Need For Speed as developed by Ghost Games is a gorgeous looking game with a solid car selection all of which can be customized to handle how you want, even if the races that revolve around this comes off as uninspired. Thankfully the actual racing is fun so long as you can deal with the rubber-banding AI. With a two years for development time, Need For Speed is a fistbump-ridden reboot that recalls more Need For Speed Underground than the original game that kicked off the series.
Need For Speed asks you to use five different play styles which cater to different types of players. Rather than picking one or two, the game teaches you to use all of them. The five styles are: Speed, Style, Crew, Build, and Outlaw. Utilizing all five styles in one race becomes a “perfect moment”. Most of the time I initiated these on accident, but when you mean to do it, it’s exciting when it happens. Outlaw is the one style that I was least interested in. Having played 2010’s Hot Pursuit as well as 2005 and 2011’s Most Wanted, it was a blast to get in massive pursuits with tools to do so, but NFS doesn’t give much reason to actually do it. Sure, you can earn massive “rep” (see: reputation) and a decent amount of money, but here outsmarting the cops seems to be a less exciting offer than the rest of the game.
The racing in Need For Speed is not all too exciting, and could be described as generic, which is okay because the real characters of Need For Speed is your car and taking in the visual splendor of the game. Some of the events, like a drift train is completely derailed by the AI which will do everything to out-drive you rather than maintain in a tight cluster to display pure style. Gymkhana events don’t have an AI problem, but are an offbeat way of doing it, not akin to the way Ken Block actually does it for his YouTube videos. More often than not, the race events don’t get in the way of having fun and feeling competitive.
If you lose a race, it’s not always due to a lack of skill, it could just be your car isn’t competitive enough. I generally maintained three cars: one for geared for drift, one for customized to be grippy, and one as a middle ground. Money comes easily, but not garage space. While there aren’t a lot of cars in the game ,there is no way to own them all. A maximum number of five cars can be stored in your garage, so tough decisions have to be made.
Taking place in the fictional city of Ventura Bay, a take on the California city of Los Angeles, which is a mostly empty city. But yet it somehow captures the essence of what it’s really like driving around at the dead of night. During dawn and dusk you will see more civilian cars around, and will be obstacles to be avoided. The cop presence seems to be at its heaviest during the middle of the night.
Returning with the camp full-motion video of 2005’s Most Wanted, sans Razor Callahan is full of over-the-top characters. You’ve got Amy who’s the gearhead, always working on cars, Robyn the drifter and partier, Spike who’s tweaking from drinking so many Monster Energy Drinks, and Manu, who is in a constant state of zen and mini hair buns all over his head. These characters actually become likable over the course of the game, though some more than others. You’ll often run into “legendary” racers, that you and your crew aspire to be, with the most notable one being Ken Block himself. He’s used sparingly, but seems to have a big influence over the entire game.
I hope you like getting phone calls, but you will often receive calls you have to take, or otherwise listen to your voicemail. Most of these aren’t very informative or otherwise important, but they progress the story when there isn’t a cutscene. From the map, you can choose missions in any order you like, but take too long on certain ones, and you’ll get calls from impatient crew members reminding you to go do it. Need For Speed does have its fair share of collectibles, and are unique and rather easy to obtain: doing donuts, viewing vistas, and finding “free” parts on the back of trucks. It’s a neat way of doing them, and is something I’d like to see more of.
Need For Speed is a game that demands you must always be online. It’s an unnecessary requirement and completely underused. You’ll see other players driving around, which seemingly are there to harass you when you set the controller down or while looking at the map. You’ll even see other players during events, as it doesn’t put you in your own instance, and they can actually mess up your event.
As par for the online-only course, there is no pausing the action. Server stability has been fine, where I’ve only been disconnected from the server once, but have been victim to server maintenance and had to stop before I was cutoff. There is an option to play alone, but is not available from the start, and the setting is never saved, so it’s more of a hassle than its worth to get into. Need For Speed would have been better served as a singleplayer game with Autolog Recommendations serving as a way to compete. The multiplayer is too loose to get a group assembled to stay together for too long. The menus aren’t super intuitive to initiate the multiplayer properly. It’s so subtle that it isn’t worth the effort.
I enjoyed playing Need For Speed, and will continue to do so as I continue to unlock parts and earn money to buy faster cars. The FMV is somewhat nonsensical at times, but they are entertaining and a nice break from always driving, even if it is for 30 seconds or a couple of minutes at a time. Need For Speed is a better focused game than Need For Speed Rivals‘ dual-identity crisis of playing a racer or cop. It’s a game where you get out of it what you put into it. So, if you don’t spend the time upgrading or tuning your vehicles to the event’s specific styling, the rubber-banding AI will show you their tailpipes.