If there's one thing petrolheads want in an open-world racing game like NFS, it's customization. Lots and lots of customization. Who can blame them? For some of us, these games are the closest we're going to get to making our dream car! No wonder we're a bit fastidious when it comes to the kind of upgrades we want from our games and how much of it we want (read: A LOT!) Of course, there's no way to talk about customization and gaming without mentioning the franchise that made in-game car customization what it is today: The Need For Speed franchise. If you were to ask any well-versed gamer on what franchise they should turn to for customization, they'd probably say Need For Speed without a second thought.
Then the unthinkable happened: NFS was no longer being produced by Black Box studios. Instead, Criterion games got their hands on the brand and things... actually started off somewhat okay. The thing to understand about Criterion Games is that they're not “bad” game developers. They made the hilarious Burnout series for pete's sake! Unfortunately, that led to the NFS series going in a different direction. NFS Hot Pursuit 2010 wasn't a bad game, but it didn't have anywhere near the customization of its predecessors (ProStreet, Carbon, MW '05, Underground 1 and 2, etc). It didn't stop at Hot Pursuit 2010 though, all of Criterion-made Need For Speed games lacked any real customization.
Mind you, this aspect of open-world arcade games –or “simcade” for this example– wasn't much better with the new kid on the block: Forza Horizon. While it had more customization than the Criterion-made Burnout-rejects of the time, it still wasn't what long-time NFS lovers were looking for. Forza players loved it, but NFS players were still left wanting...
Fast forward a few years and another new game is released: The Crew. I'll spare you a few details (because that intro was quite lengthy), but if there's one thing The Crew (and perhaps even The Crew 2) got right, it's the customization. Let me start by giving you some examples explaining why...
Forza Horizon 4:
(If you're wondering, the wheels are changed slightly).
Credit where credit is due: Forza has been getting better and better about their customization options. Adding more body kits and wheel spacers (for some cars) that do help in making your car “your” car. However, those are the only meaningful visual upgrades they've added into FH4. Yes, they did make some changes to the design editor, but that's not quite the same thing as more bumpers and side skirts (or wings for that matter).
Need For Speed (2015, Payback, and Heat):
(I don't have NFS Heat yet (or 2015-Payback), so video credit goes to LPN05.)
This is where NFS definitely has an edge over the Forza series. While NFS was definitely struggling with –a lack of– customization during the Criterion years, the franchise is finally making a comeback in this area. Widebodies, body kits, multiple spoilers and wings, rims that can differ from front-to-back, and much more! With more parts and additions hopefully on the way!
The Crew (1 and 2):
-Look at the headlight inserts. In the game, the standard car has silver inserts. However, MINI did make some Countrymans with black inserts.
What did The Crew get right about customization that the other two brands haven't then? It's something so incredibly simple, so incredibly ingenious, that it's infuriating. Unlike any of its competition, The Crew has the factory options for all (or most) of its cars. Want to put the six-vent hood on the Gen 5 Viper? Go right ahead! Want to put different wheels from MINI on your Countryman! They have the option for it (why they added a consumer-spec MINI Countryman alongside the rally version defies all logic, however).
This is precisely what The Crew gets right that the other two gamer series(s) don't. All three use licensed cars, yet the developers at Ivory Tower were the only ones to realize that they had licensed cars, what's stopping them from using their options too? I'm sure I'm in the minority here, but I don't always want to use aftermarket wheels or hoods or even spoilers/wings. Sometimes, I just want to use some factory options to get as close as possible to what I'd want in real life. Even if The Crew isn't as good as it's competitors, they definitely earned some uniqueness points here...
Game Completed, Roll Credits:
Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying I want game developers to replace aftermarket parts with OEM ones. On the contrary, I want OEM parts in addition to more aftermarket parts. If I want to put the six-vent hood on a Gen 5 Viper whilst also putting a body kit on the car then dang it I want to do that! Car personalization is the cornerstone of the NFS franchise, a common complaint of the Forza franchise, and something done with an ingenious twist in The Crew.
That's what I think, however. What are your thoughts about car customization in NFS, Forza, and The Crew? Feel free to air your thoughts down below. As always, I'll see you later.