Over the years we have watched how Need for Speed delivered true masterpieces in the genre, to a few not so remarkable titles. 25 years of Need for Speed that tickled our joy receptors when pulling off a sick drift, or getting away from a platoon of cops on your tail, it all comes together in Heat. It is still no Underground 2 successor but does take a few big steps in the right direction.
Buckle up and let’s go!
FREED THE SPEED
We all have a favourite NFS title that we hold dear to us, Underground 2 and Most Wanted being the leaders for that statement. Need for Speed Heat is slowly becoming a favourite by having an element from most of the games in the catalogue. Performance Upgrades, Body Customization, Paint Tools, Open World, Cops, Day and Night times, did I mention Cops?
Yes, upgrades return in the traditional form but also making you work for them. Besides doing races for cash, you also do races for Rep to level up to get the parts. As mentioned, racing for cash or rep, but they happen at different times. Money races during the day, Rep races at night. It sounds weird that the day and night times is not dynamic, but I would say this style allows for more freedom of what you racing for when you want.
Day time is day time. The cops are around but more like just keeping an eye on things. However, at night they are a racer’s nightmare by becoming a demon on wheels. They ram your car off the road to make the bust, but to your disposal are garages for repairs, which is unlimited during the day, but are limited to 3 at night, changing up the playground with the risk of losing all hard-earned progress made. Nighttime belongs to the cops if you not careful, they instantly develop a lead-foot when in a chase.
Speaking of, at night the city becomes alive, and for some reason, traffic is abundant, each street lights have its own sparkle, but make one beautiful scene as a whole, every passing second…as you drive of course. Light sources react to the way light should, and especially shines during night time rain. In short, the game looks beautiful.
Body Customization is the standard Bumpers, Side Skirts, Spoilers and so on, but with the added exhaust sound tuning, so I was constantly on an aggressive sound, making my V8 sound like monsters powering through. Neon Lights make a return and Tire Smoke Colour is a fresh addition, making drifts a rather colourful affair. Need for Speed Heat is an Arcade Racer that loves to be a spectacle, seeking your attention, so Long Jumps, Drift Zones and Speed Traps are scattered everywhere which in itself holds a reward for meeting the required numbers.
Speed, as the name suggests, is certainly coming in hot, and the rush of it with traffic zooming past you, close enough to change their radio channel, is the fun factor. The game has a great sense of speed no matter the camera angle. With more than 120 cars, there is something for everyone, given you have the funds to purchase them.
SO, WHAT’S THE STORY
The story revolves around an event known as the Speedhunters Showdown. This attracts the cops tasked to shut it down. The event gets special attention from Lt. Mercer of Palm City Police Department. Largely, the story is nothing special and just give a backdrop to why the cops are chasing us. The whole affair could have been the result of someone’s nose getting pinched during a Who’s Car Is The Fastest argument, and it would STILL be enough reason to go on a nitro-fueled cops and racers chase.
The map size is large enough for variety in activities, but not so large that it’s almost just empty scenery. Long stretches of road to test your machines, and plenty of corners for Highlight Reel worthy shots, I can see myself abusing Photo Mode to get the best photos of a power sliding Mercedes Benz C63 with Green Smoke coming off the tires.
With the camera firmly in place, it is safe to say Need for Speed Heat is a very beautiful looking game, and the cars being the centrepiece. All cars are highly detailed but sadly no cockpit view, which isn’t a bad thing as seeing your car is half the joy you get from an NFS title. During cut-scenes your character and the supporting cast is well animated and accompanied by your standard Hollywood driving movie acting. Won’t win awards but a decent filler to show story progression being made.
LET’S MAKE IT A PARTY
Online play offers a far more active Palm City, with the mix of traffic and other players in an open world, it feels like the game is made for this, to assemble a crew and take on other crews for higher rewards. Remember those upgrades? Yeah, still expensive.
Game modes such as Circuit, Sprint and Team Battles provide the meat and potatoes of this rich stew, with a side serving of friendly rivalry in the form of steamy time trail.
And what is the main course without the sounds? Well, wouldn’t know as I turned off the music in favour of the roar of my engines. A beast of a V8 is worthy of an Emmy if you ask me, sadly I wish I could say about the supporting cast as they repeat their lines. Not that I have an issue with dialogue frequency, it is more the lack of variety as it’s the same thing over and over, mostly anyway.
TO THE FINISH LINE
Need for Speed Heat feels like an old friend coming back from some long trip, coming to show you some new things and maybe tell a few boring stories. I believe the best thing learnt from its previous visit, is how to distribute upgrades and not via Lucky-Packets.
The game now shows great potential from here on in with its solid mechanics and style of street culture, while I would recommend more believable stories.
NFS Heat is will please longtime fans and introduce newcomers to the series in a great all-round package.