(PS4 / XB1 / PC)

Immerse yourself in the shadowy world of illegal street racing in this latest racer from Electronic Arts. All together now; We feel the need, the need for…

The Need for Speed franchise has been calling out for a make-over for some time now. Seemingly updated annually, the series had begun to grow staler with each passing year, with rival racers beginning to lap the games when it comes to innovation and playability. To EA’s credit, they recognized the problem and set up a new dedicated studio – Ghost Games – to revamp the series. So, after a two year hiatus, is the 2015 carnation of Need for Speed all new and improved or is the series ready for the breakers yard?

Echoing the days of Need for Speed: Underground, Ghost Games have taken the franchise back to the urban car culture scene. In other words, a return to the Max Power generation. The premise is simple – you begin the game with a choice of three ‘basic’ cars, which you can then spend money on to customize, making them faster and more competitive. As you enter and win races, you earn more money to customize cars and buy new models. Just make sure you don’t get caught by the cops along the way.

need2The focus here is on customization, and you can indeed spend hours in the garage, making subtle tweaks to your suspicion bias and responsiveness of your power steering. With your garage only able to hour up to five cars at a times, you will need to choose your wheels wisely and make the most out of them by upgrading them to specialized rides. For example, one could be focused on drifting, another for all out speed, and another still for maneuverability. As you gain more experience, more parts and cars become available, so you need to keep winning races and earning money to progress.

The in-game map will show you which races are available at any given time, and to participate in them you can manually drive to their location or fast travel over. The races themselves fall into one of several categories – Speed, Style, Crew, Build and Outlaw. Depending on which one you enter, you can find yourself in a circuited race, a time trial or even a full-on police chase.

The highlight of the game? The graphics. The visuals in Need for Speed are simply gorgeous, and the developers have really taken advantage of the power of the next gen consoles. Intermingled with photo-realistic graphics are filmed cut scenes, and you will be hard polished to tell the difference at times. If anything, the wooden acting in the cut scenes lets things down, otherwise this is about as visually polished as you will get.

When it comes to gameplay, there is no doubt that sliding around corners is a hell of a lot of fun, especially during races. This is real seat of your pants stuff. The only niggle I have is that you need a little bit of luck to win some races, and no matter how skillfully you customize your vehicles, other cars can suddenly get in your way and prevent you from winning.

need3Need for Speed is designed to be a permanently online game, so to get the most out of it you will need to sign up and connect to the internet. It is possible to play offline, but you will be missing the multiplayer aspect of the game. Still, if you don’t mind racing against AI cars, then it’s not a huge issue.

What we have here is a very impressive and polished racer. It harks back to the glory days of the franchise, and with a ridiculous amount of races to win, and chars to customize, a game that has a long shelf-life ahead of it. Racing games have never looked, or played, as good as this before.


Mark Pilkington