Since it’s inception for over 20 years ago, the Need for Speed series has undergone numerous changes. From racing sim to arcade racer, the series has gone through a lot since it’s debut in 1994. After 2013’s excellent Rivals, the latest game from ghost attempts to fix the complaints made against it. In some ways it excited them. In other ways it felt dull. Simply put, the foundation for a great racing game is here, but a lot of kinks need to be ironed out for it to be any enjoyable.
There’s an attempt to tell some sort of story in Need for Speed with live action and POV cutscenes. Here, you are some no named, new driver that becomes part of a group of friends that wants to impress some other racing guy… And that’s it. There are some attempts to flesh these boring characters out, but that meant going through yet another cringe worthy cutscene. I’ll say this about the story, it’s a hell of a lot more enjoyable than that god-awful movie Need for Speed movie with Aaron Paul.
From a presentational stand point, Need for Speed is a good-looking game. Cars look fantastic, the transition from live action cutscenes to gameplay is seamless, and the game runs at a rock solid frame rate. However, all races generally take place at dawn or night and there are a surprisingly limited amount of cars around you. This hinders the ability to really get to know the city and its story. On the opposite end, the licensed music is reasonably diverse and the few original scores here are still decent.
The major issue I had with Need for Speed however involved actually driving your car. Handling feels stiff and unresponsive and while you can change how your car handles in the garage, I never got over how stiff it felt, especially when previous games in the franchise felt so much better. Secondly is the titular speed this series is named after. While driving may try to recreate the illusion of racing fast, the sense of Speed never manages to feel like you’re going fast.
It’s hard to explain, but maybe it’s because the roads are so wide, the buildings so far apart, that you’re not picking up on as many reference points zipping past your field of view as you might have in past entries in the series. It really just feels like you’re on a treadmill most of the time and the useless upgrades you can buy don’t help either. Then there are the missions, most of which are either finish in the top 3 or 1st, drift around corners, or literally just drive to a destination with other racers. None of these are the least bit engaging, nor are they anything close to fun given the poor handling and the rubber band A.I.
As of this writing, I’ve yet to (or have no desire to) play the latest patch which Ghost claims will fix this issue, but as is it now, the Rubber Banding is just bad. It doesn’t make the missions unplayable, but a lot of the tension is taken out. Especially when you realize that other racers can catch up to you, even if you’re doing 135mph. Lastly, since this game is online only, regardless of whether or not you want to play by yourself you’d think the game’s multiplayer would be passable. Well, it’s no improvement over Rivals. For example, there’s no automatic matchmaking or anything of relation. Meaning, you’ll have to make friends with others if you want to play with them. It’s a very convoluted process and it’s not user friendly whatsoever.
Need for Speed is polish and competent at best, but at worst is boring, wearisome, and shallow. It looks and sounds nice and I like the direction where Ghost wants to take the series, but has a laughably bad story, unexciting gameplay, insufficient amount of speed, and banal objectives. It’s a severe disappointment. I loved the last few games in the series and recommend picking those games up over this installment of this series.