After 21 video games and a major motion release, developer Ghost Games have decided to reboot the highly popular Need for Speed series, and their vision is filled with flash and style. While there are a few issues with Ghost Games’ creation, Need for Speed is a very entertaining racer that should not be overlooked.
As expected, Need for Speed continues its first-person, slick and unique full motion video (FMV) style that has grown to be a staple in the series. While this may seem a little goofy on paper to those new to the franchise, the cutscenes are very well produced and the acting is pretty solid which makes up for its B-movie style delivery. The first-person viewpoint continues to be a nice way to immerse players in the street-racer world as you quite literally walk among fellow racers. Thankfully the group of young characters are likable. Though they probably do a few too many fist-bumps, they are nice and funny enough to keep the cutscenes interesting. The narrative as a whole is a pleasant light-hearted story which focuses on the young upcoming characters attempting to impress real-life racing icons, there are no villains or heinous acts performed which is a refreshing take on the usual rivalry angles carried out in street racing titles.
Outside of the live-action cutscenes the visuals of Need for Speed are very life like; the soaked streets combined with the neon lighting looks amazing. Many more detailed car models can be found in rival racer games but the car models look extremely impressive in Need for Speed’s showery world. Fortunately, there is minimal pop–in throughout Ventura Bay which makes for excellent views of the LA skyline. Additionally the framerate is also very solid and rarely drops below 30 fps. While Ventura Bay is very easy on the eyes, it does feel a little baron, with no pedestrians and barely any traffic it is certainly not a completely accurate representation of Los Angeles. However some of the transitions from the game to the live action cutscenes look very impressive, and the occasions where the real world is spliced together with the game is not only clever but a testament to the quality of the visuals.
Most gamers know that looks are not everything and thankfully the gameplay manages to hold up even if there are a few issues. Ventura Bay is not the biggest map, but it is well designed and offers plenty of turns, hills and long stretches to sink your teeth into. The cars handle well and it is easy to pull off drift after drift, this is due in part to the welcomed ability to customize most car’s characteristics through an easy-to-use slider system. Need for Speed has more of an emphasis on improvement rather than replacement of cars so expect to only use a handful of vehicles throughout your playthrough. With that being said, there are a limited number of cars to choose from which is a shame but with the promise of free DLC in the future expect to see the car count rise fairly soon.
Like the handling, Ghost Games have done a great job with the progression system. The game lets you start off with a solid car of your choice and gradually increases in difficulty, by the time the harder racers become available you feel as if both your skills and your car are up to the task. ‘REP’, which acts as the game’s experience points, and cash rain down in a manner which does not feel patronizing so you always feel as if you are improving even when in defeat. There are five story-arcs headed by one of the members of the group; each member offers a mission based on their particular way of driving whether it be speed, style or trying to anger the police, it is a simple yet effective system which allows players take part in the race types they like.
Unfortunately though, Need for Speed suffers from a number of glaring omissions; a number of them are features which are commonplace in racing titles. Obvious features such as a cockpit view, driving-wheel support, the ability to change the button layout and even an option to drive manually are absent. Perhaps the biggest issue though is the inability to pause the game which stems from the fact that you always require an online connection to play Need for Speed no matter what game modes you are playing. This also means that if your internet goes down you will be unable to play which feels unnecessary as Ghost Games has done little to prove that being always online actually benefits the overall experience. While it is nice to speed past random players throughout Ventura Bay, interaction between racers is very minimal and some of the load times are annoyingly long.
The biggest issue though does not lie in online-only state of the game but the rubber-banding which is downright laughable at times. The A.I. controlled vehicles are quite literally all over the place, as they are completely inconsistent in terms of their skill level in addition to their sense of morality. At times your “friends” will try to drive you into a wall meanwhile cars left far in your dust will stage unrealistic underdog comebacks during the final stretch of the race. Most humorously, on occasion A.I. may actually turn around and wait if you are too far behind which is just silly.
While mediocre, the rubber-banding is not a deal-breaker as Need for Speed is a solid racing title. Sure, many hard-core racing fans will be disappointed with the obvious exclusions which are routine in the genre meanwhile always having to be online is a drag. However the stunning visuals, killer soundtrack and fun gameplay is more than enough to recommend Need for Speed to anyone itching for a high-speed, thrill-filled adventure in a stylistic vision of Los Angeles.
Pedal To The Medal
Ghost Games' high-octane reboot, while there are some blunders, manages to blend excellent visuals with a cool story and solid gameplay.