Whether you are a fan of full-blown simulators or more relaxed arcade driving experiences, I’m sure that for most of you the Need for Speed series is synonymous with racing games. At its best, it will deliver with unbelievable experiences way ahead of their time. Experiences like the Underground era of the series. Sometimes, however, it’s at its lowest with games such as the quick cash grab called Payback.
For me, it’s a lot more personal than you’d think. Half of my childhood was spent in games from the Need for Speed series. It was the only chance I could get my hands on an amazing, custom-made car. I felt like I would never want to let it go. Even when the police chased me for hours and hours, trying to kill my street racer rep.
This year, Need for Speed is back with its latest installment, Need for Speed Heat. It’s a breath of fresh air after the last few disastrous launches from the last five years or so. Heat brings one of the biggest car rosters in the franchise’s history, with over 137 cars and a promise of more to come in the near future. It’s not only that you have a lot of cars to choose from, but the customization possibilities are crazy too. Engine swaps, exhaust note tuning, body kits, and many other visual upgrades are available for your inner child.
You finally get the freedom to decide between the time of the day you would like between day and night. Each mode has different events based on this, shaping the world differently. The daytime gameplay comprises of more legal stuff, like pro street racing events. It’s the night time that sits at the opposite pole, all about the underground scene, running from the cops, and gaining street cred.
In the moderately paced campaign, you will try to join the racing crew called The Elite, while being chased by a police department hell-bent on stopping illegal racing across the beautiful streets of Palm City. These are not the regular cops you know, as they will show you no mercy and will often even forget to follow their own laws, as catching you seems somehow more important to them than integrity. If they play dirty, you should too, right? And it’s even more fun doing it behind the wheel of a 500HP race car.
There’s also an online mode in the game, but there’s not much to say about it since it’s rather basic. You can challenge other crews, race them, and prove to them who’s the best and most reckless driver. You’ll get experience, rewards and other things, but it didn’t feel that interesting to me. It’s fun to measure your driving skills against your friends, but the online mode leaves a lot to be desired. Maybe in a future update?
Apart from the car customization, you can also slightly customize your character. Don’t get your hopes up, as it’s nothing fancy. With that in mind, it’s still way better than nothing, and noteworthy for a racing game. You can choose from a few presets (around ten characters of different sex, race, and style), with a few other customization options being available, such as the color and length of the hair and other physical changes. Was it even necessary in a racing game? Maybe, maybe not.
Car handling is full arcade, like other NFS games, but it brings some cool new features that make progression interesting. Customizing the cars and the gameplay simultaneously is based on four handling styles: Race, Drift, Offroad or Road. Each style is different and should be used in the appropriate scenarios. You wouldn’t want to use an offroad style in a city race, or the other way around, right? In order to achieve these styles, you’ll have to buy custom parts from the following categories: Suspension, Differential, and Tires. It’s up to you to decide how you balance your cars, but be mindful of how you use them. Using the right car in the right race will give you a huge advantage.
Need for Speed Heat tries to even further refine the racing formula and almost succeeds. I had tons of fun customizing cars, racing friends, and trying to escape the police in my over thirty hours in the game. The main problem with it is the dull online mode. Regardless, my hope is that further improvements will arrive in future patches or DLC.