- + Car tuning and customisations make a big return
- + Live action cutscenes made the campaign more engaging
- + Perfecting a drift never gets old!
- - Persistent connection online isn’t necessary
- - Not being able to pause
Want to look beyond the score? Check out the full review below…
Start Replay: “Need for Spee.. Internet”
Simply titled “Need for Speed” this latest iteration in the long-running racing series has been developed as a reboot by developer Ghost Games. Their refresh has made gameplay feel sleeker, while featuring quick access to in-game content via an intuitive menu system. Despite the drawbacks its mandatory online connection presents, I thoroughly enjoyed speeding in style.
Set in the fictional city of Ventura Bay, its large map is packed with twisting roads that lend themselves well to drifting and high-speed pursuits. Cast as the newbie within an energetic and talented racing crew, it’s up to you to build up reputation and become noticed on the open road. The narrative is held together by live action recordings, giving you a first-person perspective of each interaction with your crew. Coming face-to-face with actual human beings helped me care more about who offered me objectives.
Whether you take on tasks set by your contacts or find an event on the street, everything contributes to reputation and credits; building up your rep will unlock better upgrades, alongside more advanced events. Point-to-point races, time trials and drift challenges are all offered in a selection of difficulties. Progression doesn’t rely on just your driving ability, however, as car customisation makes a big return and the build of your vehicle remains just as important.
If you consider yourself creative you can customise decals for your car, next to tuning its handling and performance to personal preference. I’m not a petrol head, but seeing my automobile moulded by a collection of sleek and sexy parts I chose, was immensely satisfying. Tinkering away in your garage is just one tap away and the NFS Network operates as your main hub for daily challenges and interaction with friends. The game’s smooth interface allows effortless transportation to events dotted across the entire map. Whether you want to instantly teleport or get routed to any objective, it’s entirely your choice.
Prior experiences have always made it difficult for me to choose the correct balance in handling between the amount of grip and drift my car obtains. With the new addition of one slider which lets me override all handling attributes, it was easy to find a balance. It didn’t take long until I had a car that handled perfectly for my play style. Finally mastering the drift of my car at full speed made me feel unstoppable, but if a race required more grip on the tarmac then all it took was a quick and easy alteration.
The beauty of Need for Speed is a sight to behold, particularly when the rain hits the bodywork and street lights shimmer off the chassis. But in an attempt to blend real life with the digital world your car model is digitally rendered during the live action cutscenes, which was sometimes jarringly obvious. It’s a neat feature that offers another notch of customisation to the game, but unfortunately when faced with real people in a non-digital space it doesn’t quite work as intended.
Each time a game introduces itself as “always online” my instant reaction is to grab my torch and pitchfork. If the gameplay doesn’t gain any advantage from a mandatory connection then I don’t want to be told how or when to play. Need for Speed’s persistent connection doesn’t offer anything special in comparison to other games operating under the same structure. Take Destiny, for example, wherein every aspect of its gameplay is held together via the help of other players. During Need for Speed’s campaign there wasn’t any involvement from the community, I was always given artificial racing buddies. Specific modes are present that include the online players and Ventura Bay will always feature a few non-NPCs roaming around the map, but it’s not enough reason to rid players the chance to play this title offline.
The only time I felt excited by having other players populate the map, was when I competed in AI-driven races and was met with the challenge of avoiding a community member. On those rare instances it made the action feel a bit unpredictable, even if it did hinder my progress by occasionally crashing into them. The added lack of any pause functionality didn’t help my crash record. A persistent connection mean’t I felt pressured to continue races, regardless of whether I needed to turn down the volume or go for a bathroom break.
I adore its narrative and felt compelled to keep up my relationships by completing tasks. In retrospect though, everything felt too scripted and focused too much on a singular path. It would’ve been nicer to have my skills reflected via a change in script depending on how well I had done. If Ghost Games continue down the route of live action cutscenes, then having them change dynamically to reflect my personal progress would be a great move forward.
Despite my uneasy-ness toward being constantly connected, I’ve had an absolute blast zipping between objectives thanks to its sleek interface and fantastic ability to tune my ride to perfection. Car customisation is really satisfying and the live action cutscenes make me feel a little closer to the my crew and the races.
*Need for Speed was provided to Start Replay on PS4 by EA and Xbox One by Xbox. It was reviewed after the implementation of patch 1.03