Yes Gamers, I’m well aware that the game has been out for a fair while, but the fact of the matter is… it’s not been out on EA Play for all that long, and so Need For Speed Heat has been the game I’ve invested a lot of time to play on. NFS Heat is the fourth on current gen consoles, and it had a lot of grovelling to do after the disaster that was NFS Payback. Side note here, I actually like NFS Payback, but I wasn’t too keen on the lootbox thing that’s been plaguing videogames.
So, has this game managed to bring back the glory of NFS Carbon? Will it allow me to live up to the Drift King moniker that my friends give me? Will I be able to travel backwards or forwards in time when I hit 88.8 miles an hour? Two of those three questions will be answered, so read on!
Need For Speed is a racing franchise that’s been around for an awfully long time. The first game, The Need For Speed, was released to EA’s failed 3DO Interactive Multiplayer console, all the way back in 1994, and a special edition was released for Sony’s PlayStation and the Sega Saturn in 1996. It had giant amounts of praise heaped upon it, and to be honest, looking at the game from a modern lens, it’s surprisingly good even when upscaled to a 4K TV.
It spawned a range of sequels, with more and more focus being brought on the reason to race as well as upgraded racing mechanics, and a lower focus on realism and physics. The three most successful ones before the franchise got a reboot were Need For Speed Carbon, Need for Speed Most Wanted and Need For Speed Hot Pursuit. They’re all brilliant games, and at least one of them has got a high-definition remaster, with several more planned for the future. Consider me extremely excited for that.
In 2013, following a downsizing at Criterion Games, Ghost Games took over the production of the franchise games, and developed Rivals. Then the franchise was fully rebooted, giving us Need For Speed, Need For Speed Payback, and finally, Need For Speed Heat.
At a glance
Need For Speed Heat is the 24th game in the franchise and the third narratively in the reboot franchise and it is, I’m glad to tell you, a complete return to form. If you were burned by the grinding and lootbox mechanics of NFS Payback, rejoice! There’s not a single lootbox in sight in this game. It takes everything we liked from previous franchise instalments and gives them its own twist in a surprisingly fresh way. It’s not quite the return you wanted, but it’s a commitment to bringing us the games that we want. The result involves nerve-racking, white-knuckle, breath-taking car chases with the cops around Palm City (which is basically Miami, Florida).
It’s also got a series of different challenges to do both at day and at night, which have two different modes. During the day, you race for money, which you spend on upgrading your cars and buying new ones to upgrade. At night, you take part in some less-than-legal street races to upgrade your reputation and gives you access to better car parts and cars. You can’t do one without the other, and they’ve clearly used NFS Most Wanted as inspiration here, but giving the player control over the day/night cycle is something I really love. It’s finally putting you a s a player, back ion control and back behind the steering wheel of your playthrough.
Your unnamed protagonist, which you can customise to your heart’s content, arrives as a racer in Palm City for a series of racing challenges to take on, with the hope of being crowned champion. However, in order to qualify for the higher ranks, you have to get yourself noticed, and thus take part in some good, old-fashioned street racing. There’s one issue: The Cops.
The head of the cops, who is a delightfully pantomime-esque villain, is coming down hard on the street racers who race at night, and getting more and more investment to do so. Lieutenant Frank Mercer has more-or-less declared war on the street racers, and so your protagonist and his friends must race at night and prove that racing’s in Palm City to stay. There’s a few twists and turns in the plot, and as per usual, there’s a double agent, but it’s done surprisingly earnest here.
If you think you’re in for an easy ride here: Think again. The system is definitely weighed in favour of Palm City’s finest, albeit the strike system from NFS Carbon is missing, so you won’t lose your car. The annoying thing here is that your car has a finite amount of health at night, and so to fix it, you need to drive through a filling station. These filling stations close after you visit them, and if you have a knackered car and no gas station, when you hit something, you can lose your car. As you progress through the game, this gets more and more infuriating. So please be advised on this before you venture out to the evening. The cop chases aren’t restricted as much as they were in NFS Payback, so the map is literally your playground as you attempt to escape from “the law”.
I don’t like the fact that the cops spawn up out of nowhere at points, as I went fully into a head-on prang with one cop that spawned as I was fleeing another. This isn’t too much of an issue, but it did have me swearing and cursing a bit. The busted/escape system’s a bit unnecessary too, as the cars only have a finite amount of health as explained earlier on. The deck is shuffled truly in the favour of the police here. Mind you, on the other hand, there is a certain amount of satisfaction to be had when you finally do escape from them.
Well, this is where I spent the most of my time playing through. Yes, the game looks beter at night (we’ll get to that), but the game is far more enjoyable at daytime. There are a series of crew challenges, checkpoints, races and drift trials to do as you get more and more money. Can you become a millionaire? Aye. But don’t deliberately do this. Spend your money on making your cars the beasts that you can make them. The one bit I didn’t like is that whilst you can make and add custom wraps to your car, you can’t customise the aftermarket add-ons to your car as much as I’d like, but you can’t have everything.
The drifting really took some mastering, as the control scheme to get your car to go sideways has been dramatically altered. You can have the game go back to the way that it was in the past, but it doesn’t work half as well as it does in previous games if you do this. Considering how much I play racing games, Gamerhub readers, this is not a case of “getting good”, and it’s one of my biggest criticisms of NFS Heat.
This is truly where the game comes into its own. The NFS series has always been big on high-graphical quality and visually rich worlds, but this one is a positive fever dream. Palm City looks awesome during the daytime, but at night, the city turns into something out of Blade Runner. The neon streets are a visual joy to race through, with it getting even more visually rich when you race through it both at night and in the rain. Seriously, the visuals are worth the price of admission in this regard, particularly if you have a car with fluorescent paint.
There are several things worth spotting for a visit, but my hands-down favourite was visiting NFS’s version of Cape Canaveral, as there’s an insane jump you can perform underneath a rocket. For this reason, I’m embedding a video from YouTube to show you.
NFS Heat is a good game to sink a lot of game hours playing, with some welcome returns from previous instalments in the NFS franchise, but there’s several things missing to make this game one of the best there is. I’m glad there’s no lootbox systems and cards to upgrade your cars, and buying parts to make your cars better feels more natural and fun, but the cop chase system and drift mechanics need more time in development. The drifting took a lot of time to get used to, but there was something incredibly rewarding once you’d mastered it. Drifting through the finish line more than a mile ahead of my opponents was fun for me, if not for the people I raced against, and all the fun is there to be had.
To be honest with you, this game feels more like a promise for better games and an apology for the mess that was NFS Payback, so for me, it gets 3.5/5 controllers.
And that’s my review for you all! Did you like it? Was I talking out of my exhaust pipe? Have you played it? Either way, don’t forget to talk to me about it in the comments, or contact me on Twitter here.
For The Gamerhub, I’ve been Davey.