Ghost Games has finally announced the upcoming 22nd full-fledged installment of the long-running Need for Speed franchise, just in time to mark a quarter of a century for the series. If you're wanting to know details of the game, or what's been revealed so far, check out fellow Drivetriber Keegan Gossett's posts breaking down everything from the trailer and the preorder incentives. What I thought I would do is give my take on what's got me excited, what I'm hoping for, and what's got me worried after seeing the reveal for NFS Heat.
As ever with the Need for Speed franchise, the location and vibe of the game are top notch. The Miami locale along with the 80's, outrun/cyberpunk aesthetic that the team at Ghost have gone with is excellent, and could be one of the best in the series so far. This is a huge step up from the boring, drab location we had in Payback, and the art direction from what I've seen so far is ace. The current location that we have should mean that 75% of the map won't be empty desert like last time, and the colour schemes should be quite vibrant and inviting as well, which all bodes well in providing another key USP (besides extensive car customization) over racing game rivals Forza Horizon 4 and The Crew 2. Also helping to build up atmosphere is the game's soundtrack, and the track featured in the trailer, NGHTMRE & A$AP Ferg's Redlight, is a good sound for this game. It is worth noting that one of the few strong points of the most recent NFS games has been the soundtracks, I've thoroughly enjoyed all of the last 3 in that regard. Here's to hoping that Miami-area native Denzel Curry is featured on this soundtrack as well.
Return of Prostreet-Style Sanctioned Events
I'm probably not the only person who keeps forgetting that EA owns the Speedhunters website and that the site was started to be a real-life car culture supplement to the Need for Speed franchise back in the heyday of the Black Box era. It seems as though Ghost hasn't forgotten, and they are using the Speedhunters brand to make Prostreet-esque legal race events to be run in the daytime portion of the game. I've always hoped to see a reboot of NFS Prostreet as it was one of the games I played the most growing up, but I always thought that to make a tie-in with Speedhunters to do that would work perfectly, given the website's penchant for covering the grassroots motorsports and car meets that Prostreet was inspired by in the first place. It's a match made in car heaven.
Major Focus on Police Chases
A major sticking point many NFS fans have against Payback, the last installment in the franchise, is that free-roam cop chases were absent from the game. On top of that, the marketing team had really hyped up the police chase portion of the game leading up to release, leaving fans extremely disappointed when said portion turned out to be a series of linear cop chases that weren't particularly challenging or engaging. In Heat however, the nighttime portion of the game has a strong focus on police evasion, with a new, main police antagonist to fight against. That last point is especially nice as they didn't try to take advantage of fans' nostalgia of the series (which is massive).
Let's now talk about the elephant in the room. Ghost representative Ben (u/F8rge) has confirmed over on the NFS subreddit that the handling is "brand new," but from the action sequences in the trailer it seems as though the base engine still lives on, albeit with a few tweaks. It is however, too early to completely write off the handling model just yet, as we shall see when Gamescom rolls around in a few days, but I just don't see how they could've brought the current handling model up to the standards set by Horizon 4. I am, though, still holding out hope that the brake-to-drift mechanic has been removed altogether, or has been changed so thoroughly that it isn't needed to win races anymore.
Off-Road Racing Still Present
This one is a bit more subjective, but the off-road racing, maligned in Payback, has been confirmed to still be in the game. This is not bad because I hate off-roading, but given the game's arcade approach to handling and that off-roading has never really been a part of NFS (it was one of the things that made Payback feel like it was ripping off The Crew), it doesn't really have a place in this new game, and might detract from all of the other great things they are doing.
THE WAIT AND SEE
This has always been a sore spot for NFS, especially when you compare it to the Forza and Gran Turismo franchises. While Payback had about 80 cars after post-launch support, Forza Horizon 4 is getting close to 600, and it's still climbing. While I don't expect anything like those kind of numbers for Heat, it's 2019 and I think it's a big loss if there's anything less than 100 cars in game. Initial signs are promising, no less than 30 cars were revealed in the trailer (for the full up-to-date list check this link: www.igcd.net/game.php?id=1000014133). There have been a few surprise inclusions, the new Polestar 1 being the headlining vehicle, as well as the return of Ferrari (although customization will likely be limited on any Ferrari models which is a bummer). 80's icon the Lamborghini Countach is back, as well, which has got me hoping for the Testarossa as well. Otherwise, most of the rest of the cars revealed were in Payback and/or 2015 and customization should be strong for most available models, as it has been in the last 2 games. Performance customization looks to have been revamped, or rather returned to how it was before Payback, and the loathed speed cards are gone, along with any lootboxes or MTX altogether, which quite impressive from an EA title (although that is how it should be).
This is an interesting point because I find that most people have found the dialogue snippets in the trailer to be pretty cringy, and beyond the very memeable "I SAID RIGHT NOW," I'm not really seeing where they're getting that from. If people think this was cringe-worthy, they should really go back and look at character interactions from the FMV cutscenes in Most Wanted, Carbon, and Undercover...
Also worth noting is the player customization that has been shown, but what we will have to wait and see on is how it is implemented. Customization options look interesting (including what looks to be branded Adidas items), but if it's applied anything like how it is in Horizon 4, that will be a major turn-off.
All in all, I'm quite impressed so far, I have said in a previous article that this game will be make-or-break for the franchise, and initial signs are looking like this could be a comeback for the once-revered series. Now it's time to see some gameplay when Gamescom comes around next week!