Disclaimer: I’m not a big driving game guy. I haven’t played a proper racing game since Burnout Paradise so I’m not very experienced with recent Need For Speed titles, but that won’t stop me from being able to tell you that Ghost Games’ Need For Speed isn’t a very good game that suffers from a poor story, lacklustre AI and an unnecessary need for an online connection.
The game opens with you, the player character Mr. Blank Slate Raceman, meeting the energy-drink-slamming Spike after a race. From there you’re introduced to the different sects of driving you’ll be taking part in: Speed, Style, Build, Crew and Outlaw in which the first four are represented by characters you’re constantly fist bumped and handed Monster energy drinks by as they talk smack at each other. The cutscenes are beyond cringeworthy in an almost throwback sort of way to the older Need For Speed games and while they can be appreciated from an ironic standpoint, they’re still ripe with lame characters and product placement. The Outlaw path is merely a smiling face with objectives related to causing a ruckus with law enforcement and the main cast bring up how the outlaws are giving the street racing scene a bad name. The fact that you’re part of that group is never acknowledged except in the final scenes of the Outlaw path in which you crack open a cold Monster energy drink with the “bad boys”, so if that doesn’t tell you how disfigured this game’s plot is I’m not sure what will.
Each character worships an idol of their sect (e.g. Spike, A.K.A. Speed, worships Magnus Walker, a Porsche enthusiast) and eventually with progression you begin to catch the idol’s attention and begin racing them or beating their scores or times but that’s about it. You spend a lot of time completing these courses and afterwards are given a shout out by both story characters and anonymous usernames through the in-game phone service “Bl@h” and wait for a call about the next course. It’s super repetitive in how all the events are point-to-point races, time trials, drift events and the shotgun approach of giving players different paths to go down doesn’t work because of this lack of variety. This kind of repetition is dull and trivial until the final parts of the game where the difficulty ramps up in a really unexpected way. It feels more like a blind side than a build up of skill and experience to take on and certain events only make that jump all the more frustrating. To name an example, take the Crew section of the single-player; This usually focuses on cooperatively achieving a goal like a “Drift Train” event in which players must keep in line with other racers to drift around corners together to gather score and it wouldn’t be a bad idea if the AI weren’t so inept. They’ll crash into you constantly if you’re ahead and invalidate your score or drive off if you have trouble keeping up.
The Outlaw path has like I mentioned before, objectives aimed at catching police attention, dragging out chases and raising the bounty for your arrest during a pursuit. While a fun idea on paper, the AI problems persist with the police being flat-out idiotic especially in groups. There’s no real chase or attempt to trap the player as squad cars will follow either behind you or form a line on either side of your car but only if you’re driving slowly. They won’t even try to ram you and crash into each other more often than the player, effectively taking the aggression out of the police and that makes them a chore to deal with when completing Outlaw objectives.
The multiplayer to Need For Speed is a confusing mishmash of a persistent online world instead of dedicated lobbies and a crew system that relies on having friends to play with unless you feel like inviting a bunch of strangers. You can find other players or AI racers in the world to drive up to and challenge but the lack of world events or any kind of way to draw players to an area makes the feature completely pointless. It also has the potential to become bothersome as this persistent world full of players means you can run into them while doing events and end up being crashed into or griefed by players looking to disrupt someone trying to play the game. Thankfully this can be remedied with a Play Alone option, but it’s hardly the solution when that’s not even a default option when booting up the game.
I think Need For Speed‘s biggest issue was giving the player something interesting to do. The game is chock full of customization options for your car and the driving is still solid but it’s problems lie in making the effort of the work you put in satisfying. There’s plenty to do in the world but what is fun wears its welcome yet more of the same keeps getting dumped on you in the dullest way possible. This coupled with its frustratingly bad AI and poor multiplayer only worsen the experience and there’s not much else other than the driving and sometimes hilariously bad cutscenes that make it a recommendable game.
There would be a Need For Speed if there was any fun in needing more speed.