I have fond memories of sinking hours upon hours into the NFS Underground and Carbon Games. I’m a sim racer guy at heart, but I will always jump at the chance for some good, absurd, arcade fun, and the NFS series (through all its recent highs and lows) have always filled that void. The spectrum ranges from the brilliance of Most Wanted to the head scratching “meh” of The Run, but regardless of the quality, I know I’m getting fast and furious (pardon the pun) action with any NFS game.
The latest entry is simply titled Need For Speed. For lack of a better description, think of NFS as a combination of Underground, Carbon, and the recent AllDrive features from Rivals. It’s one of the most beautiful racing games I have ever seen (even though the “always at night” setting got old after a while), and it retains the arcade fun that made the NFS series what it is, but it’s an incredibly short game with some pretty cheesy acting in the cutscenes (despite the fact that I enjoyed them), and the NFS Rivals-esque multiplayer just feels bare most of the time. But oh man; the game is pretty and for a gearhead like myself, the huge amount of visual and performance customization has me drooling.
The story mode in NFS is about as stereotypical, Fast and Furious, EXTREEEEEME!!!!! Rockstar/Monster energy drink bro-ing as it gets. I enjoyed it in the same way I enjoy the Fast and Furious films; it’s so bad that it’s good. I found myself wincing more times than I care to admit at the dialogue and acting, but I still found myself entertained by the interplay between Manu and Spike, and found myself strangely crushing on Amy. Each of the main characters represents a racing style, and completing each character’s objectives nets you specific upgrade parts. I couldn’t care less about the story itself, but found myself obsessively completing races in order to get the next upgrade part. My Mustang is in the game, and since I can’t afford to get all the upgrades I want in real life, I can do so in the game.
Which brings me to the roster of cars. The total number of cars in NFS is miniscule compared to something like Forza 6 or Gran Turismo 6, but it’s a pretty diverse roster of vehicles and offers a little something for everybody. If you’re into American muscle like myself, you’ll find a nice helping of Mustangs and Challengers. Import fans will find everything from the MX-5 to old Skylines. Supercars fans will find Ferraris and Lambos. Chances are, if you consider yourself any sort of car fan, you’ll find something here to your liking, but keep in mind that unlike games like Forza or Gran Turismo, you’re not playing NFS to collect hundreds of cars. For starters, you can only have five cars in your garage at a time. Secondly, the point is to find a handful of cars that you like and improve them throughout the course of the game. This is where NFS’s excellent customization options come into play.
I won’t go so far as to say that NFS has the most modding options I have ever seen (it probably doesn’t), but there is a LOT to play around with. Everything from visual mods like RTR parts for my Mustang and generic Need For Speed parts, to performance upgrades like better air filters and exhaust systems are available for your to play around with. You can change the appearance of your car by tweaking the color and decals, and a helpful slider system can change your car’s handling from drift to grip in a matter of seconds. You would be hard pressed to find another car exactly like your’s in the game world, and that lends to a nice sense of individuality.
You’ll notice so far that I haven’t mentioned the multiplayer aspect of the game. Like Rivals before it, NFS requires a constant internet connection to play. This would make sense if the game world was populated with a ton of other players, but I would be shocked if there was more than five at a time. Honestly, I’m not sure why I need to be online at all; it seems all it offers me is the inability to pause the game, which is a major pain when you have two toddlers wanting your attention.
The best thing about Need For Speed are its visuals and handling. I mentioned earlier that NFS is one of the prettiest games I have ever seen. There have been more instances than I can count where what I was seeing on the screen looked photorealistic. Now granted, the game takes place completely at night after what appears to be a rainstorm, so the reflections and lighting effects playing off the wet pavement certainly help make things look better than they probably actually are. The most impressive visuals come in the form of the live action cutscenes, where often you will see your car alongside the actors and live locations and it’s hard to tell whether you’re looking at an in-game model of the car or an actual live action version. Chances are, since your in-game decals and designs are all there, you are looking at an impressively rendered game engine version of your car reacting seamlessly with live action actors, so that in its own right is pretty darn impressive.
The car handling is about what one would expect from a NFS game. You will never confuse this with a simcade like DriveClub or Forza Horizon, but it’s also not as mind numbingly easy as something like Burnout either. Each of the cars handles differently from the other, and depending on if you have your car tuned for drift or grip, you’ll notice a difference in the same car as well. A big and heavy Challenger drives completely different than a small and nimble Toyota GT86/Scion FR-S/Subaru BRZ. Does the 2015 Mustang in the game feel anything like my Mustang in real life? Not even close, but I can tell I’m driving a Mustang as opposed to a Miata. Drifts are super easy to pull off, and chances are after a few hours, you’ll be busting out moves like Ken Block with no issues (he’s in the game, btw). As far as realism goes, this isn’t the best representation, but if you’re playing a NFS game to begin with, you’re not concerned about realism, right?
Need For Speed is fun, there’s no doubt about that. There’s also no doubt that it’s flawed, with some questionable multiplayer options and short, hokey single player mode. However, if you were a fan of Underground or Carbon, this game might be worth a look. It’s a gorgeous looking game with beautiful, almost photo realistic cars, and an awesome rendition of Los Angeles (called Ventura Bay in the game). It offers a “so bad it’s good” story and acting, but that’s what makes it entertaining. In short, it’s exactly what you should expect from a new Need For Speed game.
more info: amazon.com