Need for Speed Hands-On Impressions: Kicking Into High Gear

Shacknews goes hands-on with Need for Speed at the 2015 EA Summer Showcase in New York City.

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After releasing Need for Speed Rivals in 2013, developer Ghost Games decided that the best way to top its work was to go back to the drawing board and delve deep into what the core of Need for Speed is. The result is a reboot that gives players five distinct gameplay paths to pursue, each with individual stories involved. We recently got a chance to trick out our ride and hit the streets at the 2015 EA Summer Showcase event in New York City.

The five gameplay systems include Speed, Style, Build, Crew and Outlaw. Among them, speed is the most straightforward. Drive fast and beat the competition to the finish line while trying to beat your own speed record. Style generally involves a lot of drifting, while Build means modifying your car with new parts and visuals. Crew challenges invite you to get together with friends for multiplayer races, and finally Outlaw indulges your wild side by causing destruction and messing with the cops.

Players are challenged to master all five techniques to become the ultimate racer. Although each branch has its own story and set of events, you can earn experience toward any or all of them at any time. The key is finding the right events and driving in a style that fulfills multiple criteria. For example, drifting around corners and crashing into sign posts during a Speed event will also earn points toward Style and Outlaw respectively. Maxing out an experience branch impresses a story character, portrayed by a live actor, who will give you to ultimate challenge to prove yourself.

The decision to use live actors is a throwback to some of the earlier Need for Speed games, which sometimes used live action cut scenes. However, this time, thing are kicked up several notches by blending together live action footage with actual gameplay. Players will be able to see their custom vehicles sitting in garages as live actors speak. If you've got a hot pink car with custom rims, that's what you'll see appear in the live action sequences.

Players are given four minutes to select and fully customize a car before a race starts. These may include full body kits that will change the entire look of your car according to a theme. Full kits are centered on specific themes, so using them will lock out other custom modifications, like colors and decals. But unrelated changes like wheel rims and tire thickness can still be applied. These changes, which sometimes includes putting a spoiler on the back, are all cosmetic and will not impact the performance of the car, which is tweaked in a different part of the Build section.

In Need for Speed, players are allowed to be as hand-on or hands-off as they like with performance customization. There is a slider bar that determines the amount of drift or grip a car gets, which is another throwback to the early days of NFS when grip was the primary feature. More grip means that car won't slide as far on corners, which players like me really like. Truthfully, I never quite got into all the heavy drifting that most of today's racing games like to focus on. So, seeing the feature was quite a relief. Those that want to delve deeper into performance modification can change attributes like front and rear tire pressure, which will move the Drift/Grip slider in small ways. In the long run, by winning races, earning money, and purchasing custom parts, even mid-performance cars like the Mitsubishi Lancer can be customized to the point where it can take on a Porsche.

I outfitted a Ford Mustang GT with a few small modifications and adjusted the performance so that it would grip the road better, then took to the streets. The demo is limited to some Speed and Style races in a small area, but I got the sense that the urban map will be at least as big (most likely bigger) than the sprawling areas we saw in Rivals. The cop specific gameplay is all but removed, save for the Outlaw branch which requires you to cause some damage and dodge the police. It seemed like most of the cops were taking the night off during the demo, but I'm told that police escalation will happen fairly quickly depending on the crimes committed. Minor felonies, like damaging public property, might earn you a fine if they catch you, while the spike strips and road blocks might start rolling out during prolonged chases. Instead of being forced to run all the time, players will have the option to surrender to police, pay a fine, and then get on with the business of breaking traffic laws again.

I felt very much at home in returning to some of the classic NFS gameplay, where my car didn't slide across the road so easily. There is a greater sense of control, and at the very least, I didn't accidently slide into objects quite as often as I usually do. My opponent (who was a pro at drifting) still beat me while I learned the courses, but I managed to get some good times in. Different race types are designated by icons, and can be set as destinations from the map, or players can teleport directly to the location to get racing.

Need for Speed might be considered a reboot, but it's doing so by blending together classic gameplay with more modern ones. Judging by the demo, it looks like it might be able to fulfill the promise of letting racers play however they like. But we'll have to see how the other modes play out as additional details emerge.

Need for Speed releases on November 3rd for PS4, Xbox One and PC.

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From The Chatty

  • reply
    July 17, 2015 2:00 PM

    Steven Wong posted a new article, Need for Speed Hands-On Impressions: Kicking Into High Gear

    • reply
      July 17, 2015 2:08 PM

      Man, the transition from the video to the garage in the second video was freaking seamless. That was pretty incredible.

      Game looks like it might be fun though some of the stuff seems a little overboard, the video showed drifting over a curb and it didn't really have any effect on the car. I dunno about that.

    • reply
      July 18, 2015 12:42 PM

      Encouraging hands-on impression but I want to see more gameplay. Specifically gameplay where slight turning doesn't engage massive drift mode.