Built Not Bought
Driving through the night time vistas of Ventura Bay in my Nissan 180SX, the new Need for Speed tackles the scene which made the Underground series famous – legendary street rides that are not only fast, but affordable. After exploring other types of racing Ghost Games has finally returned to provide what the fans wanted, but a few things hold the game back from becoming a true successor.
Need for Speed is set in Ventura Bay, a fictional city that never sees any light of day (literally the game is set at night only). You play as a racer that caught the attention of a local crew as you blitz through your first race. After being accepted in, you then begin your career as you choose your first car and get introduced into the world of street racing.
The strongest aspect Need for Speed pushes is that you can play how you want, as there’s different style of racing to get involved with. Whether you love the standard racing, time attack, or drift – Need for Speed offers a good variety. Customisation also plays a major role in the game as you push you’re given full flexibility with how your car looks and feels. There are lots of options here and for car enthusiasts this is a dream come true.
I’ve always wanted a Nissan 180SX kitted out in a Rocket Bunny kit and while that dream is achievable (maybe not at the moment) – you can do it in Need for Speed. There are 51 cars available in the base game, which includes rides like the Toyota Supra and Nissan R34 GT-R, to supercars like the Lamborghini Huracán. Each car is fully customisable from paint and decals, to parts like full body kits and wings. You can also increase performance of the vehicle through mod upgrades. If you want better handling and even nitrous, you can also add it in. Tuning your car and adjusting how it handles is also a feature so if you’re looking at doing more drifting and want a car that can whip it good, you can turn off settings for looser handling.
These are all handled via the currency system in-game which is gained through performances in races. You can also unlock or be gifted certain things by accomplishing objectives for a crew member. The money in-game is, however, really easy to earn this time around. Most races give you an average of $2,000 to $4,000 if you win which is quite a lot. This makes car progression somewhat really fast but probably accessible for those who don’t have much time to invest. After the first 2 hours, I went from owning a Honda Civic to a R43 GT-R. You’ll be running a Lamborghini in no time.
The car list for Need for Speed is decent but it does lack a few notable rides that should have been included. The inclusion of a lot of supercars also was a disappointment considering the game’s focus on street racing with cars that are common. They’ve provided a hefty line-up of brands, such as Nissan and Ford, but Mitsubishi and Subaru seem quite lacking in models. The Mitsubishi gets the Lancer Evolution MR, while the Subaru gets the Impreza WRX STI. The BRZ doesn’t really count considering there’s the Scion FR-S and GT 86 which are basically the same car. I wish they included cars like the older Lancer Evolutions and WRX which are very common among the street scene.
The racing for Need for Speed sits on the arcade side of the scale but I believe they’ve improved the handling and drifting compared to previous games. Because the game has a significant amount of street cars the sense of speed seems much more realistic and not entirely blown out of proportion. The drifting aspect has also been significantly improved and feels much more challenging yet natural to master. It’s a slight curve to understand but once you get the feel for how it works every turn you take sideways feels like an achievement.
“It’s a slight curve to understand but once you get the feel for how it works every turn you take sideways feels like an achievement.”
While the game is set at night 24/7 this doesn’t stop the visual department having a field day with the Frostbite engine. The dynamic lighting and effects are amazing and while everything is dark it really brings out the vibrancy of racing at night from brilliant viewpoints and a great selection of scenery from windy touge inspired mountains to sharp angled urban corners. The Frostbite engine has always been impressive and it seems like they’ve really pushed photo-realistic visuals with the new Need for Speed.
The problem with Need for Speed doesn’t come from its actual core gameplay but more the decision to make it online only. I can see what they’re trying to push here but the fact that it affects the experience with lag and glitches really held the title back from its true potential.
Running through the world with real players on the street is great, you can challenge them to different races on the fly and explore Ventura Bay with a crew. Most of my sessions have been with random players who happen to want to tag along with me and we chase each other and create drift challenges. This is great and what I would expect from the evolution of racing titles. Need for Speed has always been pushing this live world and have done this before with Most Wanted, but it really seems like it’s finally getting there.
Online functionality is good when it works but when things like customising your vehicle involves pinging the server every time you change something it can run into issues and, in the end, really affected my experience with the game. There were several times where parts I’d been fitting on my car didn’t load properly because the server wasn’t responding and times when I race other players glitched in my world causing random crashes because their connection wasn’t probably at 100%. This affects the overall experience, especially for a racing title. It doesn’t happen all the time but when it does it can be frustrating.
Ghost Games has shown a lot of effort when it comes to working with the right people to push the new Need for Speed, however the always online issues and lacklustre car list restricts it from being a true successor to the Underground series. When the game works, it’s amazing — providing those in the car scene with a real sense of enjoyment and excitement. I enjoyed Need for Speed because it really relates to me and my interests but, in the end, I wish Ghost Games didn’t depend on an online-only infrastructure to support it.
Developer: Ghost Games
Publisher: EA Games
Platforms: PlayStation 4 (reviewed) and Xbox One. PC coming 2016
Reviewed on a retail copy of the game.