Need for Speed Review: Not So Fast

Need for Speed has received a reboot, but should the series stick to its roots or is this new direction one that will keep it going strong for years to come? Our review.


EA kept its Need for Speed series in the shop while Ghost Games worked on its reboot for a 2015 release. The new Need for Speed was revealed prior to E3, which EA then gave a proper showing during the big event. I knew to expect the new game to have more of an Underground vibe to it, which means I would have to listen to a bunch of 20-something year olds with nicknames like “Spike” telling me it's “party o’clock” to indicate the race is about to begin. What I didn’t expect was how visually stunning some parts of Need for Speed would be.

Hit The Streets

Need for Speed starts with the player coming into Ventura Bay to join a small group of unknown racers. Each race you complete successfully brings you and your crew one step closer to being better recognized throughout the street racing community, and each of them can teach you a thing or two based on their expertise. There are a total of five different ways to earn Reputation in the game: Speed, Style, Build, Crew, and Outlaw. As you complete missions based on these Reputation styles, you’ll be one step closer to challenging a Driving Icon. Defeating a Driving Icon will not only earn their respect, but also gain you infamy.

Once I hit the streets of Need for Speed, I was blown away by how realistic Ventura Bay looked. The streets were reflective as they had just the right amount of moisture from passing rain, which there appears to be a lot of in this fictional west-coast city. The streets are filled with wet asphalt, which would often result in numerous puddles popping up during races. Luckily, these puddles are just for aesthetics as they didn’t affect my driving ability. Street lights, fluorescent signs promoting various businesses, and headlights of oncoming vehicles all look true to life.

The Need for Speed series has offered a more arcade feel to its vehicle handling with slight simulation mechanics, and while I controlled a number of aspects of my vehicle’s tuning, the overall feel stayed true to its roots. The game has a nice variety of races to complete, although I felt there’s too much focus on drifting. There are two or three race types that deal with going fast, although there’s about four or five different races dealing with drift-style driving. So if you prefer your car to have a lot of grip, you’re going to have to learn how to drift at some point in your time with Need for Speed.

Distracted Driving

After seeing how realistic the world of Need for Speed looked, I completely understood why Ghost Games went with Full Motion Video (FMV) cutscenes. The FMV cutscenes helped in keeping the realistic illusion of Ventura Bay’s streets. I found there to be a fair amount of production in these FMV scenes, which gave a Fast and Furious vibe to the game, although there were certain things that took me out of the experience. Any time I’m with a group of people, I found them all looking at me at the same time, regardless of who was talking. The attention in normal conversations tends to shift from person to person, and I felt like I had something on my face that no one was telling me about nearly the entire time playing Need for Speed. It also didn’t help the acting was below B-movie standards as each character felt like an exaggerated caricature. 

The FMV cutscenes weren't the only things distracting me from the full experience. For being the new guy in town, I sure was popular with my crew and their contacts as my cell phone was being bombarded with calls and texts no matter what I was doing, and even more so during important missions. There were even moments where I was getting a phone call from someone who I was currently on a mission with where they would say they haven’t seen me in a long time and wanted to race with me sometime. That felt pretty awkward.

While I get the culture that’s being represented in Need for Speed, I was surprised to find there was so much drinking going on prior to races. I was invited to meet up at a bar, at a crew member’s house for a party, and the obvious implication seemed to be that everyone was consuming alcohol. This may be the parent in me talking, but I didn’t like the idea of my crew hammering brewskies prior to completing an important driving mission.

The vehicles also didn’t deliver the same amount of visual polish as the city of Ventura Bay did. They didn’t look bad by Need for Speed standards as there was a nice amount of detail in nearly every aspect of the vehicle’s aesthetics, although considering how much detail there are in vehicles in competing games, like Forza Motorsport 6 and Driveclub, it’s a shame Ghost Games didn’t give their cars as much love as they deserve. This is made even more apparent when a CGI vehicle is injected into an FMV scene. It always looked out of place, similar to the visual style of Who Framed Roger Rabbit.

The Last Lap

For taking a year off to work on this Need for Speed, I was hoping Ghost Games would have given its reboot a more noteworthy return. While Ventura Bay looks good and the game has plenty of missions and side missions to complete, the constant distractions I felt while playing it kept me away from enjoying it as much as I have previous iterations of the franchise. If you’re a long-time fan of the series, you’ll find something to enjoy here, but if this is your first time behind the wheel, you’re going to want sit this one out and check out some of previously-released Need for Speed titles.

This review is based on a PlayStation 4 retail copy provided by the publisher. Need for Speed is available in retail and digital stores for $59.99. The game is rated T.

Senior Editor
Review for
Need for Speed 2015
  • Ventura Bay offers realistic visuals
  • Variety in race types
  • FMV added to game's realism
  • Too many distractions while driving
  • Poorly-acted FMVs
  • Cars aren't as highly-detailed as the world
  • Too may drift-style missions
From The Chatty
  • reply
    November 3, 2015 12:00 AM

    Daniel Perez posted a new article, Need for Speed Review: Not So Fast

    • reply
      November 3, 2015 12:36 AM

      "Too many drift missions" With that i lost all interest in the game.
      They seem to be obsesed with it lately and it's boring and doesn't add to the "speed" aspect of the game / name.

      • reply
        November 3, 2015 6:43 AM

        Drifting killed Shift 2 for me. Just don't care for it in my racing games.

      • reply
        November 3, 2015 7:02 AM

        Drifting is bad, but the bro-fistbump FMVs and bro-racing-story is much more off-putting for me.

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          November 3, 2015 7:14 AM

          There's a record amount of bro-fistbumps in this game. Not only in FMVs, but on the phone after you complete a race. I could only take so many "Brooooooo! That was awwwwwwwwesome!" calls before I completely ignored them.

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          November 3, 2015 7:28 AM

          I can't believe they are still doing that. Well I guess I can. A return to NFS: High Stakes or Porsche style would be welcomed. I don't play Forza, but I can't imagine it is bro'd-up.

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            November 3, 2015 7:49 AM

            Nope. No dudebros in Forza 6. It just focuses on racing.

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        November 3, 2015 8:21 AM

        I don't mind a little drifting in my racing games, although I felt like it was being shoved down my throat in the majority of missions. Need for Speed claims you can play it any way you like, but if you can't drift, you can't pass many of its missions.

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      November 3, 2015 6:59 AM

      This is The Crew for EA/Ghost straight up. No if, ands or buts.
      That being said I had fun with the title, but I only played an hour. I like the options for tuning your car and the its 100% easier to earn in game money to upgrade your car so far no need to use real money to buy anything. Which is a plus.

      Always online sucks ass.
      Graphics are very nice. Its not Burnout, but It will do until it arrives.

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      November 3, 2015 8:43 AM

      Other reviews mention NfS omits cockpit view and manual shifting. That's a deal breaker in a racing game for me.

      The Bro stuff and alcohol + racing combo seem really dumb and out of touch.

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        November 3, 2015 9:21 AM

        Wait what, no cockpit view? Wtffffff

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          November 3, 2015 10:53 AM

          I thought all the newer NFS games didn't have the cockpit view. Last one I've played is the 2010 Hot Pursuit and I was bummed it didn't have it. Have other newer ones had cockpit view?

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            November 3, 2015 11:42 AM

            Oh I guess I count the hood view as that. My bad, you're right.

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        November 3, 2015 10:58 AM

        Cockpit view was the only way I could reliably drift in NFS: Underground, so this makes me sad

      • reply
        November 3, 2015 11:10 AM

        No manual shifting?!? WHAT?! WHY!?!

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      November 3, 2015 9:28 AM


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        November 3, 2015 9:31 AM

        Looks like they are continuing the shitty trend from the last one. "open world" where you meet up at an event location to initiate a race or whatever.

    • reply
      November 3, 2015 11:53 AM

      Reviews on this seem to be split. I want to pick up a racing game for my new PS4 at some point, and was hoping this one would be it. I tend to focus on single player, wouldn't need cockpit view or manual shifting, and enjoy a nuanced arcade style over strict simulation. I loved the customization and feel of Underground. Given that, is there some other game that I should look at?

      • reply
        November 3, 2015 11:58 AM

        Get drive club for cheap! It's actually kind of fun

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          November 3, 2015 12:14 PM

          Thanks, I'll check out some reviews and game play vids

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            November 3, 2015 12:47 PM

            It looks really good.. The handling is just one of those hit or miss things though.... It's not super arcadey or all hard core sim. Try the PS plus version if you can

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      November 3, 2015 11:56 AM

      remember when NFS was good? 1 and 2 owned. 3 introduced awesome cop chases. porsche unleashed was cool. underground 1 was interesting because of F&F. then most wanted blew me away. then...nothing.

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        November 3, 2015 12:04 PM

        2010 Hot Pursuit is pretty cool. That's the last one I felt compelled to buy. 1, 2 and 3 are the best though.

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        November 3, 2015 12:07 PM

        They actually gave you Most Wanted AGAIN. I agree though, that first Most Wanted was probably the best of them.

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          November 3, 2015 12:10 PM

          Is the new Most Wanted anything like the old one?

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            November 3, 2015 12:11 PM

            I was trying to find a place to get a copy of the old version of Most Wanted, but can't find it anywhere

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            November 3, 2015 12:13 PM

            I didn't get the new one, figuring at best it would be an HD Remix, and at worst a watered-down crapfest.

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            November 3, 2015 1:03 PM

            It was an excellently designed game and a great improvement over the old one. The Cops vs Speeders mode was greatly enhanced with a lot of fun tricks that made it a real competition and a difficult fight. Unfortunately, the game is no longer living (on PC), so you will not get to have that multiplayer experience. The single player is... repetitive not bad, but nothing special; however, the game shined in its Multiplayer. Without that, it's not worth buying.

            Also, it was locked to 30 fps on PC :) I believe that was eventually fixed.

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        November 3, 2015 12:45 PM

        The Hot Pursuit one around 2011? Was awesome.

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      November 4, 2015 6:21 AM

      Been playing on xbone. I have to say its a good racing game in a very lazy package. The xbone cannot even maintain 30fps it studders all the time. The traffic on a couple occasions picked really interesting time and places to spawn in.
      The fun but lazy lazy lazy.... no manual in a street racing game common now!!

    • reply
      November 4, 2015 9:01 AM

      This is gonna be one of those games that critics hate and fans like. I can tell you I am having a great time with it and I fucking hate NFS, Ghost and EA. But my thirst for a new action, racing game was real. Glad I took a dip.

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