I got the need, but the speed is kinda flawed.
When it comes to racing games, Need for Speed was my game of choice. Hot Pursuit 2 was one of best games in the series, and with the evolution to street racing and car customizations seen in Underground and Most Wanted, I was in love. In recent years, Need for Speed has evolved more in a more multiplayer focused form, with the open world that has missed the mark for me in a few ways. Now, after taking a year off, Need for Speed returns to a more focused form while still trying to keep the new age feel to it. In some ways it works, in some ways it doesn’t.
Players take on the role of a nameless new street racer who caught the eye of Spike, a twitchy speed demon who has a few connections in the street racing scene. Spike, along with his crew of haphazard misfits, form a team to take on some of the best street racers in Ventura Bay. It’s a simple story that never actually goes very far, but the return to full motion video cut scenes with actors looking at the camera, fist bumping, and constantly drinking Monster energy drinks has so much dumb charm that I couldn’t wait for the next cut scene with these characters.
Platforms: XB1, PS4, PC
Price I’d pay: $40
Driver rep – experience points
The game focuses on different disciplines with each crew member, and the player gains experience points corresponding to what they do while driving that adds to an overall level. So if I were to ram into a stop sign that would count as “outlaw”, and give me XP. If I were to hold a fast speed for a while, that would count as “speed”, and I would gain XP for that. The way XP is handled and distributed is woven into the actual game play, and allowed me to just drive and race without having to worry too much about it.
Players navigate the open world of Ventura Bay doing missions for each crew member. These missions are different types of racing that go from standard lap racing and drift competitions to downhill drift racing and gymkhana. While not the most diverse types out there, there was enough to keep me busy for a good number of hours. Along the way there are a few collectables to pick up, like places to pull off donuts, vitas to see, and hidden parts that can only be used when they are found.
Pimp your ride.
Car customization is the biggest selling point for me in a racing game, and I have to say, going back to the old form of Need for Speed really brings out the tuner in me. With different kinds of cars to purchase that range from Honda Civics to Ferraris, there’s something here for every car person. American muscle, sport compact, exotics, they’re all here. On top of car choices, the visual customization options are pretty vast as well. Players can practically change every body part on the car and color and vinyl to their liking. Then, after making the car look good, they can upgrade the performance with tons of tiered upgrades like a port and polished head, nitrous boosters, superchargers and turbo chargers, ECU upgrades, better brakes, and much more.
One of the best things about the upgrading is the way players can tweak the control of their cars. Using a number of sliders, they can adjust the handling via tire pressure, differential adjustments, and much more. Using sliders keeps it simple, and allowed me to custom build my car for how I wanted it to handle. Did I want a more grip centered car or one that had a more power and less grip for easier drifting? Things like that really make it special, and I was never stuck with “this game doesn’t handle in my style.”
Like the recent Need for Speed games, this tries to incorporate a seamless, always online set up where other players populate the world along with me. This feels almost like a wasted opportunity. In my time with the game, I was challenged by another racer once, won very little money, and went on about my day. There were also a few times another player was in a story mission racing against me, but I have no idea why they were there and what made them show up in my race. These small things feel like they might as well not even be in the game. The option to “run with a crew” AKA play with people on my friends list was there, but in the end, what exactly was there to do? For the most part, everyone was basically playing their own missions. The online shouldn’t have even been in the game at all, or at the very least been a separate option.
Too fast to keep up?
There are a few annoyances with the game on that really put a damper on my experience. First, the phone rings constantly, even during races. I get that I have a mission for one of my crew members to do, but there really is no need to remind of it every three minutes. Another issue is there is some kind of stuttering that occurs during game play. At first, I thought it was just lag, but even the music skips. It’s almost like the game is hitching up for a split second. This happened far too many times, and it sometimes messed me up during fast action races or drifting competitions. I played on the Xbox One with the new dashboard, so I cannot say for certain if it was just this version or if it spans all versions. Along with that, there are some AI issues that crop up in certain races. The Drift Train missions require the player to be close to their teammates when they drift in order to score points and my AI teammates just loved to ram the crap out of me during a really good drift. Way to be team players, guys.
Visually, the game is stunning. The environments look fantastic and the vehicles are so realistic that if I didn’t know I was playing a video game, I would have thought it was actual real footage of a 5.0 Fox Body Mustang. It really is impressive graphically.
Even with its missteps, I really enjoyed Need for Speed. It tried to return to form in some aspects and it really scratched that itch I was looking for with a car customization game. It handles how the player wants it to, and while performance can be spotty in some instances, it’s still a great looking and playing racing game. It’s a shame that the hitches happen. If that wasn’t present, it would be an amazing racing game. People looking for a successor to the Underground series or Most Wanted should look into this entry of the series. Just keep in mind, it is most certainly not perfect.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.