Ok, ok, I know it’s 3 months since release, but I couldn’t just take a piss at it 2 days after release, because in all honesty, that’s actually enough time to see what kind of game this is. But as a decades long NFS fan, I gave it a proper try and here is my review of this thing…
I actually wanted to make a full blown serious in-depth review of this game, but it’s such a steaming pile of shit I just can’t be bothered wasting my time to do it. I’ll probably still spend an hour or two writing this anyway, but whatevers…
Lets make a quick summary of goods and bads and then I’ll briefly tell you why I think so.
- Graphics are good
- Reasonably good car engine sounds
- Alright music selection for the most part (mostly in garage)
- Driving model is pretty good
- World is reasonably diverse with somewhat interesting layout
- Reasonably OK car visuals customization
- Reasonable car selection
- On release day it felt like an expensive 60€ Early Access game
- 3 months later, it still feels like an expensive 60€ Early Access game
- Missing tons of content on release day
- Still missing tons of content we already had in NFS series freaking 15 years ago
- Unfinished world
- Speed Cards
- Idiotic car upgrading
- Limited car levels
- Idiotic car tweaking
- Enforced car classes
- Stupid races with retarded enforced cars
- Racers are cheating scumbags
- No free roaming cops
- Cops are cheating scumbags
- Wonky car physics
- Offroad driving is weird
- Retarded multiplayer
- Cheesy and boring story
- Absolutely annoying “characters” chatter during driving
- Tons of inconsistencies and illogical stuff
- Visual car damage can’t be turned off
- It just doesn’t feel like Need for Speed anymore
I’ll now describe all the things in more details in same order as they are listed above. So you can follow exactly what I meant with that…
The Goods in more details…
So, lets start with the good pars… Graphics look good. Then again it’s Frostbite, getting any less would be a major disappointment. Car engine sounds are also good, although it feels a bit generic at times, mostly because of missing distinct turbo whistling or supercharger whining (because unlike in NFS2015, there isn’t any Supercharger part even available). Music in some parts is good, especially in garage. I like quite few songs there although still not on level of dedicated music created for the game specifically like in pre-2000 era. Driving model is pretty good, cars have a distinct differences in driving feel and whole driving model feels more like Screamer 2 or NFS Hot Pursuit 2010 which is more to my likings. Perfectly holding a drift line through corners is challenging and fun. It just works. Driving around the map is fairly interesting, it has a highway ring basically around it, it has a lot of elevation changes, straights and twisty roads, has flat desert plains, twisty hill roads, certain interesting points like the observatory peak, the dam, canyons, bridges, dense city… I wouldn’t say it’s a peak of possible design, but it’s interesting enough to be enjoyable driving around it. It’s not easy to remember because a lot of things look all the same without really distinct map parts or elements that would make roads memorable. This especially applies to city part. Car customizations are also pretty good. You can keep your cars all stock visually, you can tastefully modify just few details or you can rice the hell out of them and turn them into abominations. It’s your choice and game is not forcing anything on you so that’s fine. There is also reasonable selection of cars, from casual hatchbacks to million dollar hypercars. Can’t complain over that even though I wouldn’t mind if they added few others, like for example something from Tesla to spice things up and make them funky with a fast car that makes no engine noise. Would be interesting.
Now to the extensive The Bads list…
When it was released, it literally felt like a really very expensive Early Access game. It had tons of idiotic bugs, flaws, missing content that they are still adding to the game. And I’m not talking about small eye candy, they are adding whole new segments to the game like actually functioning multiplayer and multiplayer free roam. You know, something NFS2015 released 3 years before had on launch day. It feels like a very eager indie project by some unknown developer. In which case, I’d actually be impressed by the game if it was being sold for 20€ or so. But this is a game from EA. A multimillion AAA developer and this is the best they can make in late 2017? Come on! I also love it how everyone defends Ghost Games like idiots because apparently everyone thinks Ghost Games is some poor 3rd party studio being bullied around by evil EA. Stop doing this shit, Ghost Games IS an EA. Just because EA smacked a label on a group f their internal coders and designers, that doesn’t make them anything. They are still just EA with a different name sticked on top. I’ve bought Killing Floor 2 in Early Access few years ago, made by actual indie studio and it felt more polished and properly designed on Early Access release day than NFS:Payback was on actual proper final release day. Sure they are totally different types of games, but you can’t cheat the feel you get when you play one or another. And while they are adding content, the game is still missing pretty much all the cool things we already had in NFS games in the past.
Game world, while praised in the Goods part, it also has a desert segment on the southern to central part of the map where is literally a big slab of nothingness. I think it only has 1 gas station and few notable structures and that’s it. The 99% rest of it are just empty hills. It feels like they had plans to make something there too, but then somehow forgot it till game was already released and they just said, oh well, fuck it. This goes along with the Early Access remarks. Because it helps game feel like it wasn’t even finished, they just had to push it out because board members wanted moar profitz.
The worst part however is the fact EA shoved microtransations in this game and as a result, totally fucked up entire core of the game which is having fun with the cars, fiddling with them and driving around, trying to hoard all of them etc. What I’m saying here is that EA shoved microtransations in this game and as a result screwed up car upgrading entirely. There is no “car parts” shops or garage anymore. Instead, you get “Speed Cards” which replace the usual car parts you’d install in your cars. Instead of having 20 different parts, you get 6 Speed Cards classes that “upgrade” your car. Except it’s so monumentally retarded I can’t understand what retard at EA thought this is good for any kind of game. But got to get dem moneyz from dumb gamers. You’re not really in control of car upgrading, you drive up to Tune-Up Shop which randomly throws few cards at you and you can decide from that crappy selection which one to buy to slightly boost your car stats. And as you progress through game story, Tune-Up shops slowly give you higher and higher cards. After grinding races for hours you then piss away all the money on these stupid cards moving your car stats back and forth because these cards have stats connected in most retarded way. You buy a Turbo card upgrade and your car also somehow gets a boost or nerf of the brakes. Or buying a “better” block improves your top speed but somehow nerfs your nitro. You can also use random parts generator which is essentially a god damn slot machine in which you throw 3 fucking token points and it randomly assigns a Speed Card from one of 3 categories you pick. It’s so stupid it’s hard to describe it in words. And when you complete the story, if you want to max out all your cars, you have to go through all the 18 levels of Speed Cards each and every god damn time. You can’t just buy all the level 18 speed cards straight away. No, no, no, you have to always go from whatever each car starts at. And you can’t just do that in one go either. You have to leave Tune-Up Shop for 15 minutes so it “restocks” and you can try your luck again. I miss the days where buying car parts an cars was down to hard work and grinding money so you could then buy EXACTLY what you want. Instead, you actually have to grind even more because you then piss all your money and token points trying to upgrade your fucking car. You also get reward Speed Card for winning a race. They give you a choice between 3 “mystery” cards where I bet it literally makes absolutely no difference which one of 3 you pick, behind the front end, game would always assign you the same card even if you had chance to pick any other, so I always just hit confirm key on the middle one. And the card you got as a “reward” often only nerfed your car instead of upgrading it. You can look on NFS Subreddit what a shitshow that was and still is to this date, they just mildly patched it to make it less retarded. They also just released an upgrade like a day ago that introduces “Catch Up” packs to upgrade cars. So, I have a choice between 3 of them. First two literally nerf ALL my car stats. I’d literally pay 130.000 in-game money to make my car worse. The 3rd option is a 180.000 bucks upgrade that boosts car acceleration, top speed, but literally nerfs everything else almost down tot he bottom. Almost no nitro, no air time, shitty braking and so on. You can piss away 500.000 money on single car just because you have to go through tons of utterly useless shit that does nothing but nerfs your stats so you have to grind some more randomized Speed Cards shit in order to upgrade cars. It’s so stupid and makes whole game 100x worse grinding shit any NFS ever was to date. To make things worse, some cars that you may like, can’t even be upgraded past a certain level, making them useless for later in the game because you’re forced to buy better ones in order to even progress anywhere.
Car tweaking doesn’t fall down to installing tires with different properties. It literally doesn’t matter now anymore. You smacked that sweet oversized rear spoiler on your car? Guess what, it does nothing at all. Suspension stiffness, what’s that? All this is gone. I spent hours in NFS2015 fiddling with cars. The game was somewhat boring in general, but the stuff around cars was fairly ok. Installing different car parts actually affected how cars were handling, on top of extensive car tweaking which was dependent on car parts you actually had installed. NFS2015 had quick tweak sliders while free roaming which depend on installed parts. If your car was stock, you couldn’t really change much. But with racing brakes, better engine, turbo/supercharger, spoilers and tires, you could control brake bias, suspension stiffness, spoiler downforce, tire grip etc. In NFS:Payback, it literally doesn’t matter what you have installed, you have like 2-3 sliders for steering responsiveness, drivetrain mode like 2WD or 4WD mode and few other things that depend on car or class.
Talking of car classes, all races have enforced car classes. You need to buy a car dedicated for a certain class. For example, you can’t use a Race class car for Drifting. Or vice versa. In NFS2015 you could just use whatever car you had and just tweaked the parameters in such way to make rear end loose. Here, you need to buy sometimes even same car for different class. For example, I fancy the BMW M5. It’s not enough to buy it once, no, you’ll have to buy same car several times if you like it in order to satisfy the game requirements for each class. Now, place this multiplied spending on same thing on top of already retarded Speed Cards. This game is such a fucking grind fest it’s unbelievable. All in favor of fucking microtransactions because they need to make game as insufferable as possible for people to voluntarily decide to buy part tokens which are a slightly faster way of actually getting parts that aren’t total garbage. Whoever actually buys this shit is a fucking retard and you should be ashamed of yourself if you have done that, spending actual money on in-game content because developer made the game so insufferably lame to grind through that you feel desperate enough to do it.
Oh, and to make things even worse, it was not enough that they enforced car classes for races, they’ve gone beyond that and also enforced races within classes. Most notable being Drag class where you have races that require you to use a Drag car that steers like a crippled whale through city streets around fuck tons of 90° corners and bends. It was one of the most infuriating race I’ve ever experienced right after racing portion of Mafia game. To make pain worse, they made Ai racers so obviously cheating in this race it made me go ballistic. I was sweating with the damn handbrake trying to move the fucking Drag class car through god damn corners using handbrake and Ai opponents were flying through corners like they are driving a god damn agile Race class. Like fuuuuuuuuck, why can’t you leave Drag racing be a fucking Drag racing? NFS Underground 1 had most fun and exciting Drag racing of all NFS games. Manual shifting, one shot nitro, flying through a straight street between traffic. The rails system actually made it more fun than having full control over steering. But no, they had to “upgrade” it with fuckery like normal race in a wrong car against cheating Ai. Bravo. Thats’ a great plan to make people like your game or race mode…
Now to the part I was most annoyed about and still am. NFS:Payback has NO free roaming cops. Sure, NFS2015 had them and were so boring and useless you could evade them in 30 seconds using stock crappy car. But they were there and they could improve them to a point of being good and fun like in Most Wanted 2005 or NFS Most Wanted 2012. Instead, despite of all the complains, they didn’t bother even tweaking them a bit. They just left them being totally useless. Fast forward to NFS2015 successor, NFS:Payback and you’ll find out there aren’t even any free roaming cops. None, nada, nill, zero. You can drive around at 350km/h and crash into everything and no one will be there to enforce the laws of the road. Cops only exist in limited range of missions, mostly for the Runner class, there are some Bait Crates which you can use to initiate pursuits and recently they’ve been releasing new extra cars all over the map that you have to find and then race back to the airfield to claim them. And that’s where you find out just what kind of cheating scumbags cops are as well. Not only their cars behave like they are on god damn rails, they also have ridiculous acceleration and their tactics are utterly idiotic. Most of the time I get busted by a fucking EMP bullshit that is so unpredictably idiotic you can’t even know how to evade it because you can do same thing twice and once it’ll bust you and other time it won’t. It make it even worse when you’re out in the offroad sections of a map and if they fire EMP on your there it’s basically a guaranteed bust. To make things worse, all these abandoned cars are piles of shit so it makes racing back to airfield not an exciting experience but the most infuriating shit ever. Ever since I started playing this game on release date, I haven’t been once busted by cops being capable like in god damn NFS Most Wanted 2005 from 12 years ago, no, I was always busted by some stupid dumb shit, be it stuck into some fucking rock in the middle of nowhere, getting rammed off the road over the cliff by illogically accelerating cop and busted when it resets you back, nailed by EMP with absolutely no ways of evading it or just getting fucked by wonky physics…
Yup, we had funky things happening in the past NFS games, but the amount of bizarre shit your car will do in this one is just outstanding. Enter a tunnel and hit the 3cm high curb int he middle and your car will spasm out into the air like you hit a god damn jumping ramp. Or flipping over for hitting a small bump in the road or spinning on the front bumper with rear raised int he air for half a minute. or hitting invisible ceilings because you somehow jumped too high or hitting invisible walls because they decided that collision box around ground rock should extend 50 kilometers into the air. When things work fine, the physics work alright, but there is just too much of this really dumb shit that shouldn’t be happening in regards to physics.
Which goes the same with offroad racing. Opponents again being on rails that you can’t move them from, but they can push your around like they have 100 tons and you’re in a fucking Fiat 500. To make things worse, it doesn’t matter what car you have or what tires you use or what car height is, ALL cars without exception have same speed and behave basically identical on gravel or dirt. You can have a Honda Civic or Mercedes G63, they’ll both ride at the same speed over offroad surfaces. That’s just dumb.
Now, lets talk multiplayer. It was bad on release and it’s still bad. Probably one of the worst in entire NFS history. Initially there was a mix of Race and Offroad class. You can’t just decide to play Race class modes because you fancy high speed tarmac racing. Nope, you’re again FORCED to do one offroad race between 2 Races. To make things even worse, I wasn’t aware of this in the beginning when I only had 1 upgraded car which was for the Race class. But no upgraded car at all for Offroad. So, I was forced to compete against others who had both cars upgraded. I was doing reasonably well in Race, but in offroad I was last because my car was shit. The ones game gives you as option if you have none at all are all stock and just as shit as not having a car at all. Later EA added Drift competitions and managed to cock that up again (what a surprise). They made drift points scoring higher if you’re in the front, leading the pack. What people did then was crash everyone into shit or push them ff road and complete the Drift race in front of the rest, scoring highest points. because a developer “Ghost Games” (still just EA) never heard of this thing called “GHOST CARS”. It’s a recording of your best race using a transparent car that can’t collide with you. Same could be done here. Opponents in your view would be a ghost car and you’d be a ghost car to them. Everyone could be on the same road at the same time, doing Drift race while applying the points boost for the one in the front, but with no means for people to ram each other off the road. I’m a fucking nobody and I thought of this solution in 2 minutes that a fucking AAA developer with allegedly professional game designers couldn’t. Fuck me sideways. I’ve spent hundreds of hours in NFS Hot Pursuit 2010 multiplayer and while it was flawed, I’ve had tons of fun in it. It was just designed well enough for it to work and be enjoyable despite its flaws that never even got fixed. This here is just absolutely horrendously terrible. So bad I gave up after doing just once race and I have no wish of ever trying it again. It’s almost as if they never planned to have mutliplayer in this game and they decided to add it anyway pretty much 15 minutes before game was released to public.
Story, while I never demanded one or had any problems with any in racing games is rather cheesy and inconsistent here. For example, NFS Most Wanted 2005 had cool cut scenes that were funny and I couldn’t wait to see what more I’ll see. It also had a really nice plot twist that surprised me more than many heavy story driven games. And then here we have a bunch of missions and races stitched together in really weird way that again gives that weird sensation of playing a game made by very eager designers who don’t have the skills to materialize the ideas proper way. Everything I did to progress through story was just “whateverz”, just let me get over this already. And to make things more annoying is this stupid characters chatter when they just randomly “call you up” and ask you shit or talk to you for no reason what so ever. And they usually decide to do so when you need distractions the least. I’d almost prefer a tree style progression with unlock rewards like we had in NFS Hot Pursuit 2 with no story at all than the fact they spent tons of time doing all these animations and dialogs instead of making properly capable free roaming cops. I just can’t get over that fact…
There is also bunch of weird inconsistencies in this game of which most memorable was when you evade cops in some mission, totally obliterating some bridge across the highway. Just for it to be absolutely spotless 1 minute later. Or how in some part of the story someone says to you that all the cops in the city will be after you from now on and that you should lay low. Motherfuckrs, there are no free roaming cops. I could plow right back into the city, do donuts all over it and literally nothing happens. old NFS games that were story driven had this covered and done properly. You actually had heat level that affected how trigger happy cops are on your presence. But here they say one thing like thy had plans in doing it but then they got distracted by sweet Microtransactions and Speed Cards to be bothered doing it.
What also annoyed me was car damage. Now, the car damage doesn’t affect driving capabilities at all (well, not all). It just makes your lovely car look like absolute shit. But there is no way of turning this off to always have spotless beautiful car. You’ll be riding this wrecked pile of shit most of the time because lets be honest, you’ll be hitting shit in this game. What I meant with that “well, not all” above is that if you like the Hood Camera view, the one where you feel the closest to sitting in a cabin, it’s because when you hit a car into something, the hood will bulge upwards, obstructing your view, forcing you to use way too lower Bumper Camera or some top of the view one. And that’s fucking annoying. Giving players ability to turn off visual damage would solve this. But nope, can’t be bothered with that either.
In all honesty, I haven’t played NFS game this bad. NFS Hot Pursuit 2 was a lackluster but I actually had fun with it. NFS Hot Pursuit 2010 was also a lackluster, but it was fun despite not having any story at all. NFS Most Wanted 2012, it was crappy copy of Burnout that ran like shit on pretty capable hardware, but at least it has properly capable cops and quite fun world so it was still exciting. NFS The Run, despite going absolutely the other way without any open world and car customizations and people bitched over that endlessly for it not having all that, it left a mark on me. The sheer experience of racing across entire United States was really exciting for me, especially because the world was so beautifully crated to really give you feel like you’re conquering large distances. Hell, even NFS2015 was quite fun because of how much you could fiddle with cars and just drive around, despite having absolutely useless cops and also cheesy boring story. Only game that relates to NFS:Payback garbage that it is is NFS Rivals. NFS Rivals was a weird one, it wasn’t absolutely bad as such, it was just so god damn forgettable I often forget where it is positioned chronologically in the NFS timeline. I know it had cops and that you could drive Ferrari after long time of not having them, but that was about it. Like I’ve said, it was just so damn forgettable it’s almost as if it didn’t even exist.
I’d actually say NFS Payback is a decent racing game if it was made by some unknown studio and being sold for even 40€. You’d have no expectations from them because they would have no reputation. And it would probably surprise me as a game worth considering. It does some elements right and a lot very wrong. But that would be OK for a no name studio releasing their first project. However, Ghost Games is an internal label of a group of EA programmers and game designers. This is an AAA (triple A) studio with millions to piss on development and having allegedly capable teams to do the job with perfection. Instead they made this mediocre thing that has nothing fun, no identity, it just feels out of place, made around bunch of eager ideas that never got finished. I gave me sensation like not a single person from development team has EVER played ANY older NFS game. Dropping all the cool stuff people always wanted is just inexcusable.
I’m a NFS fan since TNFS released back in the mid 90’s of the last century and I regret buying this game even for a cheaper price of 30€ from a 3rd party store (which is a reason why I couldn’t refund it). I was disappointed by certain NFS releases, but never to this extent as with NFS:Payback. I was always willing to forgive mistakes or changes and just accept them. But NFS:Payback is so monumentally flawed at its core it’s impossible to look away and ignore the flaws. NFS:Payback would actually be a fantastic game if they ditched the god damn Speed Cards that fucked it all up, if it had NFS Most Wanted 2005/2012 capable cops and car upgrading and tweaking from NFS2015 with classes of cars like in NFS:Carbon which weren’t enforced, but separation between Tuner, Muscle and Exotics made it refreshing and you could pick the right class for your driving style and stick with it. I could ignore the cheesy story, inconsistencies, bad design choices if NFS:Payback had that. But it doesn’t. And because of it it gets the label of being probably the worst NFS game in history of this franchise.
Only buy it if you are really so desperate in playing an arcade racer and even then, only do it with maximum possible discount. In all honesty, it would be difficult for me to pay 20€ for it, knowing I paid 20€ for far better games made by nobody indie teams consisting of 3 developers… This is a disgrace for EA and NFS franchise. Get your shit together EA. The Star Wars fiasco with same shitty microtransactions and this bullshit with NFS made me drop EA on the same list as I have Ubisoft. The DON’T EVER FUCKING BUY THEIR GAME one. I’m a NFS fanatic and since there aren’t any other decent arcade racing games around, I’ll most likely still consider next NFS game, but I’m not just gonna buy it like NFS:Payback. I’ll get a pirated copy first if I’ll have to and evaluate it properly. I don’t even trust their refund policy anymore at this point for it. And then I’ll decide if it’s actually worth the money or not.