jump, you are thrown into its world of underground racing, meeting the who’s who in this illegal society. The dark, almost eerie look of the city fits well with the theme of the game. Rainy night rides have a tone of danger, and trouble seem to wait around each corner, while water-soaked streets beneath clear evening skies bring a relaxing feel to the experience, complimenting the lighter side of friendly battles.
Visually, it’s all fairly stunning. Streetlights beautifully reflect off of cars, giving a sleek shine as they zip and splash through puddles. Cars, along with the surrounding atmosphere, have a hint of realism—a hybrid of digital animation shot on a camera phone with a matte setting. Cut-scenes are mostly live action, throwing in real cars for supplement. It's gives you the feeling that you are actually there, a part of it all.
Story mode, though, is a bit dull and uneventful. Staying engaged in the game is a problem, so don't be surprised if you don't have much motivation to get on the road since there's no clear purpose. Spike, your street tutor of sorts and new BFF, provides high-energy comic relief, while narrating the small details as you advance forward. With the limited plot, the importance of highlighting other aspects of the overall experience is a top priority.
Enter customization, tuning, and car performance. Like in past editions, tweaking car specifications to fit your personal style is ever so relevant; color, logo decals, rims, etc. all are available for pimpin’ your ride. Taking it a step further, you are also able to tune many elements that are required for certain race types or simply for how you want your ride to feel. One of the major positive notes of this tuning system is the handling ratio you can apply. Having a loose setting will allow for more drift-oriented control, while tightening the settings will cater to a more stable, quick-moving car. Of course it’s possible to keep a balanced ratio, but it’s mainly about finding the right settings to fit what you need. Tuning doesn’t stop there, with options for suspension, exhaust, turbo, and more.
When it comes to the cars, you will quickly realize the selection isn’t quite as big as other NFS installments or even other titles in the genre. Instead of collecting a large number of them, it will benefit more to upgrade one or two as you level up over time. This can be a little disheartening, but in the end the appreciation for each car will be greater and also helps properly familiarize you with different models. Being familiar with how your precious vehicle handles is just as important as knowing the areas you are driving around. With the map being open world, learning routes and shortcuts becomes possible (and recommended), especially when racing a handful of events in the same spots.
Multiplayer is somewhat limiting in its setup. First, there is no local multiplayer, which continues to be unfortunate. No longer can you simply challenge a friend in your own home to settle a friendly bet. Now all modes are online. Even when playing alone, not looking for a challenger, you must be signed on at all times, which makes pausing the game impossible. Hey, what if there were a zombie apocalypse and the internet went down? How could I enjoy my last days if I’m not able to get a few laps in? (I kid.)
After beating the main missions, you’re pretty much reduced to side objectives like finding collectibles and taking random snapshots throughout the map. Still, gaining rep points that can be applied to upgrades. Daily challenges and crew play are other game modes open for advancement in rep. The re-playability is shaky at best, with minor glimpses of hope for the future.
This year’s installment of Need For Speed isn’t the end-all-be-all, but it has proven there are still great things to be offered to the genre. Each car is crafted extremely well both visually and audibly. Engines give strong roars as they power up for quick releases. Tires scream with a certain screech when pulling off the perfect drift. Through the nuts and bolts, getting to the core of the title, it’s all mostly safe and directed in a simple form. It’s a solid base to grow from—few complaints but few things to gush over.