Guess who’s back, back again, Speedy Boi’s back, tell a friend… I’ll tell you who else is back; It’s Need for Speed with a brand new entrance into their hit franchise…
If you asked a random person on the street to name a racing game, they would most likely come out with either Dirt, Formula 1, or Need for Speed. The original game came out in 1994, over 20 years ago in collaboration with Road & Track and developed into the franchise we know today. With 18 games in the original main series with a host of side games for handheld devices and mobile phones, comes the second game after the reboot that happened in 2015. EA presents their next instalment, once again developed by Ghost, entitled Need for Speed: Payback.
Sounds interesting, right? I certainty was interested from the moment I saw that it was coming, and the story certainly is interesting; a group of racers plan to pull off a heist revolving around a very expensive car, the Koenigsegg Regera. Unfortunately, The House, a massive mysterious organisation led by The Collector, have other plans, and things go sideways… Now, the plot sounds exciting at first, but after the first hour and a half of exciting gameplay, it starts to go downhill. The main portion of gameplay is set around beating various clubs getting them to join your cause; each crew focus on different disciplines, drifting, drag racing, off-road racing, and standard racing – In the second chapter you get introduced to a mode called Runner, where you’re effectively going up against the cops. These just feel like filler portions in the game, however – Like they took the story aspect of Need for Speed: The Run, and broke it up with smaller races. With the exception of the Runner series, all I’ve felt in each section is that I really want to get back to the main story as that’s where I was the most engaged.
All that being said, the actual driving side of the game, as you would expect is very nice; the steering is a precise, and you get the feel of going fast all without ruining the way the game looks – The game feels how an arcade racer should; light, nimble and fast, no matter what you’re driving and what speed you’re going at – It doesn’t work all the time though… One of the fastest ways (And coolest) to get around a corner is to drift, but even in cars you would expect to be the most tail happy, you sometimes just can’t get the back end out – For example, my natural instinct to get a car into a drift is to lift off the accelerator, tap the break, put full steering lock on and hammer the power back on; I don’t know if it’s because I’m a bad driver or not, but in the cases where I most want to drift the game just doesn’t let me. I end up slamming into a wall and lose the last two places I just made! The game does suggest that the best way to drift is for an extended input of hard turning to push the back end out, which to me is not normal as I like to balance my drifts by counter steering and half the time, this doesn’t even work properly.
Like more an more games coming out at the minute, the game is rendered in full 4K on supported platforms with support for HDR in the settings – The settings available are actually very thin on the ground, if you look at another racing game, for example Project Cars, you may find settings to do with dead zones, car assists, graphics options, background noise, car sounds, etc. Whereas the sound balance is pretty good, I do like to turn the sound of my car up louder than the music to hear those sweet sweet revs…
Talking about music, I didn’t really like the soundtrack that came with this game – When I think about a racing game, I think of an older era of going along at breakneck speeds with the sound of heavy metal or eurobeat screaming in my ears; that doesn’t exist in this game, or the modern era of arcade racers, unfortunatley; there are some massive names in the game but its more focused around what’s in current pop circulation ranging from Stormzy to Royal Blood to Jayden Smith; whereas I do appreciate some Royal Blood and the lesser known Ho99o9 (Horror), there isn’t enough in the game to make me want to keep the soundtrack on – Talking about something I dislike about the game… Or rather, to paraphrase – Something I hate about the game. It’s time to have the dreaded talk about this game’s microtransactions…
In short, the era of driving into a garage to buy an upgrade for your car has ended. The new Need for Speed offers “Speed Cards” that you win through finishing races and challenges. These can also be bought at any time with money won at the end of the same races. When you discard a speed card. You gain a token. These token can then be used to spin a dial to get a speed card with something specific of your choice, for example, say you want an exhaust part, you can select the part then spin for the manufacture and and extra boots on that card.
The fastest way to get these tokens is through Shipments. What are Shipments? To put it bluntly, they’re loot boxes. How do you get Shipments? Well, the base level Shipments are awarded for getting a certain number of stars through freeroam events, or for completing various missions. The easiest way to get them though is to buy Speed Points, and that in turn allows you to to buy Shipments. The base Shipment costs 100SP and the higher tier costs you 150SP. In the base tier, you have the ability to gain vanity mods (hydraulics, neon’s, tire smoke), money and Tokens but limited to a maximum of 5. In the higher tier you can get everything in the base tier, along with a couple of extra perks, the limit on the number of tokens also goes up to 10.
I don’t have an issue with the fact that the game has micro-transactions. It’s a business model that works because a lot of people do throw money into microtransactions of their own accord. My issue, however, is where they tilt the balancing of the game towards making it harder or forcing you to grind to be able to get to the same place as a paying player – The races don’t give you large amounts of money when you finish races and while you do gain parts for your car as you finish races, there’s no guarantee that it will even be useful to you as often they end up being the same level as the parts you already have. While there was a large amount of debate around Battlefront 2 and it’s loot boxes, Need for Speed is a smaller franchise with a niche community – The storm that kicked up for Battlefront 2 could never be the same for this game. I just find it unfair for the many people that don’t want (Or can’t) pay extra money to the publisher, EA in this case, they get punished with methods that were originally used on mobile games, as the game at £50 is already a lot of money. Players shouldn’t be getting held back or being forced to spend more and more time in-game to just progress normally.
Despite the microtransactions, the game is still a lot of fun, the driving is nice and easy to lose yourself in, especially with the varying environments and the open world challenges. Pushing yourself to get those 3 star ratings can be extremely fun, and the story is engaging and looks amazing all the while. I would love to be able to shout at you, screaming, “GO GET THIS GAME”! But it’s just not good enough for that; while I do recommend the game. I can’t say that its worth £50. If the price drops down to £30 or below I’d say, go for it. Until then, I just can’t.
Overall I’m going to give this game a 7.2/10.