Need for Speed Review

Richard Walker

Need for Speed is a strange beast. An open-world racer with a story woven together by live-action cut-scenes, you can't help but wonder what EA Ghost has been up to since the release of Need for Speed: Rivals and the series taking a year off. Need for Speed looks pretty enough and succeeds in being a solid racing game, but it's a somewhat hamfisted effort, overall.

Things kick off with you (viewing the world via a first-person camera during the live-action sequences) evading the cops with your buddy, Spike. From here, you'll meet other members of your crew, each of whom have a different automotive passion and an associated set of events for you to complete. So Amy will hit you up with Build races, time trials and so forth, while Robyn will set Crew-based challenges for you to beat.


Various cars.

Manu is the drift and gymkhana guy, presenting you with Style challenges to tackle, and Spike is your go-to guy for Speed. Then there are the not-so mysterious Outlaws, who thrive on destruction, reckless driving and breaking the law. It's a neat idea, giving you five different ways to race and five race icons like Ken Block, Magnus Walker and Nakai-san to work your way up to challenging. But the way in which it's all presented is a bit crap. You can see what Ghost Games is trying to do, but it simply doesn't work.

The problem is primarily with the script and the patchy quality of the acting during the game's live-action sequences, as well as the frequent fist bumps, cringeworthy dailogue and heavy-handed product placement. Granted, the actors do the best with what they're given, but the characters turn out to be a fairly unlikeable bunch, obsessed with cars, racing and the personalities that align with their assigned trait, but they're poorly-drawn and one-dimensional. It's hard to care about any of them.

All of this is a minor gripe compared to Need for Speed's always online requirement, the benefits of which are pretty much non-existent. In fact, having other racers tearing around Ventura Bay can often be an impediment, as you'll invariably run into the occasional twat who enjoys ramming into and harassing you just because. AI cars also drive and race around the city, sometimes unintentionally invading, and thereby ruining a race you're taking part in.

One such drift train race against Risky Devil included a moment in which another race intersected with mine, leading to an unavoidable head-on collision. This kind of thing really shouldn't be happening, especially during race events that can take up to six minutes to complete. Having to restart a whole race from scratch due to something that's not your fault is a joke. And the end of an unsuccessful event also offers no quick restart option. You have to drive all the way back to the beginning.

In spite of these ill-thought out aspects, Need for Speed does fortunately have it where it counts, with its driving mechanics hitting the right notes much of the time. Except when the AI cheats and employs underhand tactics to beat you. Or when flagrant rubber banding rears its head in a bid to make races seem more dramatic. Or when the cops desperately try to arrest you for speeding, only to drive off in the wrong direction. Really, Ventura Bay's finest are utterly useless. I had to frequently slow down to let the cops catch up and extend police chases just to make them worthwhile.

Once you get a car you're comfortable with, tailored to your liking using the drift and grip sliders in the garage, Need for Speed begins to come into its own. Tuning your car is incredibly important too, as you find the sweet spot between drift and grip that feels right for you. Then you can set to work unlocking and purchasing mods and parts for your ride, enhancing its speed, handling and performance.


Ken Block's hoonigan car is great.

Need for Speed has a raft of customisation options too, enabling you to pimp your car out with spoilers, body kits, custom rims, headlights, taillights, tinted windows, hoods and more. You can also deck your ride out in paint jobs and decal wraps to ensure you stand out on the rain-slicked streets of Ventura Bay. The customisation doesn't exactly recall the excesses of Need for Speed: Underground, but it's deep and extensive enough.

Online has its plus points too, as you can drive up beside any human-controlled player in the city and challenge them to a race. Yet, the downsides outweigh the few positives, leaving you questioning the point of Need for Speed's always online status, other than the social and competitive aspects of Autolog, the Speedwall and slow-loading leaderboards. Thankfully, online doesn't have much bearing on the achievement list, with simple story progression and a few challenges spread across its simple 30 achievements. It's a straightforward, functional and nicely uncomplicated list.

Need for Speed doesn't feel much like a reboot, despite its title. Instead, it essentially feels like business as usual for the series, with pretty visuals, a perfunctory and questionable always-online component, and nicely shot, but objectionable live-action cut-scenes that we could do without. On the road where it matters, however, Need for Speed is immediate, enjoyable, and after you've invested a little time, it even becomes rather compulsive. Ultimately, though, there are better racers than Need for Speed out there.

Need for Speed

A slightly disappointing return for EA's racing franchise, Need for Speed doesn't do anything to push things forward. You'd think that a hiatus might have given Ghost Games time to inject a little extra vigour into Need for Speed, but the overall result is falls woefully short of expectations. Still, the racing part remains good, clean fun, which is what really matters.

Form widget
70%
Audio
60%

It's down to personal taste, of course, but I hate Need for Speed's soundtrack. It's the most offensive ear garbage I've been subjected to in quite some time. Engine noises are nice though, innit.

Visuals
80%

Lovely rainy cars, neon-drenched city streets, Need for Speed is pretty. Integrating digital cars into live-action scenes looks slightly pants, though.

Playability
80%

Handling that you can tune to your specifications, superb customisation and solid racing gameplay. The AI can sometimes resort to dirty tactics, which can be hugely annoying, but otherwise, Need for Speed is fun.

Delivery
60%

Stupid live-action bits and a pointless always-online bit mar an otherwise decent open-world to razz around in. There are also very few cars to choose from, although the wealth of customisation compensates a little bit.

Achievements
70%

Across its 30 achievements, you'll manage to see all the requisite bits of Need for Speed. The entire list is focused upon progression and the odd challenge. Nice and straightforward.

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