Need for Speed Review (XONE)

Need for Speed screen
Need for Speed screen. EA

I still love Need for Speed Underground 2.  I greatly prefer the original "The Fast and The Furious" and "Tokyo Drift" over the newer movies because they were actually about racing and car culture.  So when it was revealed that the new Need for Speed reboot was going to basically be Underground 3 in all but name, you better believe I was excited.  For the most part, Need for Speed delivers exactly what I wanted.

  It looks amazing, plays very well, and has the deep customization I loved about the old games.  Unfortunately, it is also surprisingly short, has an awful story, and is always online for some inexplicable reason which affects performance.  Need for Speed is still a very enjoyable game, but not quite up to the standard of its predecessors. 

Game Details

  • Publisher:  Electronic Arts
  • Developer: Ghost Games
  • ESRB Rating: “T" for Teen
  • Genre: Racing
  • Pros:  Awesome visuals and engine sounds; solid gameplay; great customization
  • Cons:  Story is pretty dumb; always online for no reason; surprisingly brief

Story

Need for Speed's story features you as the new kid in town who magically hooks up with an eccentric crew of racers and takes the racing world by storm.  There is a crazy disconnect between the story - told though extremely corny FMVs - and what you actually do out in the streets that makes the story seem pretty darn pointless.

  Admittedly, the characters can be pretty likeable and the dialogue is cheesy in that so-bad-its-good way (rather like the first "The Fast and the Furious" movie, actually), but there's no depth.  There is nothing going on of importance in these scenes besides actors spewing memes and acting "cool".

  You just want them to shut up so you can go race.

I suppose the FMVs are mostly there to pad out the game's length, which is a good thing because it is surprisingly short.  There are around 80 events total - of several different types including variations of normal races and drift events -, which seems like a lot, but you can blast through them in a couple of days because none of them are particularly long and few are very challenging. 

Gameplay

Its a shame there isn't more meat to Need for Speed, because the gameplay out on the streets is really pretty solid.  The handling model is sort of tight, but then you tap the e-brake and your car loosens up.  It strikes a balance between too tight and too lose that doesn't feel like any other recent racers, so it is fun.  You can also tweak the game to play a little more how you'd like as well thanks to the extensive customization options, and having separate dedicated setups for racing or drifting or a mix of the two that really do feel unique and make a difference is awesome. 

Customization

Speaking of the customization, it is pretty darn awesome.  You earn a steady stream of cash to buy whatever you want, but you do have to keep leveling up your "Rep" (basically just win events and be awesome) to unlock new parts.

  You are able to supe up your car and out-horsepower the competition pretty early on, though, which is why most of the game is so easy.  You can beat most of the events with your starting car as long as you keep pumping upgrades into it, but you will need a super powerful ride for the end game.

Visual customization is deep and satisfying.  The car selection of import tuners and muscle cars, along with a few exotics, is fantastic and being able to further customize the look of your favorite cars is awesome.  The sheer amount of parts and options you have at your disposal is simply awesome.  You can also paint and put decals on your car and, again, the number of options is staggering.

  The number of layers you can use for decals is mind bogglingly high, so you'll be able to create some pretty fantastic artwork given enough time and effort.  There is no interior customization like Underground 2, sadly, but that was pretty pointless anyway. 

Multiplayer

For whatever reason, Need for Speed is an "always online" game despite the fact you can't actually easily participate in online races with other players.  This isn't anything new, as NFS Rivals, The Crew, and Forza Horizon 2 do it as well, but it is implemented really poorly here.  Most of your interactions with other players are when your paths happen to intersect while you're doing a solo race, which is just weird.  You can challenge other players (or A.I. drivers) to street races on the fly when you find them, but chances are you won't actually be anywhere near another human player unless you actively seek them out.  You can initiate multiplayer races through the "Crew" section on the menu, but this only allows you to race with other people in your crew and not the randoms tearing around your game world already.  So what the heck is the point of making the game online again?  Even worse, the online stuff affects the performance of the game by causing stuttering and frame drops every time someone enters or leaves your game.  Thankfully, you can turn off the online interactions by choosing the play solo option in the menu, which we highly recommend you do.

Graphics & Sound

Visually, Need for Speed is stunning.  The game takes place entirely at night, which means the cars and lighting can be crazy amazing and realistic looking without hurting performance since the environments aren't hogging a lot of system power as they don't need a ton of detail.  The result is amazing.  The cars look incredible and the weather effects and lighting are gorgeous.  There are moments when the game looks photo realistic.  There are also some areas of the city that don't look as good if you drive slow and look for flaws, but at the high speeds you're normally traveling at, Need for Speed is a looker. 

The sound is also quite good overall with some great engine sounds that change with each new part you bolt on.  The soundtrack is largely dubstep and electronica with the occasional pop or rock track mixed in.  It is fairly inoffensive, but also not memorable.

Bottom Line

All in all, Need for Speed is a welcome return to the Underground-style of racing games, but it is over far too quickly and the way multiplayer is implemented is a mess so it won't keep you around for long.  While it lasts, though, Need for Speed can be a pretty awesome experience.  It looks great, plays great, and has fantastic customization options.  For folks who dream of sliding an insanely modded Supra or Skyline around rain slicked streets in the dark of night, Need for Speed is worth a look.