So, here we are again. The new Need for Speed. I call it NFS 2016 because this is when PC got it, it was actually released long ago in 2015 on consoles. But since EA wanted to ensure better PC support, they postponed the PC release date to mid March 2016. But in general, this is a franchise reboot. So, no sub title or number for it. Just Need for Speed.
And off the start, I’ll just say that my experience is mixed as a whole. Part of me loves the game and other part of me hates it quite badly…
Visual and audible presentation
It starts with the presentation itself. Graphics wise, the game runs latest Frostbite engine. It looks spectacular and there is just no way in denying that. The engine is very fast and looks amazing. The game is set in Underground-ish world so you can expect night time only with lots of glare, reflections, neons and rain. The city is huge and has different areas from high speed highways, winding hill roads to dense packed city streets through central city or through industrial parts. The city on the other hand is kinda forgettable. Maybe it’s because of the night or my poor memory that is incapable of memorizing the streets. But I think it’s mostly because of the darkness which just sort of swallows the memorable buildings, landmarks and sections and in the end it all looks very similar. Dark and reflective. Which is strange, NFS Underground 2 was like that as well and yet I could memorize whole city very quickly. Hell, if I close my eyes I can drive through it in my mind and I haven’t played that game for 10 years at least.
Second thing, the audio. While car noises are very distinctive, I miss a bit louder engine noise and more distinctive supercharger/turbocharger whine. It’s there, but you really have to pay a lot of attention to hear it. And kinda kills the atmosphere. I want to hear the engines roar. Every petrol head loves that. But in general it’s pretty good. This experience however is again ruined by atrocious music design and usage. At first I was all thrilled when I first heard legendary tracks from old NFS games in the garage. But that soon became an issue by itself because those tracks are only being used in the garage, but never in the All Drive world or during races. While driving, I got the feeling there were 3 generic uninspiring forgettable tracks playing on some crappy 10 watt cassette player. I just don’t understand what the hell they were thinking. To me it seems like they finished the game and remembered they forgot to insert any music. So they picked bunch of old tracks and composed some crap for the driving part. And they were ok with it somehow. Very lazy EA.
Car driving model
Now, lets talk about the most important part of every racing game. Driving model. I’m happy to report they’ve done a good job here. Cars have very distinctive behavior and feel. They also behave vastly different depending on the drive type, FWD, RWD and AWD cars behave very differently and in general, they feel very good on the road. With wide range of car handling tweaks you can really tune car behavior to your taste and driving style. You can make them super sticky or you can make them crazy drifty. I like them somewhere in between. I need the cars to be responsive on corners and easy being thrown into a precise and controlled drift, but sticky enough so I get a fast acceleration when straightened. Only thing that I really dislike about car handling and drive model are the collisions with the world, something we’ve been complaining for quite a while and we are still waiting for the fix. A lot of times, you grind against the wall while racing and even though the wall is seemingly smooth, you just get stuck into it like you’ve hit a wall corner. I don’t know what goes wrong within the physics engine at that moment, but this shouldn’t be happening. I’ve never seen anything like it in any older NFS game. It was always just dramatic deceleration and lots of sparks, but that was it. Here, you’ll just crash for no reason simply for grinding against a wall at very tiny angle. It just feels awkward and weird and I really hope they’ll fix it in the future, because it’s a really annoying one. Same goes for slightly harder hitting of the wall sideways. It should destabilize the car and slow you down, but here you just crash most of the time. And I think this is still related to the same collision bug.
After car wide range of handling tweaks, we should also talk about car customization. And here is again the part which makes the game this weird mixed experience. They bragged about all this Underground-ish culture, customization of cars, bunch of stuff to do to your car. The reality is, car customization is VERY limited and horrendously clumsy. Each car has just 1 body kit available. ONE. And most of them look horrendous. C’mon, even The Run had 3 or 4 body kits and most of them were actually quite nicely designed from mildly aggressive to space looking. You want to spice up your car to be unique on the streets? Most of the time and I mean 80% of the time, you’ll see text “No parts available” when you move around your car. I’ve bought 8 cars so far ranging from tuners to muscle cars and sports cars and not a single one of them can be fully customized visually. Not even bloody Mitsubishi Lancer Evo which is a definition of a ricer. I understand Ferrari being anal about customizations on their cars, but I don’t understand it for all others. And even those that do have parts available, you’re again limited to mostly really ugly bits, one type of bumper, one type of side skirts, really butt ugly exhausts, no parts for lights and those that are available are stock lights with yellow cross taped over them (what!?) and 2 sets of identical lights. I shit you not, Lotus Exige S has stock front lights, yellow taped over ones and 2 sets of IDENTICAL carbon fiber. And that’s it. Anyone who played Underground 2 knows there were like 10 types of headlights and like 8 light temperatures from halogen to coldest xenon, at least 6 types of sideskirts and bumpers for front and rear. None of it is in this game 12 years or so later. Remember the dynamic modification of car parts from NFS Carbon where you could sculpt car parts? Well, this game has none of that either.
What they’ve put lot of effort into is car painting and stickies/vinyls for them. You can paint cars in countless many ways and people make all sorts of amazing designs on forums and on Need for Speed subreddit. But again, I’ve tried it myself and it’s so god damn clumsy I couldn’t be bothered to spend 5 more minutes in the editor. And I’ve just wanted to paint my BMW in the M colors from back to white front. Keyboard controls for it are utterly moronic, clumsy and imprecise. Shuffling vinyls through layers and doing symmetry on both sides of the car was a dreadful and painful experience. Aaargh, just awful. I know Underground series, NFS Most Wanted and Carbon had more basic vinyls systems, but they were at least usable and something inviting to do. In NFS 2016, it just isn’t.
The biggest grudge I have with the garage is possibility to rotate view when picking car parts. Camera is always locked when buying parts and you just can’t check how it looks from far away or at different angle. Because of this I’ve spent like 10 minutes shuffling rims back and forth because I just couldn’t decide at the given angle. Or for the body kit. You only see the car from the front. You can’t even know how the car will look like from behind until you purchase it and go into free look mode where you can rotate the view. When you waste 8000 credits for some crappy ass ugly body kit that looks horrible from behind, you’ll know what I mean. That’s so idiotic it makes my blood boil.
The Police and opponents
Every Need for Speed game that’s about illegal street racing also has to have cops in it. And I’m happy to report they are in this game! What I’m not happy to report about is how utterly crappy, incapable and boring they are. Not only they are so hard to find in the city they had to place police station icons on the map so you can even find them to complete daily challenges which usually involve something with the cops. And not only this, they also drive worse than my grandma and she’s not even driving a car. At all. They are slow and to do challenges or even initiate a police chase you have to intentionally crawl around at 60 km/h for 15 minutes and keep hitting them until you reach at least heat level of 3-4 where they can at least keep up with you for 2 seconds. They use some crappy Crown Victoria grade garbage and they don’t even bother apprehending you. And only way of getting caught is to get stuck in the impenetrable roadblocks by some stupid random chance. Gone are the insane high speed chases through downtowns and highways from Most Wanted 2005 where cops upgraded to Corvettes at higher heat levels, they started using Rhino SUV’s for roadblocks instead of normal cars and they even used helicopters to prevent you from evading at high speeds and a duo of Rhino SUV heading straight at you head on. There is just none of that here. Roadblocks are now just bunch of blue wooden crap with lights across the road that slightly slows you down when you hit it. And that’s that. Not even 1 police car next to it. Or concrete blocks with a police van. It’s the worst attempt at doing cops I’ve seen in my whole entire life. And with this part so horribly nerfed and broken, game simply doesn’t give the player that thrill of doing hot pursuits, because they are so dreadful I can’t even be bothered with them. I just do them for easy money for daily challenges and that’s that. Where in Most Wanted 2005, I could initiate a chase and have amazing fun in it for 10-15 minutes at a time. You can just forget any of that here. EA, seriously fix this shit. Like NOW.
Ai controlled racing opponents aren’t much different to be quite honest. Maybe I haven’t noticed it all that much myself, but I’ve seen quite a lot of complaining by others. The Ai ranges from retarded amoeba to idiotically capable drivers. They can be so bad you leave them behind by a lot in points or distance, but they can also be stupendously good for no logical reason. Especially in those timed circuit races where you have to get best lap time. The catch up system is a bit broken and needs some adjustment to make them feel more challenging, but not robot like.
I know not many people expect story in racing games, but if we again go back in time, Most Wanted 2005, Carbon and The Run tell a different story. And I loved those games for it. Especially Most Wanted 2005 which had really iconic and unforgettable cut scenes with original 3D game world and live actors merging. And I was very enthusiastic at first because the initial intro sequence brought back those memories. Until I realized it was just that. And that every next video sequence doesn’t really tell any story, just bunch of people doing some random almost unrelated stuff. And that’s suppose to tell me a story of some sort? Sigh. There is a hint of it, but it’s so uninspiring I don’t even care about it anymore. Your so called friends keep calling you and texting you and you keep showing up to places they say you should meet them up. And that’s all there is to the story. The cut scenes don’t interconnect races and happenings outside of the racing as they used to in Most Wanted 2005. One part of the game is racing and the other are video cut scenes and chats through phone calls. And they don’t give much impression they are related to one another. So much potential and they wasted it all. Even if some missions were scripted, at least it would be interesting and not this dull grinding of races. Hell, I absolutely loved QTE’s in The Run and I’d be the last person to appreciate QTE’s in any game. But I loved it in a freaking racing game. It brought story and action between races and it was freaking great. Why wasn’t that used here? Imagine all the possibilities with the cops, with other gangs with your “crew” of race friends. But nope, none of it is in this game.
Lastly, the multiplayer which people say it even has lobbies, but I have yet to find them. You can invite people to races and even make crews somehow and even voice chat with people. Or so others say. In my experience, game has no lobbies. There is no menus like with NFS Hot Pursuit 2010 where you picked a game type, car class and waited for game to drop you in a lobby. Then you’ve waited for people to join up and start a game. It was very straight forward and it just worked. Instant races one after another. There is no such thing in this game. It’s again so clumsy and stupid I hardly ever do any race with actual people. And most of them initiated by others are Drag race or Drift which I’m not really interested in as much as I am in Sprint or Circuit races. I can’t selectively play just those. And that’s so stupid and infuriating. Stop making this seamless offline/online mode because it just doesn’t work. It never worked in Rivals and never will. Just bring back the damn normal menu lobby like in Hot Pursuit 2010 and be done with it. Doing random Sprints or Outrun races with real people is nice, but it just doesn’t outweigh the overall crappy and clumsy multiplayer.
Like I’ve said, there are great parts of the game and there are really shitty ones. I keep wanting to give it a good review because I’m a huge fan of NFS series, but I just can’t because this game is mediocre at best. Which is very sad to say the least. I’m having some good time in it, but mostly me fiddling with various cars, their handling to emulate NFS Hot Pursuit 2010 drifty cornering and just driving around with no purpose, because I like doing that. But the game, if I judge it based on content it provides, it has very little substance. And for a reboot of the franchise, I just can’t shake off the feeling developers behind it don’t have a clue what Need for Speed franchise even is or should be. It’s giving me the impression not a single person from game development team has actually ever played any of the old (good) legendary NFS games like constantly mentioned NFS Most Wanted 2005. And that’s most likely the reason why it’s not as good as it could be. You make a reboot by taking all the best bits of old games and start all over. Not by dumbing it down or entirely scraping most of the good stuff we already had and loved in old NFS games. Because when you do it like that, you’ll end up with a mediocre or even really bad game.
Only thing that brings tiny bit of confidence is, unlike other times, EA or more specifically Ghost Games folks are actually reading feedback from people and are fixing stuff as well as adding new content (recent update brought expanded garage and new Drag racing mode as well as bunch of fixes). It most probably won’t change things like story, but there is a possibility they’ll fix moronic cops which could up the game value by at least 10x as far as I’m concerned. I love cop chases and so do other people. Bringing in more car customization parts is also a possibility. So, unlike other times when game remained the same after release, this game will evolve for the better. Slowly and in small steps, but at least something is happening.
It’s not a great game, but it’s not absolute crap either. It has its moments. Just decide if those that aren’t crap are important enough to you to justify the purchase of this game.