It was once an institution. You’d chew a new Need For Speed for a few days every winter like a wintering Richard Hammond, your mind full of rim manufacturers, neon lights, and Lil Jon numbers. And then after about eight hours, you’d have a thoroughly grotesque Nissan Skyline in flip-flop orange-lime-green with a Cheltenham-sized spoiler drilled on the rear hood, and it would all be over. See you next year.
Need For Speed Heat is a return to those glory days. The days for loot boxes and live action cut-outs that practically forced your fist into your mouth. The days for half-baked always-on multiplayer concepts and bug-riddled release days. In many ways, the latest addition of Ghost Games to the legendary arcade racer is equally successful not like what it does.
That says a lot about how many mistakes were made earlier, because what it does is bring a real sense of place, breathe new life into the police and racers theme with a diabolical risk reward mechanic, and add a day / night cycle that injects new interest into the old NFS structure. It made me think again of silly spoilers and the precise shadow of neons to surprise my BMW from the 80s (greenish). It is by default not a victory, but finally a rectification of the ship thanks to good calls in the most important areas.
Like handling. Like any good arcade racer should, Heat creates a wild fantasy about how high-performance cars would behave if you were driving them with a game pad. Racing game developers often refer to that abstract spectrum between racing simulators and arcade games, but Need For Speed Heat does not even seem to want to acknowledge the existence of sim-cade. It is pure accessibility.
Part of that is the removal of all necessity to hit the foot brake during the entire experience. Instead, the gas is released and then tapped again while you steer hard into a turn. If you do it right, you can make a 90-degree turn at 150 km / h without braking. And in very rare cases you need more braking power, such as police pursuits, the hand brake will turn on the head of a pin. NFS has not yet completely crossed over to the Mario Kart territory – drifting is still slowing you down rather than stimulating you – but it is certainly not something like the realism of Forza Horizon et al.
It is ridiculous, with such & # 39; n insane cornering power and speed, but in the open world of Palm City it works brilliantly. The challenge is to thread the needle through lines of oncoming traffic and to hold the maximum speed as long as possible. And like any game that bears this name, it gives the feeling of being caught far too fast brilliantly. The lightness and increasing vagueness of the driving behavior of a car at high speed, the way that even your HUD elements stretch on the screen as if they were pulled out of shape by pure g-force – everything ensures that driving in a straight line is just right feels as absurd as driving around a corner.
Because you want to know, this time the plot revolves around an illegal street racing scene in the fictional Palm City and a local PD who is so violent looking for vinyl-clad Mazdas that murderers and robbers are allegedly working with impunity elsewhere in the city. The strong cookie Ana Rivera has lost her crew and with the help of you, an adaptable and, for once, no damper, newcomer to the city, she competes with racing teams and proves that she is really, really good at racing .
It is not so much the storyline as the implementation that represents a step forward here. We have been passively and often reluctantly processing stories about street racing teams since the venerable Need For Speed Underground in 2003, but most importantly it is not intrusive. You are only forced to ride through narrative decorations in the prologue, and where Need for Speed Payback 2017 had you to steal trucks in tightly written scripts of quasi-races of trucks, let Heat wisely make the spectacle for you. The most that you get in the middle of the race to spice things up is a little radio chat from angry rival crews or chasing agents, which means you have control over the action.
Palm City itself does its part to add a sense of drama. It is a Tony Scott vision of Miami, infused with rain and neon lights on every street. The artwork’s references of the game that used the synthwave aesthetics too much, but the more spacious in-game of the art direction work together with a soundtrack full of latin beats and southern hip hop to build a vibrant hyper-Florida that is a perfect host for modern car culture proves.
That sense of place is helped by the day and night mechanic from Heat, who resolves a long-term artistic tension in the series. EA Black Box & # 39; s Underground 1 and 2 existed in a hinterland of eternal night times, evoking a very specific atmosphere. In Criterion & # 39; s Most Wanted, the sun never sets. Who was right? What is the need for the fastest time of the day? Heat solves this nicely: during the day you race legal circuit events for money without police interference. & # 39; At night you race illegal point-to-point runs for Rep (XP) and if the police see you, they will let you know. By this I mean that they will use their cars to try and kill you. Fortunately, Bank and Rep are the only currencies in Heat. There are no loot boxes at all, no micro transactions, no MMO-like grinding.
Within this day-night cycle, my favorite thing about Need For Speed Heat is: a technician who carries risks and binds your police heat to an XP multiplier. End the night without getting in trouble and you get the advertised amount of Rep. Grief the police and then lose them, and you might get the Rep. Three times.
In addition, you must survive their ever-escalating methods to chase and bust you, such as helicopters, nail strips and Corvettes made of diamond, which can keep 300 km / h on straights. It’s very hard to lose them at level two and three, and if they break you or break your car, you lose a huge amount of cash and not to mention resetting your Rep multiplier.
I gambled a lot with this system and I certainly lost more than I won. I felt hard once or twice – I was immediately caught driving through a billboard, for example, lost about $ 50,000. But still, the temptation prevails – and it is more interesting than moving forward by simply ticking off races and drift events.
Above all – and this may sound a little crazy – after a few run-ins with the law and the sting of lost income in your memory, you begin to feel like a street racer. You really start to give one to the corrupt police, and you appreciate every car and every mod – because they’re actually hard to find. I spent a few hours with the BMW with which I started the game, because in a game that measures cash and is unlocked relatively slowly, the lost income I had thrown away had a real impact. And when I finally bought a new car – a bright purple Porsche Cayman, as you ask – it felt like a real achievement.
You can also speed up your progress by taking Heat up on the soft-sell multiplayer component and racing with other people. This increases the cash payouts by 40%, and while finding other players was difficult pre-release, the net code was robust enough when we started a race. And when you win – my Porsche has done it – you feel inclined to entertain the fantasy of Heat, that you are in fact a street racer, part of a community and an ecosystem. That feeling is no longer present in Need For Speed.
It’s not a perfect game, you understand. There are real problems with legibility of the route in night races, resulting in many missed checkpoints. Cars absorb wear and scrapes at the least provocation, which means they almost always seem to be beaten up in every intermediate screen of the intermediate loading screen before races. The police may be a shadow to hard to dodge. And on PS4, it drags along in the first few seconds of every race when smoke flares up and vehicles fill the screen.
However, these are not conceptual problems, and that is a major problem. Need For Speed recalls for the first time in years why people played it so religiously and recognized the more recent elements that put them off. I occasionally take a missed checkpoint or a dodgy police drop-out in exchange for a return to the unlocking structure of Underground and tunerfetishism; for the hot pursuit of Hot Pursuit; for an EA release in 2019 without an RNG element designed to slow progress.