Need for Speed is currently part of a dying genre in the world of racing games. Where once the driving game aficionado would have the choice between a hyper-realistic racing game, such as your Gran Turismo, and a more off the walls arcade seat of your pants experience provided by Need for Speed, nowadays itself all the titles are trying out their shiny new graphics on the ultra-realism kick. Can Need for Speed show that racing can be as crazy as the Fast and the Furious movies and still be good? And that it’s perfectly acceptable to play a game where drifting earns you a refill of nitrous?
Before I begin, I should state that the last Need for Speed I played in depth was around the period of Underground 2 and the first Most Wanted. I feel this does give me a good period of perspective to try and see how the franchise may have been improved or made worse in that time, seeing as there has been a title in this series released every year since 1998, excepting 2001. What seems to be present is a good mix of old and new. There is a division between cop and racer, both playable, that is a legacy of the Hot Pursuit series, and the cars are suitably pimp-out-able in the same way that the Underground and Carbon series allowed, with customizable options aplenty for customizing fans.
Both the cop and racer sides work the same way, and are both switchable whenever desired. The player chooses their car, and their departure point, and is dropped somewhere into a beautiful and enormous open world, comprising mountain trails, cities, and coastal shores. To advance, they must complete a set of selectable objectives, which are banked for money when the player returns back to their base. This money is spent on customization and upgrades for a car, and also for gadgets, which are used in a very James Bond like fashion while driving, such as EMP bombs and smokescreens. Completing a set of objectives unlocks a new rank of car. I was slightly upset that I could not choose my own car to purchase, and instead had to unlock them in the order the game decided. Furthermore, while all the cars control well, and are fun to drive, it takes quite a few upgrades before noticeable improvement is felt, which cheapens the value of upgrading.
The greatest new feature is the AllDrive system, which is where up to 6 strangers or friends online can join your game, whereupon you all race around in the same open world together, cops and racers, and you can challenge or attack each other as you wish, using the same system of triggering races from passersby in real time that you use for the AI vehicles. This is a very fun way to have the game function, and provides a very good multiplayer system, so much so that the single player is almost superfluous.
NfS:R is a beautiful game, whether playing on the old generation or next gen consoles. The stunning environments and fast cars, combined with a great soundtrack in the background can make for an awesome experience, like all classic NfS games have done. However, the greatest focus in this title is still the AllDrive system, which is executed well, but if it isn’t what you want, then you won’t get much from this game. Other than that, it’s a perfectly reasonable game. Which is perfectly reasonable to be.