Everything Wrong With Need For Speed, And How To Fix It - A Thought Piece
If there is ever an example of a once famous game franchise falling off the radar and out of favour with the typical racing gamer, it is Need For Speed. The series has been on a downward spiral for some time now, and it shows little sign of improving anytime soon. With the last few entries into the series being received about as well as a fart in church - something has to change for NFS.
I think I have the answer to all of the problems currently facing the franchise, and I'm going to explain them to you in this article. Before you fanboys out there think about spamming the comments calling me every name under the sun and telling me in no uncertain terms that I haven't a clue what I'm talking about (like most of the sim racing community on my last thought piece) - please remember that this article is purely my own opinion and you don't have to agree with it.
THE HEART OF THE ISSUE (PT. 1) - MOST WANTED (2012) WAS THE LAST GOOD NFS GAME
It's quite worrying when I think back to NFS games of the past, and I come to the conclusion that the last game I actually thought was any good was 2012's Most Wanted - even then I struggled to really get enjoyment out of it. In my review of the game (click here to read it), I considered Most Wanted to be an improvement on The Run (2011), but it lacked substance and story throughout - it was plagued by a lack of anything interesting happening in the game world. The introduction of jack spots was the wrong decision for the franchise, and thankfully wasn't repeated again in later games. However, having clocked nearly 150 hours on the PS3 version of the game back in 2013 - Most Wanted has a special place in my favourite racing games (probably because I completed everything on there)...
THE HEART OF THE ISSUE (PT. 2) - NOTHING IMPROVED AFTER MOST WANTED
The next instalment - Rivals (2013) - started the decline of the series. Although it wasn't a terrible game, the story was confusing and the game world got very boring, very quickly. I ended up binning the game after a few months due to not connecting with it. This was the start of things to come for NFS, and it only gets worse from this point onwards. The 2015 release - simply titled Need For Speed - was a huge step backwards, with the full motion video (FMV) sequences being poorly executed, the acting was abysmal and multiple performance issues completely ruining what was supposed to be a "reboot" of the franchise.
2017's release - Payback - was the cherry on top of a horribly put together cake. Having three protagonists works in a game such as Grand Theft Auto V, but in a racing game is possibly the most under-thought and creatively lazy idea that you could come up with. The story made absolutely no sense, the physics seemed like they were plucked straight out of Daytona USA, and the fact that they introduced loot boxes was enough for some people to stop playing NFS games altogether. Don't even get me started on the micro-transactions...
THE HEART OF THE ISSUE (PT.3) - GHOST GAMES
Ghost Games (formerly EA Gothenburg) took over the NFS franchise in 2012 after the release of Most Wanted - and they have systematically failed the NFS fanbase since the start. All three NFS releases under their control have devalued the franchise to a point where people have lost faith and switched to Forza or any other title. They believe that they have made NFS a force to be reckoned with again, when in actual fact it's been the complete opposite to their claims.
Marcus Nilsson - Ghost's creative director - said in a 2013 interview that he would consider commissioning NFS Underground 3 if Rivals sold 15 million copies, his team would start developing the one NFS game that the fans truly want. Five years later, nothing has been said about that elusive game. We can only presume that Rivals fell way short of its sales goal, or it was an incredibly stupid PR stunt to encourage people to buy Rivals.
Nilsson was at it again in 2015, when he stated in an interview that "Need For Speed is about driving cars fast". If stating the blindly obvious was an Olympic sport, Nilsson would be a 2 time gold medalist.
WHAT'S THE SOLUTION?
Get rid of Ghost Games. That solves the problem with them.
The best move would be to reinstate Criterion as the developers of future NFS games, with EA Games themselves having a lot more input into the titles instead of just letting a game studio loose with their crazy ideas.
In terms of what the next game should be for the franchise - commissioning a sequel to Underground 2 or 2005's Most Wanted would be a perfect place to start. Both games have gone down in history as possibly two of the greatest arcade racers in history, and a modern day follow up to either one would be met with excitement and high sales figures. Sometimes, going back to the past is the best way forward for the future.