Following the trend of recent remakes, Need for Speed looks to bring back the intensive nostalgia fans have for entries in the series as far back as PS2. Being that the landscape has changed with the inclusion of DLC, live updates, and online connectivity, developers had their work cut out for them. Did they finish first? No. No they didn’t.
The story follows you, as an unnamed driver, making his way up the reputation ladder. You’re quickly introduced to a slew of horribly acted, forgettable characters. The NPC’s are the stuff of daytime TV dramas, regurgitating jokes and one liners from your favorite stereotypical 90’s punk. At one point I swore the dialogue in N4S was written by a soccer mom trying one last desperate time to convince her kids she’s ‘the cool mom’. Each character has their own street racing discipline, and that’s how I’ve learned to associate each character with the races I’d be doing.
The graphics are both good and bad at the same time. The actual gameplay is pretty good. You’d think this locale (whose name is just as unforgettable as everything else in N4S) is set under a tsunami with the level of water in the game. Everything is wet! I know this was a conscious choice to show off the graphics, but everything shines in your face; not the smartest choice for a racing game. Now, even though everything is watered down, they do water very well. The wet street reflects light realistically. Water speckles on your windshield. This generation is obsessed with particular effects and N4S is no different. When you drift you kick up dirt on your screen and police lights flash on the bottom of your screen. It all looks great, if not a little overdone. Now for the bad, the cut scenes are live-action. In any older N4S you could get away with this, but in 2015, when the creators of Paranormal Activity themselves finished their series because of found footage fatigue, this just looks lazy. On top of that the developers have placed cars in the cut scenes using pseudo augmented reality. I’m not saying these models don’t look good, but if they think their cars are on par with Forza, I’m so sorry for them. Going from terribly acted people to a water world is very jarring, and more distracting than anything else.
Racing in the game during a tense moment is generally accompanied by a heart pounding orchestral set; in those moments it worked. I was as close to the TV as I could get, taking in every turn and pass with care, trying to finish first. When you’re not in these moments though, which is the majority of the game, you are attacked by the most annoying music you could ever imagine. I know these are actual tracks from actual artists so I won’t be making any friends with that last comment, but this is N4S dammit! So many games in the past have nailed the in-game music. I was surprised that this one dropped the ball. I can tell you exactly what corner I was taking in Need for Speed Underground when “The Only” by Static-X came on. That was one of the most memorable experiences of my career with racing games, thanks to a single song that pushed me to the finish line. N4S is, sadly, missing that.
Gameplay is where N4S shines the most –for a short period of time anyway. Taking a page out of the racing sim book, you are constantly reminded to tune your ride. When I chose my first ride and hit the streets, I almost immediately returned the game. I’ve NEVER come close to doing that before. The reason? The steering on my car was completely fucked! If I was turning and held the direction for too long, when I let it go I would keep going in that direction. It was a weird kind of lag that pissed me off so bad. But, I took the games advice, installing a sway bar and tuning it. It still ‘lagged’ a little, but I could at least play it. It would be another 6 hours before I could learn how to properly drift. For a game that boasts to be an arcade style racer, it sure as hell doesn’t feel like it. The biggest problem is that the missions aren’t diverse. There are maybe 5 types of races and the Style and Crew disciplines are so similar they could have been consolidated.
*sigh*… In the grand scheme of things, N4S is not a bad game. As much as I wanted to love this game, there is just too much wrong with it. The learning curve to driving, the incredibly distracting music with no controls to choose specific songs you don’t want to hear, the flashing lights that could (no joke) induce a seizure (you’ve been warned), and the odd choice to make cut scenes live-action, N4S caters to everyone and no one at the same time. If you must play this game, either Redbox it, or wait until it’s half price.