Need for Speed PC Review
Do cool cars and douchebag drivers mix well?
- Well optimised PC port that looks and runs great
- Great depth in customisation
- Perfect Moment mechanic adds an extra level of challenge to every race
- Cop chases lack intensity and smarts of previous games
- Needless story delivered by laughable live action cut-scenes
- Always online requirement is completely unnecessary
- Night-time racing only
- No cockpit view
Thanks to a lacklustre AI and questionable design direction and needless narrative filled with forgettable characters, the reboot loses the heart of what makes Need for Speed games great. The end result is a pretty but mediocre arcade racer.
The Need for Speed franchise has taken many different turns over the years. It’s moved from the underground street racing of Undercover to the driving simulation of Shift to the free-to-play MMO racing of World and the cartoon stylings of Nitro to the on-foot escapades of The Run.
The latest Need for Speed is intended to be a full reboot of the franchise, but the recently-released console version received a mixed reception from critics. Now we finally have the PC version which includes some new features and improvements. So does this reboot return the series to its former glory or is it another forgettable entry destined for the bargain bin?
Need for Speed doesn’t exactly make the strongest first impression as the opening hours of the game are spent introducing you to your crew and the world of underground street racing via live-action video sequences and cringeworthy dialogue. Once the cut-scenes are over, you’ll have your crew members pestering you on the phone whenever they have new races available. The calls will even come through in the middle of an intense race which can be off-putting. This chatty approach to delivering story missions is likely to annoy racing fans that have become accustomed to using the in-game map to navigate to events at their own pace.
Each member of your five-person crew represents
a specific race type. Speed events put more emphasis on time trials, style has
you sliding around corners in drift events while crew races require you to stay
in close proximity to others in the group which can also make things a bit
messy if they go wrong.
While racing, accomplishing feats in any of these categories increases your reputation which essentially acts as XP and levelling up gives you access to new parts in the garage. If you go fast, you’ll earn points for speed, drifting earns points for style, a clean nitrous burn lets you build points and running from the cops or driving dangerously racks up your reputation as an outlaw. Performing feats for multiple categories forms combos and if you manage to pull off all five at once, you’ll create a ‘perfect moment’, which can be exhilarating.
The outlaw races are the most disappointing
especially given Need for Speed’s
heritage in delivering intense cop chases. Cops are far less aggressive than in
2013’s Rivals and 2012’s Most Wanted. While it’s a relief to do
what you want without being hounded, the cops are virtually non-threatening to
the point that unless you slow down intentionally, law enforcement is unlikely
to ever catch you.
A welcome addition is the incredibly robust set of tools to customise your ride. There are only about 50 cars available though the goal isn’t to bounce from car to car but to invest in a select few and make them your own with more-powerful parts that unlock as you progress through the game. During my 25 hour play through, I spent most of my time with only four cars that I constantly tweaked to keep them ahead of the competition. You can change every aspect of how your car handles, but if that’s too intimidating, you can simply choose whether to gear your vehicle towards a drift or a grip setup, which is nice way to ease in more causal racing fans.
The tools for visual customisation aren’t quite at the same level as Forza but it does provide the most versatility the series has seen in a long time with a wealth of unique bumpers, bonnets, decals and paint jobs in addition to a freeform livery editor to give your car a truly custom look. And, thankfully, there’s no micro-transactions in this Need for Speed which was commonplace in previous games.
Speed, at its core, is an arcade racer and it
drives just like one with a handling and drifting system that is easy to pickup
and play. There’s a satisfying weight to the cars and tune-ups feel markedly different.
And just like other arcade racers, there’s a rubber-banding AI where you can
spontaneously leap from last to first in the final lap.
Frustratingly, Need for Speed is always online so you can’t even pause the game and you’re at the mercy of EA’s servers. Your map is always populated with eight other online players going about their business with the idea that your paths may intersect allowing you to crew up and race together for extra bonuses. But the large play area of Ventura Bay meant that these encounters were too infrequent to even matter. Rounding out the online features are Autolog recommendations that prompt you to sample the addiction of besting other players times.
Ventura Bay is made up of urban high-rises,
residential and industrial areas and hills full of drift-worthy turns. As
beautiful as the geography is, the roads are empty making the city feel
lifeless to drive through. It’s also a city that’s devoid of any sunlight with
the entire game taking place at night, (sometimes it gets as far as pre-dawn
but then immediately switches back to night again) dampening the sense of
variety. The dark and damp setting does give the game a grittier feel and also
brings the impressive lighting engine into play. The cars reflective surfaces
are wonderfully realised particularly in bumper cam and the gleam of the
perpetually rain-slick streets give the city a raw lived-in feel.
The PC version sports resolutions of up to 4K
and an uncapped frame rate. Running at 1080p, our GTX 970 comfortably hit a consistent
60fps with all settings maxed. Steering wheel support and manual transmission
is also available out of the box but there’s no cockpit view mode. PC players
also receive extra cars and tracks courtesy of the included Icons and Legends packs.
The reboot of Need for Speed comes at a time when the last two entries: Most Wanted and Rivals were well received as those games captured the essence of what made the series great from the over the top chases to the more effective multiplayer structure. Thanks to a lacklustre AI and questionable design direction with the online game world in addition to a needless narrative filled with forgettable characters, the reboot loses the heart of what makes Need for Speed games great. The end result is a pretty but mediocre arcade racer.
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