Need for Speed Heat Release: Review – A Step in the right direction but still room for improvement
Ghost Games are putting the franchise back on track, but the magic is still missing.
We’ve been excited about the release of Need for Speed Heat for some time now and the latest installment in the 25-year-old franchise finally hit the shelves last week.
NOW WATCH BELOW: The Need for Speed Heat trailer!
After a weekend of racing through the streets of Palm City we have been able to test out Heat and see if it finally lives up to the glory of the old Need For Speed games that we all know and love.
Reviews have been mixed for this game, but with a bit more time to play do the positives outweigh any negatives?
Heat is at its best when you’re battling with the AI at night around the streets of Palm City. Whether you’re going at break-neck speeds along one of the map’s many highways or snaking through the downtown area’s tight streets, the head-to-head action is as intense and fast as you’d like it to be.
The AI racers are surprisingly good and are at an appropriate pace, they’re fast but not too quick as to be unbeatable.
However, there are some fundamental flaws with races as not all of them are as engrossing and engaging as you’d like them to be.
READ MORE: Every car you can drive in NFS Heat
One of the features that was highlighted in the build-up to the game was the handling model, which was given a revamp after Payback.
Although it is better than the previous NFS it’s far from perfect, as the drifting mechanic will drive you insane. Sliding feels wooden and unnaturally slow, if you flick the wheel a degree or two too much your car will transition into a drift, which will cost you a heap of time and infuriate you.
There are no flashbacks, and you also can’t restart a race after the police enter the fray. Speaking on the cops, there’s a LOT wrong with the law in the game, and I’m not referring to the characters’ questionable tactics.
Problems with the Law
The police catch you way too easily, I was stunned at how fast the “busted” bar flew up when I hit a cop car. Admittedly, I was in a ’65 Mustang, which isn’t the fastest off the line, but I had no chance to get moving before I was caught. When you are caught, the cut-scene of your chosen avatar being arrested is very lacklustre.
Additionally, the police cars are way too tough, I’ve T-boned several at over 100mph (160kph) and the chaser didn’t have a scratch on it. Furthermore, when you’re caught, you lose all of your money, seemingly no matter how much you have, which is ridiculously harsh.
Some complained that GRID was too easy, but Heat will put a lot of inexperienced players off with its steep learning curve.
These small errors in the development add up to big problems and give the impression that the game was somewhat rushed, despite Ghost Games having 2 years to work on Heat.
Day-night cycle is a winner
As someone who’s been to Miami and other areas of Florida, I’ve got to admire Ghost Games’ rendition of the fictional Palm City.
If you went into Heat without knowing where this game was set, my first guess would be the Sunshine state. Most of the land is remarkably flat and everything from the design of the roads to the swamps on the outskirts screams Florida, it’s authentic.
The difference between day and night is also something Ghost Games have nailed. There’s a remarkable difference between the two times of day, Palm City is far more than just a few shades darker in the moonlight than in the day.
READ MORE: NFS Heat Achievement & Trophy Guide
Speaking of the graphics, they’re drop-dead gorgeous, and nothing shows them off better than the neon-lit montages that adorn the loading screens.
The day events are different to the night ones as well, the contrast between legally sanctioned races and the illegal street races at night is one of the best things about Heat, it caters to both the Shift and Most Wanted crowds. However, I will add that the day events sometimes feel a little empty, but I suppose that comes with the territory of no police on your tail.
Customisation hits the mark
The customisation is arguably the best tool Heat has in its box, which is a remarkable improvement over Payback and a welcome return to the old ways of NFS.
Engine swaps are a particular highlight, as is the ability to alter the sound of your ride’s exhaust. Personally, I changed my Mustang to have the snarliest note with as many fireballs as possible, it sounds glorious.
Players are also able to change the character you race as. Long gone are the days of the faceless and voiceless man you play as in NFS, this is a welcome improvement.
The story is never the main selling point of an NFS game, but the narrative you’ll spend hours traversing is important to the game.
The idea of the police attempting to stop street races that are becoming out of control is an interesting concept, but far from an original one. The early story was detailed in a previous article, and while it’s predictably cheesy, the story isn’t a drawback, it’s what you need it to be for a good NFS game but little more.
Music is an art, and art is interpretive, so I won’t mark the game down much despite the soundtrack not being to my taste. I understand what EA were going for here, but the tracks you listen to while cruising around Palm City all sound the same.
READ MORE: NFS Heat: Soundtrack announced
The beat will change a little, the sound of the singer, but it just drones on like most pop radio stations, which is the origin of the issue, if we’re being honest.
You’ll be hard-pressed to find a song in here that players will remember by the time the next NFS is released in a couple years’ time. There’s no iconic tunes like Under my Wheels nor Riders on the Storm to be found.
While this game is better than Ghost’s previous NFS efforts, there’s still some way to go before rediscovering the series’ magic which made it so special in the mid-2000s.
The graphics, sound, and customisation may all be top-notch, but that’s where the positives largely end for Heat.
Despite all of its flaws, though, this is a fun game and one you can enjoy if you overlook some of the issues. NFS Heat is like the Fast and Furious films it takes inspiration from; flashy, good-looking and at times fun, but lacking the kind of depth that will make some players want to follow through with its cheesy campaign.
RealSport Rating: 3.5 stars (out of 5)