Need for Speed Review

Need for Speed Review

A reboot that’s just more of the same…and we’re psyched!

There’s only a select few franchises I keep up with religiously in the industry. I’ll pretty much play any Mario title I can get my hands on and I’ve yet to miss an entry in the Mortal Kombat series. There’s something about these childhood staples that continue to call to me, and the dude must abide. Another on that list is one of best racing series of all time (what I’d actually consider THE best). Naturally, I’m referring to Need for Speed . There has been no shortage of ‘ Speeds to hit the market in recent years, an approach I feel has been to the franchise’s detriment overall. Clearly this a trend which has not gone unnoticed by those behind the scenes, thus explaining the motivations of EA considering this latest outing a re-do of sorts.

Before sliding behind the wheel, there are a few things you should know about this rebirth. In some ways, it features familiar mechanics that are cherry picked from other series titles and wrapped in new packaging. Other bits look to take what we love about Need for Speed and evolve it to better fit the gaming landscape of 2015 and beyond. That means leaving behind the traditional style of racing alone while you try to outwit the computer controlled AI or beat the pre-recorded time trails. There’s plenty of that in here, of course, but you’ll have to make room for the “always on, always connected” sandbox you’ll also be expected to share with fellow gamers. The game is essentially one big persistent server, where the action continues when you log off. You’ll be able to jump in and out of things like race events, challenge people instantly in real-time and continue the story mode at your leisure, but the online elements with other racers are always going on around you no matter what. It never stops…much like jacking in and out of the Matrix (perhaps I should consider rebooting some of my dated references, too).

When you first fire up the game, you’re immediately going to notice the smooth visuals. I can easily say I this was one of the first notes I made when I sat down to immerse myself. The game constantly switches between pre-recorded cutscenes and CG elements (often mixed and matched in the same space) to where it’s hard to tell what is in-game engine and what is live action. When out on the road, the glassy wet streets and glowing neon perfectly meld for a sexy presentation that should satisfy anyone’s craving for next-gen eye candy. This is one of those instances where owning a PS4 or Xbox One is really going to seem worth it, as having the extra horsepower is truly needed to push out these kinds of visuals and maintain the silky smooth frame rate.

Need for Speed Screenshot

The real meat and potatoes of any good racer go beyond just the visuals. First is the roster of sweet rides you can find in your garage. At launch there were 50+ to choose from, which might sound like a lot, but I found it to be somewhat limited. I like to have a lot of variety when deciding which car I’m going to spend the next several days decking out with decals, paint and upgrades, so I’m usually kinda picky. For my tastes, I would like to have seen more old school options (like the ’69 Dodge Charger, for example, which was conspicuous by its absence). But even as I write this, I’ll almost guarantee there are several DLC car packs primed and ready to nickel and dime us to death in just a few short weeks. An unfortunate side effect of the microstransaction’s rise to prominence over the last several years.

Need for Speed Screenshot

Another huge factor that can make or break any good racer is the level of customization. Here I can tell you that Need for Speed delivers and then some. To be honest, I think it kind of over delivers. It breaks things down to such a degree that you almost have to be a certified mechanic to understand the impacts of all the various changes you can make. Between being able to tweak virtually every aspect of your car’s performance, to all the aftermarket parts that break down into complex categories such as starter wiring, handbrake pressure and intake manifolds, trying to sort it out can almost make your head swim. In the end, I just kept heading back to the garage and buying the next-best part in line I could afford until I slowly but surely maxed out the car’s level. There are also some performance presets you can use, which help if you don’t want to delve too deep into the minutia.

All this customization will come in extremely handy for the various mission types. It’s going to be virtually impossible for you to progress in this game unless you own at least two vehicles to accommodate the different race styles (unless you want to keep tweaking your preset from the garage before each race, which can be a real pain). You’ll need a good set of wheels for raw power and speed to tackle the sprints, time trails and lap based races. On the other hand, a slippery set of loose tires for your drifting missions (which are based mostly on points) is an absolute must. I personally didn’t enjoy the drifting aspects of the game quite as much as the straight-out racing, but it does help add variety and I’m sure there are those who’ll quite enjoy squealing around corners while trying to maintain that perfect balance of controlled chaos with this race type.

Need for Speed Screenshot

As for the story, I can’t really give it positive or negative marks. It’s not bad, in fact it’s pretty much what I would expect from a racer such as this. The production values are pretty good and the story is standard fare, but it’s nothing you haven’t seen a million times. Faceless guy gets recruited into a crew of street racers who all want to make a name for themselves. To achieve said goal, somehow all you need is a broken down Honda Civic and some after-market parts to become a super-star of the streets overnight. If only the real world operated that simply, Jiffy Lube would become our new religious institution. While most people would suggest I’m silly for expecting anything more than good gameplay out of an arcade racer, I guess I’m just old fashioned in wanting a little bit of a hook from the story to help keep me interested. Once you get through the initial tutorial stages, the story mode’s play mechanics don’t really change all that much. Win races to buy better parts to win more racers. Wash, rinse, repeat. There are a few collectible opportunities here and there, but nothing to write home about. But I give a pass on this aspect, as the story’s level of importance to the overall game quality ranks pretty low in this instance.

At the end of the day, you have to gauge a game on its fun factor. Did you enjoy yourself, and can you recommend it to others who’d also be able to find value in it? Despite a few gripes here and there, it’s hard to go wrong with any Need for Speed . Even though this one is sold as a “relaunching” of the series, it really just feels like a modern-day Underground sequel. Having said that, if they continue on in this vein (and learn from some of their past transgressions) I can see Need for Speed once again rising to the heights of its popularity it experienced during the heyday of 2005 (when Most Wanted was pulling in Destiny -level profits). If not for the fact that the whole damn game takes place at night and has no day-cycle (something I found quite annoying), I would have given this game a near perfect score. But I found that aspect of the title became repetitious pretty fast.

So if you’re looking for a fast-paced, fuel-injected bit of fun with no strings attached, there’s really no good reason not to at least rent Need for Speed 2015. In my opinion, it easily beats out juggernauts like Forza for the top spot of racer of the year.

Beautifully rendered street reflections, lighting and a sleek frame rate will keep your heart pounding at just the right RPM. 4.7 Control
Great handling and maneuverability on most of the cars by default and an endless amount of customization options. It’s almost impossible not to find a perfect balance of performance that’ll work for your race style. 4.3 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The muscle cars sound nice and crunchy while the exotics have a higher, whispery hum that really allows you to feel connected to the power under your hood. 4.5 Play Value
If you’re an arcade-style racing fan who finds sims like Forza too restrictive, you simply can’t go wrong with Need for Speed . 4.5 Overall Rating – Must Buy
Not an average. See Rating legend below for a final score breakdown.

Review Rating Legend
0.1 – 1.9 = Avoid 2.5 – 2.9 = Average 3.5 – 3.9 = Good 4.5 – 4.9 = Must Buy
2.0 – 2.4 = Poor 3.0 – 3.4 = Fair 4.0 – 4.4 = Great 5.0 = The Best

Game Features:

  • Five Ways to Play: Need for Speed returns with Five Ways to Play – Speed, Style, Build, Crew and Outlaw, enabling you to earn reputation and ultimately win your way. Combine all five to create that perfect Need for Speed moment; driving insanely fast, sliding through a corner in your customized ride alongside your friends, whilst being chased by the cops.
  • Rich Authentic Customization: Build a car that reflects your character through extensive visual and performance customization. With hand-picked iconic cars, the hottest authentic after-market brands, performance tuning, and personalized handling. Set up your ride and hit the streets.
  • Narrative: Five distinctive overlapping stories each inspired by a real world icon. Every choice, every second, every minute propels your playing experience on your journey to become the ultimate icon.
  • West Coast Urban Setting: From dusk till dawn, discover an open world of urban car culture you never knew existed.

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