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Need For Speed Review

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.

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Need For Speed E3 2015 Preview


After a short gameplay video (which was the same video from EA’s Press Conference, they showed off the game. And I can confirm that what was seen in the video is exactly how the game looks. It is absolutely stunning. Need For Speed is back, which is a reboot for the series that covers the series’ expansive history, hoping to do something for every kind of player.

…continue reading » Need For Speed E3 2015 Preview


Need For Speed: Most Wanted Review

-Scott Ellison

Our Score: 4 / 5 – Awesome

Criterion’s second outing as a developer of a Need For Speed title, is an interesting one. This is a reboot of the 2005 game, Most Wanted – that in it of itself is a strange proposition. It turns out that this game is mostly what I wanted, not exactly what I wanted most.

Need For Speed: Most Wanted seems to have a bit of an identity crisis. While the look and name of the game is Need For Speed, the gameplay and structure is everything Burnout, mostly Paradise. While this may seem like the perfect marriage of franchises, it’s not. The feel is off and it is always conflicting with itself. It seems mostly due to a distinct lack of personality. There’s no story or characters to associate yourself with, because Criterion “doesn’t do narrative” – but it hurts the game’s namesake as a result. The intro to the game is short and introduces you to the Top 10 Most Wanted, defeat all of them to become the #1 Most Wanted driver in Fairhaven. It’s simple enough, but while driving through the city, there are AI civilian cars and cops roaming around, but it all feels lifeless as a whole.

Through races and cop chases, you’ll earn Speed Points (SP), essentially XP. Collecting enough points will allow you to challenge each member of the Most Wanted. Defeat them, you take their place, move up. In Burnout Paradise fashion, in order to keep the car of the “boss” you’ve defeated, you must chase and takedown – essentially destroy the losing car in order to add it to your collection. The cars to the game are unlocked from the get-go, the catch is that you must find all the cars in order to have access to them, called Jack Spots. Some cars will have multiple locations. Oddly, swapping cars only transports you to a car’s location. If you needed a car for a specific race, now you need to drive all the way back to it. Though, in multiplayer it’s an instantaneous swap at the current location.

Most Wanted smartly removes the need for navigating menus, garages, and other out of game areas by making EasyDrive, a way of starting races, swapping cars, customizing cars, and diving into multiplayer via the D-Pad (or with your voice using Kinect for Xbox 360). This is similar to Burnout Paradise but much improved, as they’ve learned a lot since that game. EasyDrive works really well, but the idea of customizing your vehicle while racing is cumbersome. Situations that would require this are going from road surface to off-road surfaces would be worth hot-swapping tires for better traction. Or perhaps your lightweight racer has attracted a lot of the SUV barricades and you can reinforce your chassis for a heavier, devastating hit to blow through it. I never really found myself doing it often because I’d hit a wall or do something unintended and do more harm than just leaving it as is.

The big draw is the cop chases. Most races are scripted to trigger the police and you’ll have this duality of trying to still place first in a race and keep the cops at bay. Cops are merciless and with heats increasing up to Level 6, SWAT vehicles will do anything to stop you. Should you try to run into them, you’ll stop dead and likely be surrounded for a quick bust. If you manage to get into a Cooldown, you can wait anywhere as long as you are out-of-sight or can use a Repair Shop to fix your car and repaint it which will drop the cops immediately. Alternatively, in a Cooldown, you can turn off your car with the click-in of the left stick, this will increase the speed of the Cooldown. Most races reward quickness in losing the cops, but I found that it’s incredibly exciting to move up the Heat Level and try to lose the cops, as there’s a huge Speedpoint bonus for doing so. If you get Busted, all that bonus SP is lost. The police overall, can be annoying when all you may want to do is race, find billboards to smash, discover the cars scattered in the world, knocking down gates, or flying past speed traps to beat your friends. There’s no way to Speed without getting some unwanted attention.

As you traverse the open world of Fairhaven, you’ll come across cars in their Jack Spots and as you get into each vehicle, they have their own races. Now if cars are similar to each other in performance, you’ll see overlap in the races you partake in. Each car you find has no Car Mods installed, you have to race to unlock mods. The first race you complete gets you Nitrous and Off-Road Tires, it’s best you do that race first with every car as Nitrous is essential. You’ll experience déjà vu as each and every car you have to unlock the same mods, over and over again. It’s an exercise in frustration. The races themselves are fun and exciting, but the end goal of unlocking the same mod you have on a different car is tedious and disappointing.

Most Wanted’s HUD is so cluttered with popups, scrolling text, maps, and other information it’s like having your TV turned to MSNBC. The game is visually stunning, but among the HUD clutter is the specks of dust and grime that get all over the camera or when looking into the sun, it reduces your sight and often causes you to crash. It all gives the world a dirty and grimy look. It’s unfortunate, because there’s incredible of detail with car models and with road texture being hidden from a better view. When you turn up all the options with a PC though, you’ve got a visual delight with 60fps that will have you stopping to enjoy the sights. Audibly, the game’s soundtrack is  well-done and featuring one my favorites, “Galvanize”. The exaggerated engine noises are aggressive and worth cranking up the audio for.

The entire game is a social experiment that centers around the Autolog, where everything you do is a leaderboard and has an action that a friend can compete against. Criterion first introduced Autolog with 2010’s Hot Pursuit and EA has used it in other versions of Need For Speed. Autolog creates a great sense of competition between you and your friends to achieve better times in races, better speeds through speed traps, and even who’s found the most cars at Jack Spots.

What Criterion and Most Wanted excel at, is the multiplayer. It’s phenomenal, dynamic, and hectic. Using Easy Drive, you’ll be instantly transported into a game with people and a random setlist that will roll out automatically. Everyone will have to speed to the Meet Up spot – which is a race in it of itself as you’ll be awarded bonus SP for arriving first. Then the playlist will start, randomizing events such as Race, Challenge, or Speedtest. When it begins, it does so unofficially that if you’re not paying attention, you will already be losing. You’ll find either people working together or against each other, like during Challenges or Speedtests. If you are in first place, you can turn around and takeout other players to eliminate them and lock them out of scoring any higher – securing your victory. Races are no holds barred as well, as you can still takedown fellow racers in whatever it takes to win.

There’s a huge disconnected between the Multiplayer and Singleplayer, each has their own progression system of the Speedpoint system and car mods are not shared. All cars are available online too, but you’ll have to re-earn mods here as well. Certain events will require certain cars and does a great job of showing you what is qualified for that race. Though, you can go online and take out billboards and smash gates – that is shared across the singleplayer and multiplayer. Whatever you choose to do, the Multiplayer is absolutely amazing, providing more thrills than the singleplayer side could possibly ever offer. The downside, is that online doesn’t feature police chases, which is sorely missing.

The sheer number of things to do online and off is staggering. Unfortunately the focus seems to be on the multiplayer and while it is easily the best feature – the singleplayer is severely lacking in a game that revolves around an open world and cops. And when the online multiplayer doesn’t feature cops, playable or not – it doesn’t feel like the same game. Most Wanted feels a little more worth it than the score because of the well done multiplayer, but if you were coming to this Need For Speed for a great, involving singleplayer, you’ll be sorely disappointed.

Retails for: $59.99, Recommended Purchase Price: $47.99


Need For Speed: The Run Review

– Scott Ellison

Our Score: 2 / 5 – Mediocre

EA’s venerable racing series, Need For Speed has now reached its 18th game in the franchise. Titled “The Run”, the game revolves around Jack – who ends up getting in trouble with the mob and must pay to save his life. In order to do so, he must travel 3,000 miles from San Francisco to New York to win this race across America and be #1 amongst 199 other drivers for a $25 million dollar cash purse.

By that description, you’ll realize there’s a bit more story than ever told in prior Need For Speed games. And unfortunately, that’s where it begins to fall apart, right away. At no point did I ever feel connected to Jack. He’s a rebellious anti-hero who, without any detail given to us – fails to give us any reason to attach ourselves to this character and feel compelled to win. It would be best if you picked a character or never saw your own face to help cement that maybe you are the one trying to save your own life.

Soon enough, you’re able to pick from a small group of cars and go full throttle towards the starting point in San Francisco and luckily that’s where The Run picks up. There are ten Stages to The Run, each Stage has about four to seven events. Almost immediately the fuzz are on the tail of all who are participating in the race. The best part is that each time you run into the cops, they’re not all after YOU, you’ll see them bumping and harassing other drivers. It’s easy to lose them if you get them on your tail, but they put up a good fight as they put up vehicle roadblocks and will try to P.I.T. you every chance they get.

While racing, nearly everything you do while advancing in The Run earns you XP to level up your driver; whether it be jumps, reaching top speed, and clean or dirty overtakes. Unfortunately it’s completely arbitrary and holds no value other than unlocking upgrades for your driver. Something as simple as nitrous doesn’t appear until Level 4. It’s all an artificial hold back that doesn’t make much sense. Levelling up is shared between Singleplayer and Multiplayer.

Autolog returns and will pull from your friends list on Playstation 3, Xbox 360, and Origin on PC. From there you’ll be able to compare your times for each Stage or for the full Run and set competitive times to beat – the best part being that no two players have to be on at the same time to do so, it creates and “offline challenge system”. Now, if you’re looking to trade some paint, you do have the option to play online. Though prepare to be restricted as there’s only Playlists to choose from, as there’s little to no customization.

Each Stage of The Run takes you through a unique part of the United States that doesn’t feel like you’re treading the same ground. Need For Speed The Run utilizes DICE’s new Frostbite 2 engine that debuted with the release of Battlefield 3. It looks and plays spectacularly. It runs at a solid 30fps on all platforms. Each car has immense detail and looks fantastic with the background vistas having immense depth, looking unlike any game before it.  All tracks are point-to-point, as to be expected.

Within the point-to-point tracks, various types of races exist: pure racing, making up time, battling rivals, and escaping cops or the mob. Changing cars can only be done within a race, by visiting gas stations. The race freezes and you pick your new car and then pick up where you left off. Specific points of the game you’ll be forced out of your car and into the seat of a new car because the one you were driving has fallen apart. In-between car segments, Jack will be on foot and you’ll have to go through a series of quicktime events to get him to the next section to get back to the driving. There’s a small handful of these sections that it’s rarely a bother, but it maintains the game’s momentum and excitement.

Every race is exciting and demands precision in order to succeed. There’s absolutely no down time to the game which is to it’s benefit. When I finished The Run, my total time was: 2 hours, 14 minutes, and 33 seconds. Now bear in mind, I spent closer to 4 or 5 hours playing the game. That time does not include loading races, rewinding/replaying events, and cutscenes. After completing each Stage of The Run, you unlock “Challenge Series” levels that are specific challenges to earn Platinum, Gold, Silver, or Bronze medals – and they’re quite difficult.

The Run may seem off-putting at first, but it offers a great racing experience that never lets off the gas pedal. It’s a bit on the short side, but there’s a lot of replability and multiplayer, autolog, and challenge series to extend the gameplay. You should try The Run when the price is right – play it any sooner and you’ll feel you’ve been walked on.

Retails for: $59.99, recommended purchase price: $19.99


NFS: The Run Demo now on Xbox Live Marketplace, soon to PSN

Race for your life in the NEED FOR SPEED™ THE RUN demo. In the Desert Hills of Nevada you find yourself at the heart of the pack. Battle the unforgiving desert heat and technically demanding terrain as you use all your skills to fight your way to the front in the Lamborghini Gallardo LP 550-2 Valentino Balboni. Once past the desert, you face treacherous Independence Pass. The clock is ticking, a mountain is crumbling in front of you and a rival is one step ahead. Refer a friend and race in the new Porsche 911 Carrera S.



SHIFT 2: Unleashed Review

– Darren Ward

Our Score: 4 / 5 – Awesome

Shift 2 (presented by Need For Speed) has been a game which became a cut above the rest. It’s fully featured tuning system, the realistic physics and the exciting detail brought to you within the cockpit.

I haven’t been much of a simulation type racer, however Shift 2 gives a greater respect towards the simulation style gameplay. There is no comparison of the speed, handling, and feel between Shift 2 and its competitors which have been trying to keep the top spot in the simulation game field for years.

You start off in Shift 2 by doing a race to see what settings the game chooses for you, depending on your driving skills, whether or not you need ABS on, Traction control, essentially anything which may or may not help you progress smoothly through the game. Though the game may suggest the settings, by no means do you have to use them, you can adjust the settings at any time.

Once you get into the actual career mode, you are given a car, and you complete your races, gaining experience points, which help you level up. As you increase your levels, you also gain access to more races and game modes, including drifting, GT circuits, and more. The Speedhunters DLC pack gives you access to Drag Racing and the Standing mile, which of course are my two favorite game modes.

The visual customization of the cars in Shift 2 is quite similar to that in the original Shift title. Everything is simple, and there is no cost. You are limited, however, to the access in which you gain new customization options by the driver level you are currently on. Mostly though, all the good paint types are available early.

The performance customization takes on a whole new meaning in Shift 2, not only can you choose different upgrade parts for each car, you also have the ability to build it up to a ‘Works conversion’ package, which is a true racing setup. (Not usable in conjunction with Drag Racing upgrades though). You have multiple upgrades in each performance area of the game, from engine and suspension to aerodynamics and weight reduction. All tunable.

Once I had started playing on the standing mile and drag racing game modes, I found that the live tuning within the game was so much better than that of previous games. Each individual tweak can be noticed immediately and the load times to restart a race is very short. You can tune a car several times over within a couple minutes.
I managed to tune a car from 403km/h to 411km/h in only a few small tweaks, but found that the handling was so twitchy that even the slightest variation in your controller steering will spin the car out of control. Once you get the hang of tweaking your cars, you find what areas work better than others while you adjust for each mode.

The best part of the tuning setup, is that you can save to one specific track, or all tracks that you want, which makes it easier to have multiple setups on your car for all the different styles of tracks and racing modes that you are in.

I haven’t played the multi-player side of Shift 2, however, it is as much fun as a simulation racer can be with a bunch of friends. Best option though, have private races as there will be times where you are racing against some gamers who may simply choose to wreck rather than race.

Shift 2 is a great racing game. Though it’s simulation based, it can be fun for most gamers. The learning curve on the physics and handling is something to get used to but overall the game has quite a lot of entertainment value behind it.