Need For Speed – Review
Xbox One, PS4, PC
This year for the first time in an age Need for Speed skipped an annual release. This was supposed to refresh the series and help fix the monotony that was creeping into the franchise. That extra year has been and gone and we now have a new Need for Speed game to play but the big question is did the time off invigorate one of the oldest arcade racing franchises on the planet or did it simply crash and burn?
The first thing any new player will notice is the brand new FMV story segments. These sections are designed to tell the tale of the player’s rise through the street racing ranks, emulating real life racers such as Ken Block in the process. FMV is something of a tricky beast when it comes to video games. Rarely has it been implemented well and the best gamers can hope for is so-bad-it’s-good acting ala Command and Conquer. Unfortunately the FMV in Need for Speed is just downright terrible and the dialogue is even worse. It seems that developers Ghost games have just picked up some random people from the street and given them some lines written by a thirteen year-old. It is a truly painful experience watching these so called actors try and convey anything meaningful. What is worse is they are constantly calling the player while out on the road, interrupting whatever is going on with their inane drivel.
What is impressive about the FMV is the transition between it and in game graphics. It is almost seamless as your car pulls out of the garage and becomes drivable. In fact the entire game looks stunning. The car’s themselves are beautifully detailed with individual parts able to be clearly seen. The streets of the fictional city where the action takes place are varied and show that the developers have put a lot of thought into ideal driving locations. The entire game is overlaid with a film grain effect that may put some off but on the other hand it does give the impression that the action is taking place in a movie such as Fast and Furious so many will likely appreciate it.
The driving is also a lot of fun. Obviously the game is firmly on the arcade side of the racing game spectrum so flashy drifts through tight corners are the order of the day. The game conveys a wonderful sense of speed which creates edge-of-your-seat tension beautifully, especially when weaving through traffic. The game however is let down by some fairly dodgy AI with rubber banding and strange pathfinding a major issue. It doesn’t get in the way of having a good time but can be very annoying when an AI car inexplicably crashes into a gutter taking you out in the process. Police chases through the open world are highly entertaining as well with the police being relentless in their pursuit of the player. It can take quite some time and more than a few tricks to shake these determined law enforcement officers, making getting away a truly satisfying experience.
The real star of this game however is the customisation system. Everything from the windshield wipers to the exhaust and everything in between can be customised, improved and tailored to the player’s specific driving needs. There is a simple slider that can be used to adjust whether the car needs to have high grip or whether it needs to drift and this is the perfect solution for the average Joe. For those that love to fiddle with every part, well that option is available to you as well. It is strange to see this much customisation and component tinkering outside of the Sim racing genre but Need for Speed is better for it. It encourages the player to focus on a small amount of cars, tailoring and improving each one, as opposed to collecting every car in the game. It gives a real sense of ownership to these beasty machines, making driving one that much more personal of a personal experience.
This all adds up to a mixed experience. Need for Speed has some solid gameplay and excellent customisation but that is offset by a story that is straight from the mind of an adolescent male and some of the worst acting this side of Sharknado. If you are a die-hard fan of the series you will probably find enough here to keep you happy but the rest of us will probably be more satisfied with an alternative such as Forza Horizon or even Driveclub. Looks like Need for Speed still has some way to go before it returns to the glory days of old.