Developer: Ghost Games; Publisher: Electronic Arts
Reviewed On: PC
Core i5-6500 3.2GHz; 16GB DDR4 RAM; GeForce GTX 1070 8GB
Drifting around the streets in the newest iteration of EA’s long running franchise reminds me a lot about the older NFS titles. Need for Speed does a lot to capture the feel of Underground 2 and does many things right to complete the formula. Despite its flaws, Need for Speed is a solid experience, and I personally found it to be one of the best racing experiences on PC in 2016. The game offers a lot of content and a wide selection of cars, with many classics that will no doubt be appreciated by fans of the older titles. Car customization returns after a long absence, and as someone who really enjoys those mechanics, I found myself to lose a lot of time in the garage. The game is not perfect and retains some of the problems the more recent games have, but overall, it feels like a faithful return to formula for the racing series.
Need for Speed looks very impressive and runs on the Frostbite 3 Engine, which has been prevalently used in the latest EA titles. Despite the limitations of its night setting, Need for Speed throws in some nice reflection to compliment its amount of detail. The game is certainly very impressive, and receives the similar level of treatment that DICE throws at its Battlefield titles. The night setting reveals the detail in light reflections which demonstrates the full power of the game engine. Need for Speed might not be the most detailed game when it comes to car models, but its fleet selection looks quite impressive. Not everyone will take the liking to its consistent night-time setting, but Need for Speed takes full advantage of its resources. Although I have tested the game way past its release game at the time of getting Origin Access, the release proved to be stable, and aside from some network issues I haven’t experienced any obvious concerns. Need for Speed runs consistently excellent on my system, with all settings cranked up and a consistent 60 fps performance. The game can be expected to perform similar to other Frostbite 3 titles in terms of scalability and performance across a variety of setups. In the newest iteration, Ghost games includes an extensive graphics options menu and the absence of annoying 30 fps lock found in NFS Rivals. The wide range of graphics presets makes Need for Speed scalable across a variety of systems and the game looks most spectacular on highest settings.
Need for Speed doesn’t offer an extensive garage to match the likes of Forza or Gran Turismo, but its offering is sweet. The game features some of the nicest cars available to race on, ranging from Japanese tuners to Italian exotics. A lot of cars from previous games make an appearance, and I appreciated those rides along with the game’s detailed customization. Need for Speed brings back the much missed car customization system, and especially the Japanese tuners can be extensively modified. Moving up the range however, exotic cars offer very little room to customize the new ride. Car customization is really hit and miss, it mostly works great but more powerful cars restrict player choice. At the lower end of the spectrum though, a small but sleek range of bumpers, spoilers, splitters, hoods and body kits provide enough satisfaction in personalizing your ride. Despite the restrictions however, it is nevertheless sweet to be able to modify a Nissan GT-R or Lamborghini Huracan.
Need for Speed packs in a beefy single player career mode tied in with an entertaining, but completely pointless story. Cutscenes serve more as a distraction than anything, and the cheesy tone of the game’s characters is often cringeworthy. The premise of the plot is that you’re part of a racing crew striving to get noticed out in the streets. The plot follows the basic points of gaining respect, called REP in this case. Player progression is central to the events and the crew do nothing more but provide a consistent stream of events. Still, they come to grow on you and further progression into the game changes crew reaction to player character, albeit at no choice. The career does a great job at providing many hours of content, and faithfully presents the quality of old Need for Speed games. The title is primarily single player, although there are some PvP options which I haven’t indulged in. Its career mode makes up the core of the experience, and I stuck to the traditional experience of building reputation and my garage. Noticeably, some issues come into play concerning the career mode, especially the game’s online integration. The number of times I experienced interrupting server issues, even at this point after release is far too many to count. Yet the overall experience is considerably more enjoyable than NFS Rivals and its backdrop adds a bit of nostalgia for the older games.
The events are offered in multiple types, spread across Speed, Style and Traditional Racing. The entirety of the plot focuses on participating in various disciplines set by your crew members, which adds a nice touch but doesn’t do enough to steer away from the blatant path of the main plot. The variety in events was good enough to keep me engaged in playing and some car presets turned out to be better at one task than another. I mostly kept my Lancer Evolution MR IX for drift events, while higher performance cars like the AMG GT and the 570S are all about high speed. Performance upgrades make it possible to considerably increase the power of any given ride, and are spread across multiple upgrades named after real engine counterparts. The extensive garage is most likely to warrant another play-through, and it would be interesting to play around with multiple combinations of car types. Proceeding through events earns recognition from top stars of either racing types, which are represented here in live-action cutscenes. Ken Block makes a guest appearance as one of the recognizable figures in motorsports. The story is well-represented through real actor performance, although its role demands are quite simple. Characters do barely more than talk about things with a lot of fist bumping involved. The considerable amount of racing events offered throughout the career complete the package.
Like many games in the series before it, Need for Speed is a fairly easy experience. The traits of simulation are gone since Shift 2 Unleashed and the game is very approachable with its arcade style racing. Drifts are extremely easy to pull off in spite of many walls and tight road bends but it yields a degree of satisfaction in getting the best score. Multiple presets can be changed to further distinguish between point-to-point racing and gymkhana drift events. Car tuning is not as extensive as you’d see in simulation driving games, but it at least allows to specialize a ride to drift more or less. No difficulty presets are available to choose, but instead Need for Speed forces challenge at times through unfair AI, although it is completely random. Opponents can keep up with you even if you’re in a much better car, but at other times they fall far behind, which is disastrous when doing the Drift Train events. Game difficulty is spread very unevenly – most of times it is not too hard at all to win sprint and circuit races, at others the AI beats me by 2 seconds in a lapped time trial, with no chance of improving my time to beat that (keep in mind that the opponent is also driving a Nissan 240SX vs my McLaren 570S). Need for Speed doesn’t present any significant frustrations and despite its shaky difficulty, it never feels absolutely unfair.
Need for Speed boasts a well-sized open-world with its city of Ventura Bay. There are plenty of sights to see and roads to drive on to make the experience more of a traditional sandbox starring cars. Need for Speed offers no particularly interesting side objectives, aside from some collectible parts the main focus of the game remains on racing and cars. Don’t expect to find much besides racing for entertainment, and although some collectible cars or challenges could have added more to an already satisfying experience, it isn’t a deal breaker at the end. The city of Ventura Bay is relatively large, and offers plenty of driving around its core and outer areas. Similar to that of many old Need for Speed games, the city is broken down into multiple “islands” connected by highways, but unlike those old titles, the world in the newest game is open from the start. Aside from city areas, there are options to drive up to the hills for some sweet drifting down long tight bends. Those provide for the most satisfying drift spots along with industrial areas, but Need for Speed is intent on giving the player the options to drive sideways anywhere. Tight turns and intersections litter Ventura Bay at every moment and allow for some spectacular drifts given the player is skilled at the game. Its almost if the game wanted you to drift at all times. The world map is not outstandingly big, but not really small either. Still, surprisingly, I actually found the concept of driving in an open-world racing game to be quite dull with Need for Speed. The game requires too much travelling around, which is eventually bound to get aggressively boring, and its not even the fault of the size of the open world. Need for Speed simply requires too much driving back and forth between events and cutscenes and it doesn’t do the game any favours. Although the franchise has never had fast-travel systems before, Need for Speed makes me wish it was the game to introduce that feature. Racing is still a lot of fun, but the tediousness of the commute significantly ruins the pacing and sometimes it’s enough to even quit the game.
Issues in Need for Speed are by no means numerous, but some of them carry quite an impact. Besides aforementioned issues with online connectivity and constant travelling, Need for Speed also tends to take a while to load between menus. Even on PC, although I don’t run it from an SSD, the loading times can add up to at least a couple of minutes before the game can be started. The game’s online connectivity plays a major factor in this, as loading screens are dependent on going through a connection process. Need for Speed is mostly seamless, but features loading screens every time the game is launched and any moment you go into your garage. These can mostly be dealt with, although at times annoying, and those who install the game on an SSD would be able to see some improvement in this area.
Overall, the newest Need for Speed managed to turn out quite good after all, despite average scores from many game critics. It isn’t a game that would appeal to everyone, and even the group who liked NFS games of the old may find itself divided. Nevertheless, Need for Speed has a wide appeal to many gamers, whether as just another sequel in the series or because the game actually brought back visual customization. Despite some of the issues and the presence of always-online connection, Need for Speed retains many elements from the old games to make it an enjoyable experience. The game offers some of the nicest cars to drive, which are made more appealing by a wide range of body parts. Racing is very enjoyable, especially in high performance cars, and Need for Speed offers a sizeable open world to explore. Drifting around the mountain range or city streets is incredibly satisfying, despite the lack of any additional activities within the game. Need for Speed is a great return to form for the series, and delivers on most aspects to re-create the old-fashioned street racing.