First access to Need For Speed arrived with the private beta, then came early access for those that paid for EA Access, which granted another 10 hours of racing. Finally the game actually arrived and Need for Speed delivers the latest edition of the arcade racer franchise in spades. After understanding my initial impressions really well, I wanted to finish the game before reviewing it. That mission is now complete, so its time to detail what they got right and what they got wrong.
Need for Speed has taken racers on a journey of roles, often walking between the right and wrong side of the law. Something we don’t get in this game is the ability to race as a cop, something that has always provided diversity in the racing experience.
The latest Need for Speed is a return in many ways what many of us consider the best era of NFS. It feels like Underground and Carbon smashed together with modern-day graphics, cars and a new city and missions to immerse yourself in.
The game promotes that there’s 5 different ways to play this game – Outlaw, Style, Build, Speed and Crew. These categorise the activities you need to focus on when racing. Each has an associated expert, Morohoshi-san, Ken Block, Nakai-san, Magnus Walker, and Risky Devil.
In reality, you don’t play one of these, you need to play all of them. you don’t just take drift events, you have to play time trials, point-to-point races and spend time in the garage upgrading. You need to race all modes, not because any one type gets boring, but because you have the thirst to win. Winning races means constant upgrades, upgrades cost money, so you need to race. In many ways, the balance of this catch 22 is a little too easy and before long I was driving the best car in the game (the Lamborghini Aventador). Technically the game has a car higher, the Ferrari F40, but given its age, I can’t get behind that.
The Cars in Need for Speed are always the celebrities and the cars available in the game are surprisingly limited. Perhaps that’s a symptom of jumping out of deep garages of Forza Horizon 2 and Forza 6. Even Project Cars feels more comprehensive than this edition of NFS.
The list of cars manufacturers is impressive, Ferrari, Honda, Nissan, Toyota, Dodge, Lamborghini, Porsche, Ford, McLaren, BMW, Mercedes, Mazda, Mitsubishi, Subaru, and that’s not even all of them. The problem is the lack of car models from each manufacturer. If you have your favourite car, there’s just as much chance you won’t find it and that can make or break someone’s racing experience.
The cars that are available are well done, even if you can view them from the driver’s seat. In drift races, I preferred the follow camera, while grip races I preferred the bonnet view, but views are generally personal preference.
Thankfully one important change since the beta is the ability to restart a race if things go very wrong. In team events, it was common to be shunted into barriers destroying your chances of winning, despite these drivers being the best on the streets of Ventura Bay.
As with many games there were times where you were in grind mode, just powering through race after race, despite not needing the cash for new vehicles or upgrades.
Ultimately the motivation to continue racing became all about finishing it and reaching level 50. Once I established that goal, I was prepared to sink as much time as I needed to make it happen and give you a detailed review, ensuring nothing had been left out there.
There were certainly times where the scripting was cringeworthy, trying to hard to be authentic. It’s always going to be hard to replicate the real vibe of the underground with actors who couldn’t care less about cars. If you can make it through those scenes, you will land yourself in front of some actual celebrities.
Need for Speed hopes that you’ll continue to spend time in the game well beyond the story missions. To encourage the willing disposal of your time, the game includes a range of collectables. Vista Spots, Donut Spots, Free Parts and Car Challenges. These proved a temporary motivation, but didn’t achieve what they were supposed to.
With some vehicles technically unable to perform donuts within the predefined area, it served for more frustration than enjoyment. Constant trips back to the garage and back to these locations grew old fast. Vista spots felt like a complete waste of time, the images captured were of such low quality they weren’t something I wanted to share on social media and really far from the magazine quality photo of your customised ride, they should have been.
Driving the Hoonicorn and meeting Ken Block
Way back in August we brought you news that Block’s ridiculous all-wheel-drive 845hp 1965 Mustang would be in the game. After meeting the guy and seeing the car in person at CES 2015, I was keen to see if the game let you behind the wheel of that monster. Happy to report the thing is ridiculous, so stupid that you’ll waste hours going sideways in it.
Having this amount of power and a serious drift setup, means you can power around corners (usually hairpins) with all four wheels smoking. It’s not easy to get the Hoonicorn, you have to battle Ken Block to get it, but when you do, its totally worth whatever time you put into the game to that point.
I wish this car was in other games and I’d probably pay an outlandish price if it arrived in Forza 6 as DLC, but for now, it looks like NFS has the exclusive.
One of the game’s most enjoyable parts is your vehicle customisation. Almost every in-game vehicle editor today contains the ability to add custom graphics to your car, to create your own livery. Need for Speed offers something different, something special, something real, which is surprising for an arcade-game. The ability to add graphics to the car’s glass windows, is something I’ve not been able to do in any other racer I’ve played on this console.
This may not sound like much, but to those racer’s who own their own customised car in real life, that try to build it in the game, will ultimately get to the point where they want to add brand logos to their windows (especially JDM builds) will usually hit a brick wall. Fortunately developers Ghost thought about this and solved the problem by allowing graphics to be placed on glass.
Not only are there visual upgrades like body kits, exhausts, hoods, wings, side skirts etc, but there’s also upgrades for performance. This game offers a wide variety and a vast amount of upgrade tiers. Each costs more money which leaves you having to spend more time on the streets to finance your ride. When you max out one car, you’ll upgrade to the next and at times, you have to make the hard decision of selling the ride you invested so much money into.
In terms of handling, the car setup allows you to setup your car in really only two ways.. grip or drift. The art of the game is to find the balance between the two, which is offered on a linear slider for different adjustable vehicle properties.
Its certainly not as easy as max grip for speed races and max drift for the point scoring, the game is thankfully more nuanced than that. Even the high speed races involved tight turns and the best way to get around them is to slide the rear of the car out, even a little, to make the corner easier. If you have max grip, this requires you to drop too much speed to make the turn.
While the handling in this game isn’t in the same ballpark in terms of realism when next to racing simulators, it does do well for an arcade racer, with the adjustments having an immediate impact on the feeling of a car.
One of the highlights in this game is definitely the music. It’s great when your favourite band comes on the radio, but generally just a great driving experience when you hear music you know. The game is packed with a number of A-list artists which really help the experience.
The dark, rainy streets are generally disrupted by burning rubber and sliding tail lights, but in the heat of a battle, I have noticed, complex scenes can be interrupted by dropped frames.
There’s definitely been plenty of complaints about the darkness of the game, the fact that the lightest part of the day is sunset, but the game desperately wants character and feeling and to place you in the world of street racers. Street racing in broad daylight is too risky and the game reflects that.
Something that didn’t get fixed from the pre-release is the incessant phone calls from you’re crew. Multiple times, I’d be in the middle of a race and receive a call. This takes distracted driving to a whole new level. Most of the time I declined the call, but concentration had already been disturbed.
No steering wheel support
To deliver a racing game without steering wheel and pedal support is seriously unacceptable. For uber fans of the genre, we’re left sitting in an expensive racing sim, navigating the streets with a controller.
No In-car view
The other big issue is the lack of in-car or cockpit view. A massive mistake. While you can select from cameras sitting on the front bar, the hood, the rear wing, there’s also a camera specifically for drifting. This is support to help you earn style points as you drift through corners, but I found far more of a distraction than an assist and barely used it.
Price & Availability
Need for Speed is available now, available on Xbox One, PS4 and PC.
This game gets a lot of things right, its the kind of racer that’s just fun to screw around on when you have a few minutes spare. The mood, the music, even the successful blends between video and virtual worlds during dynamic cut scenes, the game will satisfy fans of the franchise. In fact, its easily the best Need for Speed in years.
I really don’t understand the lack of wheel and pedal support, that’s so easy to implement and recently we seen WRC5 add it with an update. In the few months since I first played NFS, I waited for that update that delivered it, but it never arrived and at this point doesn’t look like it will. Its a massive disappointment to be sitting in a GT Ultimate V2 racing sim and have to pick up a controller to race. Its a mistake, there’s no other way to put it.
With so many great racing games released in 2015, its hard to justify this game on top of all the others. Forza 6 on the Xbox One is still the best racing title on the platform. If you’re a die hard fan of Need for Speed, you probably own this from launch day and will be happy with your purchase.
If you have a racing wheel and pedals, skip this game, the lack of support here shouldn’t be rewarded.
Overall this game does provide hours of entertainment, it has some unique elements like Ken Block and great livery editor. Reaching level 50 was certainly rewarding, just remember, its not something you can put on your resume.
Need for Speed legends update arrive as DLC in December, it offers 15 new challenges and brings back many of the classic liveries from previous NFS titles.