Ladies and gentlemen, introducing the twenty-third instalment to the Need for Speed franchise, Need for Speed Payback. That is a lot of racing games, but there is a good reason that the franchise has stood strong for so long. Developers EA Gothenburg AKA “Ghost Games” has been looking after the NFS franchise since 2013 and all in all the titles since then have brought in very mixed reviews, and this one is no different. Now, do not expect some incredibly deep storyline with strong character developments that keeps the game interesting, just expect some arcade, action-packed, tyre smoking, sideways drifting and smashing fun.
The player takes control of three members of a crew:
- Tyler Morgan – The true racer of the three, specialising in street races and the quarter miles.
- Jessica Miller – The “runner”, specialising as a getaway driver and also roughing up any pursuers that might get in the way.
- Sean McAlister – Likes to get the car sideways, specialising in drifting and off-roading.
With three different characters comes many challenges by utilising each driver’s unique driving abilities, with the player dominating the streets within Fortune Valley and work towards the goal of taking down “The House”, the cartel that controls the Valley’s underworld. Missions for the most part are just one big action sequence that needs to be completed step by step but unfortunately have a large repetitive nature.
The entire map is enormous and strewn with a heap of different driving challenges that the player can complete to level up. Challenges vary from drifting sections and speed traps, to item collection and smashing through billboards. It is that large that when driving from mission to mission, I kept getting side tracked and taking a dozen different detours on the way to the next mission. Honestly, free-roam is the most enjoyable part of this game, as missions just seem too linear and even police pursuits are dull. When evading police there is always a point in the map to be reached, taking away the players choice in how they want to accomplish a getaway.
Money is earned through missions and challenges which is used to purchase cars and body upgrades. It never feels like there is a lack of funds in the bank and if there is it does not take long to make enough cash to afford the next car on the bucket list. NFS has always been more focused on the vehicles aesthetics rather than what is beneath the hood and this title is seriously lacking customisation. Most body upgrades only give the player four or five options, which are all similar, if not the same for each vehicle. Paint and liveries, however, are extremely customisable and a player also has the option to share their livery design to the community, and believe me there is no shortage of amazing artworks that players have designed for their cars.
When upgrading the engine, the game has taken a very different approach. Money is not spent here, rather “Speed Cards” that are earned through completion of missions and challenges. The problem is, these speed cards cannot be chosen and it is a lucky dip. If the player is looking for a specific brand turbo upgrade, they could easily end up with a brakes upgrade from another brand. Taking away total control from how a player controls the performance of their vehicles, it is a bold strategy that did not pay off.
As a racing game it falls short of anything I would consider to be truly enjoyable for fans of the genre. The end game becomes a bit of a grind when trying to upgrade vehicles that meet the recommended requirements to succeed and the linear style gameplay takes away the excitement of forcing a player to think on their feet. It is fun for a while, but do not be surprised if it is never finished.
+ Lots of cars to choose from
+ Free-roam is a blast
+ Arcade driving
– Linear driving
– “Speed Cards”
– Boring pursuits
– Grindy gameplay
Need for Speed Payback is available on Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and PC. It is free with PS Plus until the end of October.
Brando for One More Game