Game Review: Need for Speed (2015)

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Release date: 2015
Version played: Xbox One in 2015

The second outing from the EA-owned Ghost Games, 2015’s Need for Speed – with no subtitle, which I guess makes it a full reboot? – is a re-imagining of the much loved racing series. Marking a return to the tuning/import, the game follows you (yes, you!) as a new-on-the-scene racer in Ventura Bay, as you hang out with a wild bunch of twenty-somethings who use words like ‘swag’ and ‘yolo’. The game focuses on five major ‘styles’ (Speed, Build, Drift, Outlaw and Crew) with upwards of 70 unique events to put your driving skills to the limit.

+ a huge number of technical customisation options will keep gear heads busy (though I can admit they meant nothing to me, personally). For those of us less tuned to the inner workings of a car, simple ‘high level’ sliders keep it easy to use, with the depth there for those that want it
+ the cut scenes are technically impressive, in that your custom built cars will appear in the background of the live action scenes

– the game is always online, which means even a slight hiccup in your connection will boot you back to the main menu. Similarly, you will be unable to pause the game, meaning many failed races due to phone calls or the like
– one of the main hooks is the ability to take and share Snapshots of your car… but there is no dedicated camera mode, meaning your options are just to rotate the in game camera. It is a very strange choice of features to include/omit
– graphically, the game is about average, maybe slightly above, but certainly will not blow you away, like Hot Pursuit did me in 2010. Drastic frame rate drops are simply unforgivable, and there is little to no real damage shown on the cars, certainly not to the level of, say, Split Second, Burnout or even the previous Need For Speed games
– a barebones story, with a cast of unlikable stereotypes whom are supposed to be your besties is barely worth paying attention to, except to hate their constant use of ‘hashtag’ and ‘bae’. The whole thing comes across very strangely, because the player character is meant to be me (ie. the real life person) but also one of this gang’s members, but since the player character never replies in phone calls or cutscenes, it is just like they are talking past you
– very inconsistent collision objects; often I would plow throw strong looking trees, before “crashing” (that is, getting that little cutscene thing) my car on a flimsy light post
– some very intrusive screen effects hamper otherwise intense moments – police lights flashing on the sides of the screen whenever you are in a pursuit, and a ‘swiping’ effect when you escape a pursuit, even in the middle of a race, are very distracting
– as far as I could tell, there are no options to change the colour of the HUD, route-markers on the road, or checkpoints on the mini map, which to me (because I am colour blind) were near impossible to see
– no in-car camera, manual transmission mode or even a button to use the horn are huge omissions
– absolutely horrendous soundtrack; literally none of the songs stand out at all

NOTE: Just as I was about to put this review up, I started up the game and saw there was a relatively large (~800mb) update, which has added new cars, new events and, perhaps most importantly in regards to the above review, new music, all from previous Need for Speed soundtracks. This is not necessarily a game-saver, nor even “game-changer”, but it does update a few things nicely enough to be worth pointing out. Supposedly there are numerous more free updates coming, so I may need to do a follow up to this review sometime soon, but as it stands, my final verdict is…

Should you play this game: As a long-time fan of both the Need for Speed franchise, and racing games in general, it saddens me to say: no. This is an uninspired, by-the-numbers, soulless mess of a game. If you want a tight track racer, get Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit (2010), and if you want an open world racer, get Need for Speed: Most Wanted (2005). Don’t waste your time on this.

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