November 10, 2015

Need For Speed - Review

Ghost has been responsible for two titles in the Need for Speed series, with the latest being a reboot of the series, its goal was to take it back the roots of street racing, but did it hit its lofty target?

The game starts off with a nice intro video, which then cuts to some live action footage, which is the way the game delivers most of its story. I say story, but when I mean are world details, there is not much of a story to be told here, you a nameless faceless person join forces with a group of racers, who all have their own specific way of driving, there is Manu the style guy, Spike the speedster, Amy the builder and Robyn who is all about driving as a crew. Each of the people are presented nice, but they fall into the stereotype camp pretty quickly and they never seem to leave, Manu is the zen guy and his look reflects it, with his look and dress, it would not be a stretch to find him at the beach catching some waves. The cutscenes feature real actors in real settings, sometimes they are in a dinner, sometimes a pool hall, each location feels alive and there are times when your character will interact with something, which is cool, when it is time to return to the game you will sometimes be back in the car, other times the cutscene will end and the game is there for you, with hardly a difference between them.

Story has never been the strongest point for the Need for Speed series and here is no exception, there is a goal to achieve, but it could have been made obtainable without the cutscenes or characters. The goal in question is to become the best in 5 distinct ways of driving, Style, Speed, Build, Crew and Destruction, the last one comes to you from a group of racers calling themselves outlaw and is by the easiest one to score in. As you achieve set targets in each field you will catch the eye of the legend for each and then if you beat them, you will become the best in that field, but of course to be the best there is overall, you need to conquer all 5 disciplines. In order to get your rep up, you need to complete the events for those skill types, doing so unlocks more races and progresses the story further.

Need for Speed started itself off as a fun arcade style racer, where you were let loose behind the wheels of some of the hottest cars in the world, over the years there has been quite a number of different takes on that idea, with one of the most popular being the Underground series. If you have played either of the games from that group before, you will be hard pressed not to see the inspiration they have drawn from and other games in the series them in creating this latest entry. The problem is they seemed to have selected some of the worst parts from the old games in creating the new one. The biggest problem is that the game is set at night, constantly, with most of the light you see coming from cars, street lights and buildings.

The game will occasionally show signs of daytime, but think of it more as a Swedish day in the peak of winter, with only the horizon showing life, before it quickly sinking back to night. The problem with this locked time is that the game never shows anything new after the first 15 minutes, each shot of the city, cars, anything is always going to look the same. Undercover had a similar issue, but they locked themselves into sunrise, they also had the road look very wet, which is also here, with almost every road looking like a shower had just ended, which looks nice, but it does not add anything to the game.

One area the game does work well is in the cars and the modification of them, the game gives you a choice of cars at the start and you will stick with your first choice for some time and even towards the end, you will have a range of cars, but you are best to stick with a few of them. While the car you start off with will be a jack of all trades, later on you will have car that is setup for drifting over speed or a car that is tricked out to take lots of damage, which will give you a good variety as you climb up the ranks.

Modifying the cars is pretty straight forward, you can approach it in two different styles, the overall or the detailed. If you go for the detailed, you will need to select the tire pressure for front and rear wheels, breaks, engine specs the works, by modifying each of these parts on their own you can come up with a much different feel to the car. If you are like me though and know very little about cars, you can use the overall option, which lets you choose between drift and grip, moving closer to grip will tweak the car so that it grips the road and as such does not easily go into a drift state, or the reverse if you go more towards drift. These options are important for when you take on the challenges that the game offers.

You have the 5 disciplines that you can go for, each has a set of events you can compete in, with destruction being the only one you can really do outside of an event. If you are spotted destroying things, speeding around or in general causing mischief, the cops will start to chase you. Well theoretically, as there were times that I had cops nearby and they never cared what I was doing and there was another instance where I was parked at the side of the road and then as I took off, slowly, the cop nearby proceeded to try and chase me down. I have to say try as I had the challenge of a 2-minute pursuit and I just kept taping the gas to keep them close and once the 2 minutes was up, I hit the pedal and lost them within seconds. They really pose no threat to you, no matter the scenario.

The AI of the racers however can be a problem as it tends to suffer from rubber-banding when in races, drifting events or time trials don’t have the issue, but when it comes to being number 1, no matter the lead you might build the AI always manages to close the gap, It becomes more apparent as you procced onto harder and harder events with races becoming quite the challenge. While the AI in events can be troubling, the AI for the cars and trucks of the city is also quite strange, more than once I encountered trucks barreling around corners and cars taking out light poles, something you would not expect to happen. Perhaps the most concerning part of the game is its insistence at always being online, if you do not have internet or its down you will not be able to play the game at all and when you do play you will not be able to pause the game at all, which is the reason I was at the side of the road earlier. Playing online keeps a small group of other racers near you on the map and for the most part they were ok, but I did have a few people that thought it was fun to just cause some chaos.

Need for Speed is a solid racing game, drifting the corners up in the hills is incredibly fun and flying down a freeway, whilst dodging oncoming traffic is also a thrill, but the game suffers incredibly from its restrictive time setting and wonky AI. The always online should not be an issue for most, but the lack of a pause function can be frustrating at times. 

Thanks to EA Australia for supplying the game for review

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