When Ghost Games took a year out of releasing an annual Need for Speed title, we hoped for huge things when EA announced that the series would be getting a reboot with a new game titled simply, Need for Speed. But how much can you really reboot a street racing game? Turns out not much, but you can damn sure make it look impressive.
I love the Need for Speed series as it takes the seriousness out of racing games, and I mean that with no disrespect for those who take street racing seriously, what I mean is that the Need for Speed titles are fun, they’re reckless, they encourage you to try things you don’t necessarily get to try in less street-based games.
Add that with the level of customisation you get from Need for Speed games, you’ve got a recipe for success.
So why am I so indecisive as to whether Need for Speed is actually good or not?
In the new game, EA and Ghost Games has offered five different paths for you to travel down, each of which go to impress real-world racing icons from Ken Block to Magnus Walker each of which has their own little cheerleader in the form of the game’s five characters, Spike, Manu, Amy, Robyn, and some Anonymous dude (Travis) who wants you to piss off the cops.
Each of these paths also represent a certain play style such as Speed, Style, Build, Crew, and Outlaw and it’s up to you to decide which path you want to go down, or alternatively which to focus on more, over others.
The only real problem here is that each play style feels pretty much identical to one another. Sure, the Style path has you doing more drifts around tricky corners or obstacles, and the Speed path has you racing more than drifting, but ultimately it all boils down to one thing, drifting.
Drifting plays an absolutely massive part in Need for Speed, something which I’m actually a huge fan of. The only problem is, the game just doesn’t offer any instruction or drifting techniques to allow new players to get to grips with this integral mechanic. Not only that, AI racers are so oblivious to other players on the road trying to do anything remotely technical can often end in frustration, especially when you’re trying to conquer a long drift-chain combo and the tit behind you decides to ram full-speed into you destroying your combo.
Unfortunately this has been one of the main problems with the series as of late. Rivals suffered with crappy AI too, which only makes games like this frustrating beyond belief. I’m not just talking about the fictional racers in the game either, the police AI is just as ridiculous making the Outlaw path a pretty difficult one to follow, unless you decide to hold the cops hand by allowing them to catch up.
Fortunately AI is the only real problem with Need for Speed, sure it’s a bit of a massive one, but there are many bright points which hopefully outshine this issue.
One of those things is the games visuals. I’m not sure how they’ve done it, but Ghost Games has managed to create one of the most realistic games I’ve ever witnessed. Not just with the cars, but with the environments too, specifically with lighting. Though considering most of the races are at night in wet weather, a number of factors play into the visual side of things.
Not only that, the cutscenes, though fairly cheesy and consists of more fist bumps than I can count, look fantastic especially considering the cars are rendered in-game, making it look even more brilliant. The visuals in Need for Speed are second to none. They left me thoroughly dumbfounded and I’m still impressed with the way the game looks each time I start up the game.
This is also represented in the game’s customisation options, or should I say, the Wrap Editor. In the Garage, where you customise your vehicle, there are a number of options for you to take advantage of, from tuning settings, to performance upgrades, to the part that I love the most, the visual customisations.
Though I’m not the sort of person to go wrap-mad, in fact I prefer a minimal matte black on all of my vehicles, I am one to stick a ridiculous body kit on my car, lowering it to oblivion, and sticking some really loud tires and rims. This is where Need for Speed has always shined brightest and it’s no different here. Ghost Games have done a fantastic job of creating the most in-depth customisation when it comes to visuals, adding another plus point for Need for Speed.
One of the other huge selling points of Need for Speed was that every car in the game can be purchased from the very beginning, no unlocks are needed, all you need is the cash to splash on a pricey vehicle. The only real problem you’ll have is that getting that cash to actually purchase that Lamborghini you’ve been eyeing up, feels very much like any other progress-based unlock system. Sure, the car is there to purchase at any time, but you need to still put the work in, in order to actually ride in it.
Overall, Need for Speed is much of the same, which is one of the reasons why I feel so indifferent about it. Sure, it’s visuals are fantastic and the depth of customisation requires an oxygen tank, but the dull story and the oblivious AI does offer a number of sour moments, at least for me.
That’s not to say that the game isn’t enjoyable, it’s actually up there as one of my favourite racers this year, but if you’re looking for a street racer which stands-out from the likes of Forza Horizon, or even a track-based affair like Project CARS, then you may feel like you’ve just eaten a good McDonalds: full for about an hour until you burp, fart, and start to feel hungry again.
This review is based on the Xbox One version of Need for Speed provided to us by EA Games.