Well this one was a little unexpected. EA’s usual build up to a big game release was pretty much missing with the new Need For Speed game so it arrived without much in the way of fanfare, but it really deserves to be played if you’re a fan of the series and were disappointed by the last few efforts.
Need For Speed Heat is an interesting beast that takes the usual Day and Night cycle found in other games and transforms it in to two very different parts of a single game. During the day you’ll be performing legal races for cash and parts and at night you’ll delve into the murkier street races for reputation, avoiding the cops at the same time.
Why do you need reputation? Well the mechanics are a little fussy about who they supply parts to and so even though you’ll have the cash from the daytime races you’ll still need to make a name for yourself at night in order to secure more items to improve your car performance so you can then go back and win more races. There’s also a pretty tight lock on progression when it comes to racing, you’ll need to have a car capable of meeting the minimum requirements of a race in order to take part, so it’s a case of trying to build on the reputation to get more parts to get a better car to get more races. The upgrade system is a welcome addition which channels elements of Underground, so fans of tinkering and upgrading parts will be pretty pleased to have it back and without a loot box in sight.
The upgrade/reputation system is, to be fair, a fairly simple loop that does lead to some grinding but the races themselves are fun so I can let the game off a little for that. It’s also a great way to build the story bit by bit and introduce new elements. That said, the story which runs through the game is the usual forgettable bumf about families and over-ambitious cops who are more than a little heavy handed with the racers.
The police feature fairly heavily in the game and you will, at some point, find yourself having to outrun them. It’s not quite up to Hot Pursuit’s level of cop chases but it’s another welcome addition that feeds into the story and the reputation system by gambling with much of your built up cash if you happen to get caught. Police crews have obviously been given a large cash injection by the state because they come out all guns blazing with choppers, road spikes, sports cars and everything else they can throw at you in order to throw your ass in jail. Outrun them and you’ll reap huge reputation rewards but get caught and you’ll lose a load of cash.
Driving around between races is a pretty nice experience thanks to Ghost Games work on the open world map. It feels a lot like Need For Speed Most Wanted in places but it doesn’t seem to have quite enough character to pull off the same living, breathing city feel. There are a lack of people around and the traffic is fairly thin a lot of the time, especially at night. There are different sections of the Miami-based city which help some way to give them a little character and graphically this does look the business with a sun drenched daytime and neon-lit night giving the city a very different feel at different times of the day. Much of the scenery is also breakable, which helps in a race when trying to take a corner too fast, there’s little to bounce off of and most of it will shatter before your eyes, it doesn’t look overly realistic, though.
Need For Speed Heat has a good engine under the bonnet and looks good on the outside, too. It’s certainly the best game in the recent history of the series, so hats off to Ghost Games for trying something a little different, even if most of the underlying ideas are taken from previous entries but the important thing is that it all comes together to form an enjoyable racer.