The Need For Speed series has always been a staple in gaming for such a long time, It’s kinda incredible that it’s been around since 1994 with almost yearly releases. Need For Speed: Heat is the newest one and also comes at a time where the modern EA has taken everything about the series and just crammed in way too many pointless things, trying to make it some sort of racing collect-a-thon.
This year’s game tries to once again pit the pure of heart street racers against the evil vile police who are just there to ruin the fun of the sweet and innocent racers. You are nameless created character 105284, who meets up with token diversity character and her brother who instantly invite you into their inner family where they tell you all their hopes and dreams, sprinkled with bite sized chunks of family drama and tragedy.
You race along side them and quickly find out that the cops don’t seem all that pleased that you are partaking in dangerous illigal street races where you cause massive property damage and murder the civilians in numerous hit and runs. So, one night, as you grab a Big Gulp while taking a break from causing havoc, one of the cops tows your new strictly platonic lady friend’s pimped out ride. This sets off a course of events that causes you to focus on two or three main objectives, getting the cops back for impounding your buddie’s vehicle and making sure that everyone knows that you are Nameless Created Character 105284!
The game involves a couple main types of missions, broken up into night and day. During the day, you can join in on legally sanctioned circuit races, and some gymkata style drifting competitions. You’ll meet a few other friends who want to have you compete so you can move higher up on the rankings of super cool street racers so you can join the upper echelon of “The League” a group of the best of the best. The “cool kids” if you will. Winning these daytime events will earn you “bank” (or “money” for the non-hip-with-it crew), that you can use to buy new cars and upgrades for your current ride.
Switching over to the night, allows you to drive around to the various street races to compete in, so that you can earn “Rep”. Leveling you up, so you can unlock better parts to upgrade your car with, or even unlock new cars to buy. Performing in these night time events are illegal will attract the attention of cops. The cops in the story are mostly corrupt and the bad guys of the game. They have formed a special task force that gives them access to mods and basically are employed with the use of lethal force. Nothing is off limits to them. They won’t shoot you, but the will run you into oncoming traffic, into brick walls or buildings, flip your car, use spike strips and send you carrening off a gigantic cliff if they see you at all during the night driving around.
The game requires money to buy parts to upgrade, but to get the parts you have to unlock . Thethem with rep. So you need to switch back and forth between night and day. I spent the majority of the game, in the day time, doing every race I could until I started losing, then switching over to night and doing every night race I could until I started losing. Then switching back to day, and doing the same thing. Once I had enough money to buy all the upgrades that I’ve unlocked, I upgraded my starter car with everything I could. My starter car won, probably 60% of the races I did in the game. You can upgrade so much, that you can easily buy your way to a much faster car than everyone else with ease. I only drove four cars. Two starter cars, and then one for the stupid drifting challenges I had to do, and then my car I beat the game with.
I unlocked a Lamborghini Countach around half way through the 12 hours it took me to complete the game. Once I bought that car and upgraded it with everything I could, the car was reaching over 200mph on straight aways. My car could blow past everyone, and only suffered on the hairpin turns that required drifting. But I very rarely found myself in 2nd place or below. I just jammed on the gas until I had to turn. My lambo had super amazing brakes that would stop on a dime when breaking and holding the hand break as well, then shot off like a rocket with its crazy acceleration.
The story in the game is lame. It’s a “Cops are bad, street racers just want to have fun, man!” type of story. That special task force created to take down racers, guess what, they are corrupt and impounding the vehicles and using a chop shop to ship them out of state. It just makes zero sense and isn’t very well written. The characters are very one dimensional and you can see everything they are in one cutscene.
I enjoyed a decent amount of the game, but it’s not really anything very good, it’s a perfectly fine racing game that is better than the few racing games they have put out in the last several years. Racing is fun enough, but there is a good amount of rubber banding to it. The nitrous boost is just a camera effect in races, where the camera pulls back and goes fisheye a bit, but you can not pass others because they match your speed.
The cops can be an extreme pain in certain cases where they just are magnetized to you, and you can’t get away from them, no matter how fast your car is and how you can sometimes get away with them without any effort. It just screams bad game design in certain areas of the game.
I spent most of the time while playing thinking back to last year and just remember how much fun I had with Forza Horizon 4 instead. Which is probably the worst thing for a new game to do. The game just wasn’t all that interesting, but fun enough to keep me playing until I finished it. The music certainly didn’t help at all, as it’s a bunch of nonsensical dubstep for the most part. I lowered the music all the way down and threw on my Spotify Burnout playlist. With the amazing soundtracks of the Burnout series playing in the background, it made it infinitely easier to just sit back and race without having a bunch of bass drop noise in my ears distracting me. But that wasn’t enough for me to go driving around doing all the collectible stuff.
The collectables in this game are kinda weird, there is graffiti to collect, but only unlocks stickers to use if you want to customise your paint job. I don’t have time nor care about that at all, so even though they are super easy to collect, I didn’t really do any of them. There are pink neon light flamingos to smash (no explanation in game, just pink neon light flamingos scattered around the map) and those are pointless too. Then there are billboards, just like Burnout Paradise… yet these mostly make you drive around platforming your way across rooftops and shipping containers to even line up the jump. I started skipping these when I realised it would take forever just to try and find a way to get them. It’s all just an incredible waste of time for some tiny skill points or money or art customization.
I really hope they take a year or two off for this new console generation and make something special. I remember my favorite Need For Speed game was the Most Wanted reboot back in 2012. It had hidden cars to collect, crazy weird races where cop cars were formed into a giant waterwheel and rolled around the city destroying everything while trying to crush you, or formed into a massive tornado… It’s a fun and unique game that had a real sense of style that you just don’t see in this series at all anymore. This new game feels like it was lifted right out of a knockoff, bargain bin, straight to DVD movie. It’s just uninspired and by the books. Give me either just pure racing with a focus on the mechanics, or something completely out there. It just can’t be middle of the road.