Good, Bad, Ugly: NFS Heat
A quick review of Need For Speed Heat by Ghost Games and EA
It's been a very long time since I've played a Need For Speed game this much. So, that's a good start. But, let's be brief-ish with this review:
- The car selection is good. I don't much care for all the convertibles, but I am having fun turning them into rally cars.
- There's a distinct casual feeling about it that's just good. I'm not feeling pressured into doing anything I don't want to. There's no annoying voices telling me to play on a harder difficulty; no announcer telling me I should trying this event. The only thing that's making me do anything is my desire to earn more money so I can buy and tune cars. This casual gaming is what REALLY sells NFS Heat. As I said, I'm turning all the convertibles into rally cars and there's nothing stopping me from doing that.
See, the problem with The Crew 2 is when you start up there's three things that immediately go "you should do this!" and you close that and you're immediately attacked by another thing telling you do go do an event. And then it brings you to a screen that tells you what cars are on sale. That's just being pushy. And when the amount you make from a race is only 15-22K....That's the problem NFS Payback had. It had all that open world and all those cars, and I just got bored doing the same drift race for hours just to buy 1 car. Same with The Crew 2.
And then there's Forza Horizon 4, which...sort of has that casual feeling to it, except, when you boot up the game, you're greeted with a screen that says there's some exclusive weekly cars you can win if you complete certain events. And if you miss one week, then you're out of one of those cars.
NFS Heat has no screen encouraging you to do anything. It loads you into your garage and from there you can jump out and explore the world in one of your many cars. Or you can hang out and customize a car or two or three provided you have the money. And that's why NFS Heat is the best open world racing game of this generation. I think the only game better are the Test Drive Unlimited games 'cause they also had that casual "do whatever you want" mentality that's just...what a open world driving game should be like. None of that locking cars to a handful of people. Okay, NFS Heat does that, too, but...it doesn't brag about it. Those cars are just in the shop, collecting dust and it doesn't yell at you to go get them.
As an example of this super casual experience, you race for money in the day time, and experience in the night. But nighttime is also when the cops come out in force and you only get three trips through gas stations to fix your car up and...it's a bit stressful. I started just doing a race or two and then returning back to the garage for the night. And...the game informed me of high heat races I need to complete to get Ultimate Grade Parts, but...it also never once told me I HAD to do that. I've completed the entire game without doing a Heat 5 race. I only did like two Heat 3 races and I was never punished for not doing it. Sure, I don't get the "best parts" but I also don't care, really.
- The game is VERY focused on street racing and sort of neglects the other racing modes that are in the game. Really wish there was more to do with the Off-Road, Time Attack and Drifting. At least, what they should have done, is increased the payouts to all of them to above 50,000 credits after you reach level 50. At that point you're really only racing for money, anyway.
- The AI pathing is...pretty terrible. It's like the game gets so distracted with you being awesome, that it forgets to control the AI in any reasonable way, so occasionally, it'll spawn traffic cars in a field and have them drive across a 6 lane road for no reason. Or, in a race, you'll notice a driver suddenly drive across the road and watch their arrow on the mini map start driving the wrong way.
- I think the ugliest thing about it is it feels...half finished. There's this casual feeling about it, sure, but then you drive around and...I don't know. I mean, the game has tires for Showcase, Drag and Speedcross which aren't in the game. And the terrible AI pathing might be a clue. But, things just feel like...there was supposed to be microtransactions and then EA put their foot in their mouth and called them "surprise mechanics" and then EA told their devs to rip out all those mechanics. So, with Ghost Games being a small developer, they had to work then on making new mechanics to replace the microtransactions. And that eats up time and money. Luckily, despite all that, NFS Heat....it's set sales records for this generation of consoles. It's the best reviewed NFS game since NFS Rivals. This is Ghost Games' first decent NFS game without the help of Criterion. It proves they can make one. I think it could have used another month or two...or six, but, it's EA, so...who knows what they're gonna do.
So, I recommend it. It's really weird to say that. I mean NFS 2015 was just an always-online nightmare and the perpetual darkness left everything kind of horrible. And it definitely had that infinite grind feeling that NFS Payback and The Crew 2 do. But Heat...it's not perfect. I will warn you, though the traffic in Heat is the worst in the franchise. They will spawn directly in your way whilst you're in the middle of the perfect drift run and then, around the next corner you'll have one spawned sideways in the wrong lane.
P.S. (I would argue Heat is better than Rivals. I don't know, Rivals got a bit boring after a while. Heat feels like it took the DNA of Rivals and the other NFS games, and made something...good out of it.)