NEED FOR SPEED (2015)
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Developer: Ghost Games
Platform: Xbox One
Availability: Xbox One, PS4, PC
Calling Electronic Arts‘ Need For Speed 2015 edition a “reboot” is kind of a misnomer. The annual series is not a continuity, in name or form. Each iteration stands alone, and doesn’t share anything that the previous release showcased. Each game is different, with different play styles being highlighted each year.
The Underground pair (’03 and ’04) showcased an open city focused on street racing and car modifications. Most Wanted (’05), open country, was about out-running cops. Carbon (’06), urban setting, was about crew and drifting. ProStreet (’07) went away from the street racing and focused on closed courses – to mixed reviews. NFS Undercover (’08) brought back the story lines and open city, where we play an undercover cop chasing down street racers, trying to recapture the Underground glory days. This is also where the series would shift between different developers each year.
NFS Shift (’09) and Shift 2 (2011) brought back the closed course circuit races, highlighting pure racing and drifting, and focused on authenticity, with the returning dash-cam. Hot Pursuit (2010) brought back the open city and cop-centered chases. At this point Criterion, known for their Burnout series, took the helm as developer, and takedowns and crashes became a key point in the series for alternating years.
NEED FOR SPEED WAS SLIGHTLY LIMITED AT ITS OUTSET
NFS The Run (2011) switched to the Frostbite Engine and focused on a break-neck story as the player sped across the United States in a cannon-ball run. Featuring a mix of highway and city races, and big action pieces, with a story, and cut-scenes. Then the series switched back to their roots with another Most Wanted (2012) and Rivals (2013). Again, focusing on chasing or being chased, and taking down opponents.
EA then took a year off in 2014, after Rivals was released, to ‘refocus’ their brand, to figure out what Need For Speed really meant. To ‘reboot’. But calling it a reboot seems odd. Anyways, as it turns out, what Need For Speed really means is: Speed, Style, Crew, Build, and Outlaw; the pillars of the series. Mash them all together and you have Need For Speed (2015). And then just add a gorgeous new engine, and tack on Live-Action cutscenes, composited over real-time CG backgrounds. Now you’re set.
As its first “true” next-gen NFS game, EA‘s Need For Speed 2015 was slightly limited at its outset, its catalogue of cars left a lot to be desired when you compare it to Forza Horizons 2, and it hosted an online city with not a lot of online options. AND its actual races were not that diverse. You have your time trials where you drift around corners. You have your points-focused drift races, where you drift around corners to earn points. There’s the group races, checkpoint or free roam, where you face off against anywhere from one to four opponents, and drift around corners. And then you have group drift races, where, as a pack, you tackle the hills, and drift around corners to earn points. The closer you remain as a group, the higher the point multiplier.
Then the cops show up, sometimes even during the races, where you’re asked to escape. Each race, as you progress through the story becomes a little bit more difficult. But as long as you have the right car for the race (checkpoint or drift) then you actually remain fairly competitive throughout. Minor upgrades to your engine parts is all it takes.
So, repeat that a hundred times, and that’s the scope of the game. There are collectibles thrown around the map as well, vistas, doughnut spots to ruin your expensive tires, and car parts.
The map is fairly large, comparable to other NFS open-city games. There’s not a lot of traffic, and you may come across a handful of other online racers competing in a race of their own, or running away from cops. Similar to NFS Rivals, NFS 2015 hosts an online-only world, filled with leaderboard tracking and friend suggested races. Having only a small grouping of other online players in your world is a nice feature, but I’m glad its limited as the online world is persistent. So when you’re competing in a race, you’ll likely see another player drive by, or through your race. The game takes place primarily at night, on rain-slick roads, so corners or other traffic isn’t always easy to see. Some parts of the city, oddly, as you drive through may suddenly be lit by the dawning sun, and these instances are sudden and jarring, like opening the door of a dark lit, blinds-closed room, into the morning sun. Like we’ve been racing all night, and suddenly realize that it’s morning, and should probably get some sleep. Not like we have a job or anything.
YOU WON’T FIND ANY TIME-LAPSE VIDEOS OF NFS’ DAY AND NIGHT CYCLE
Aside from the jarring sunrise, visually the game is absolutely stunning. A lot of love has gone into the cars and designs, and effects. The rain slick roads, reflections, and lighting at night are all life-like. The city has a lot of destructible elements, and some that are frustratingly not, which as a result will have you looking at the slow-motion spectacle that is you crashing your car. The city streets and buildings are nicely textured, but the buildings especially are somewhat plain to look at. But the developers at Ghost Games probably aren’t expecting you to be looking at the low-poly box buildings for long.
As mentioned, the game’s story focuses on the 5 pillars that define Need For Speed, and you play a part in a small group of racers waiting to be noticed by the 5 real-world motorsport and street racing icons, who each represent one pillar. As you race through the story, and earn reputation in each focus, you then get to face off against each icon. The final races have you facing off against all the story characters and each Icon to become the Ultimate Icon. Happy ending. Fin.
There’s been a lot of bemoaning about the story in Need For Speed, and how it’s told through terribly acted Live-Action cutscenes. Everyone is super hyped, or super jealous, and they live out of trailers, or auto work-shops, listening to Dead Mou5, and drinking Monster. It’s terribly cliché, but it doesn’t actually detract or distract from the game.
The game is still fun. Sure it feels like all the races are exactly the same. And there are some gripes about the loose handling, or that in designing the game in Frostbite, the developers have turned the vehicles into four million pound bricks that can hardly take a jump. The lack of interesting things in the city did make the trips between each race kind of tedious, and instead, I found myself just transporting to the start line, as the loading times were minimal.
Since its release last November, the game has seen some free love from EA and Ghost Games. They’ve made some of the Icon cars playable, added a race tournament, they’ve bolstered the player’s vehicle garage from 5 to 10 store-able vehicles, added Drag style races, and some Roadster vehicles, as well as improved some of the online functionality, adding the ability to challenge other racers on the fly, or invite them to take part in the campaign races. They’ve also added a photographer mode to capture your vehicle, and your beautifully hand-crafted artistic wraps, in-game. Almost like they knew they were releasing the game less than full. Extra effort has been put into the online functionality and competitive racing scene.
Now, after release, the game feels complete, and a better positioned contender for your harddrive’s storage or internet’s bandwidth than in November. Not to mention, at a lower price point.
In the Achievement department, the game is very generous. Most are story related, and will be unlocked by just completing all the races. Every new DLC addition adds new achievements as well, to encourage people to come back, as these are overly generous in Gamerscore numbers.
Choo Choo! (Complete the drift train mission with the Risky Devil crew) – 30G
Wrap It Up (Download a Shared Wrap) – 80G
Filter Addict (Take a snapshot with a filter in the Snapshot Pro Mode) – 80G
See? Super generous.