Need For Speed Heat
Need For Speed always seems to be one of my most underrated games every year, and Heat is no different. Check out my full review for all my thoughts on the latest racing game.
I love racing games and I love Need For Speed, yet every time a new one releases it totally catches me by surprise. Granted NFS had some issues when they tried to be a racing sim with Pro Street, the franchise has always been pretty good. The reboot a few years ago really brought the arcade racing fun back into the series, and ever since then the games have been hovering around this area with minor twists and turns along the way.
Heat is more on the side of good things that have happened in the franchise; bringing some of the generic perks as well. Ultimately what you’re getting is a thrilling “run from the cops” racer with a cheesy storyline to go with it.
Heat puts you in the center of a Miami inspired world called Palm City, and anyone who’s played classics like Underground will instantly fall in love. The city has this rich vibrant feel to it when it turns night time, and during the day you feel like cruising the city just to see beautiful areas. The neat thing is that visuals are not the only thing that changes during the night and day cycle. During the day, things are a bit more calm. you can explore and do more “organized” style races. When the game turns to night all the racers come out, more racing pops up, and of course cops become way more aggressive.
The daytime is when you can earn money for parts and upgrades, but the nighttime is for earning “rep” which is talked about a lot in the game. Obviously, you will need both to advance in the game so you will often find yourself switching between night and day frequently. The ability to switch freely is a very awesome perk too because you won’t be stuck waiting or trying to hit small windows of opportunity just to earn cash or rep when needed. Driving at night is when the game truly shines though. The lighting, especially in rain, is astonishing every time I try it. It makes driving during the day seem a bit bland by comparison.
The game also offers online and offline modes which work similar to recent open world racers. While online, other players can join your world and race around with you. Races will also fill up with online opponents. Things are not as fluid as other titles, however, because the option to play online needs to be selected from the main menu, and then utilized for your entire session. You can’t just hop on and off like you can in other racers, like Forza Horizon.
While Cops make a return with Heat it’s also my least favorite aspect of the game. In previous titles cops were fun to bash off the road, or go head on with them in many instances. There were fun ways to get away, and weren’t a true threat. In Heat things feel different.
For starters you won’t win a head-to-head clash with any of the cops, they will take you out and have an obvious upper hand on you the entire time. The game also has some generic old school style perks to cops. For example cops spawn in rather close to where you need to be, they get random super bursts of speed, and they are basically a pinball machine for your car. I tried ramming them off the road multiple times and they give very little feedback to the action; ultimately it just destroys your car. I’m so used to braking just a little bit to take out the rear tires of a cruiser, but it simply doesn’t work.
The game also has several gameplay mechanics that are in the cops favor. Your car has a damage meter, so the more you hit the more it gets destroyed. You can head to gas stations multiple times per night to repair your car, but overall it’s real easy to be totaled and busted by cops. The next is a Busted Bar, which basically just counts down no matter what while you are being chased. You could be clearly getting away, but if this meter times out then you lose and get arrested. It’s honestly the most frustrating aspect of the whole game because it makes absolutely no sense to me as to why it is needed. I could see it building a sense of urgency, but it needs tweeks (e.g. doing certain moves could decrease the timer, or if we are a certain distance away the timer should pause). No matter what tricks I seemed to pull, the timer just kept clicking away.
As for the story itself, it’s surprisingly enjoyable, albeit a tad forgettable. The characters are very stereotypical action/car movie characters, but the game also does some fan service by hinting at previous fan favorite titles. It’s very clear the story was more used as a “we hear you guys, check this out” type of deal with fans of NFS, and not so much anything deeper. It’s a fun, short ride that’s worth checking out, but it won’t leave any lasting memorable moments with you once completed.
The most important part of the game is obviously the overall racing mechanics, and all I can say is: the faster the better. The game starts you off with obviously slower cars, and the more you build or unlock, the better the game becomes. It’s not till mid game where you can get a super fast car, tune it the way you want, and then really enjoy the game. The intense high speed is what the team was thriving for, and everything is simply more fun. The mechanics of drifting and racing become cleaner, and visually the game becomes absolutely stunning. Pay attention to the little details as you progress, especially watching rain splash off your car.
Leading back into the pinball style crashes, the game also leans heavily on being an arcade racer more than anything. That said there are very few obstacles when racing. Yes, you need to avoid traffic as it becomes your main concern when driving at night, but beyond that there’s very little to stop you. Barriers along the streets just simply explode upon impact and don’t slow you down at all. Driving off road may slow you down quite a bit, but that’s about the only perk that will do so.
My favorite aspect of NFS has always been tuning cars and Heat doesn’t disappoint here at all. You can modify and tune literally anything you want, and the addition of new perks from previous games let us dive even deeper. Thankfully the team removed all the absolutely bogus “pay to win” crap from the previous titles, and this time we can simply race and earn new parts. You race for money, you buy the part, period. No lottery/loot box style crap we saw in rivals, and that’s a huge win for us.