Need For Speed Heat: What NFS needs to do to win over longtime fans

EA’s next street racer is released later this year, but what does it need to recapture its fanbase?

George Howson by George Howson

Long gone are the days of cruising around Olympic City in your air suspension-shod Toyota Supra.

The arcade racer has moved on, and for a long time, NFS was moving in the wrong direction. Just like the Fast and Furious films, the series had become stale, a cash cow for EA to milk dry. Sales dropped, as did the review scores, and NFS is once again in need of a revival.

Need for Speed Heat’s trailer dropped last week and despite the disappointments of Need for Speed (2015) and NFS Payback, Heat is showing a lot of promise so far. But what does Heat need to deliver to attract new players and recapture the NFS old guard?

READ MORE: Everything you need to know about NFS Heat

What went wrong before?

The glory days of Need For Speed run up until NFS Most Wanted‘s release in 2005, when I believe the series peaked. The following year’s Carbon was also a great game, but it’s after this where things plummet off the edge of a cliff.

The first simulation racer, NFS Prostreet came out in 2007, and while it was a decent game, it just wasn’t Need for Speed. If it wasn’t for the NFS logo on the box, you would never have guessed it belonged in the same series as Underground and Hot Pursuit. Developers Black Box tried to recapture the magic with Undercover, but that was a disaster.

The quality ebbed and flowed over the next decade, peaking with Most Wanted (2012) and once again finding itself on a low after Payback. Payback was created with the right intentions, to go back to the Underground games of the early 2000’s, but Ghost Games missed the mark by a mile. 

While the gameplay bugs and glitches were largely fixed, and the single player campaign was much longer than before, Payback had some big problems. There wasn’t much freedom for a “open-world game”, the AI were dumb, the story and acting were atrocious and the police were absolutely toothless, among others.

And the biggest issue with the series still remained, it took itself way too seriously. Need for Speed should be fun, it has to be to succeed, it’s not a sim racer. Take Most Wanted from 2005, for example, there were a few over-the-top cut scenes to begin the game and a few at the end with pure racing action in between, it was glorious. 

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What Heat Needs to be an NFS great

If Heat is to recapture the magic of NFS, it needs to be much more Most Wanted, and much less Payback. The game needs to be much simpler with a larger focus on the driving and trying less to be like a movie. Streamlining the in-game currency so that casual players can understand how to use it would also go a long way.

I’m not saying that they should recreate Most Wanted or Underground, that would be good, but it would show a lack of creativity. With this being the eighth generation of consoles, the game should have an expansive open world to explore, full of collectables that aren’t required to unlock customisation for the cars.

Part of what attracted me towards the NFS games was that the police chases were epic. When you got to a five star wanted level, you really did fear for your life, escaping them was tough but not impossible, just like it should be. With a name like “heat” you’d think the law would have a larger role to play in this game.

More than anything, though, there should be a real sense of speed and action, this is Need for SPEED after all, it should be silly sometimes, it’s what makes the game fun.

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What do we know about Heat so far?

We’ve only got a pair of trailers to go off so far, but the game appears to be of the same vibe that Payback was aiming for, the classic NFS cops v robbers.

If the logo didn’t give it away already, the game will be based in a fictional Miami called Palm City. The game is split between legal day races (called Speedhunter Showdowns) and illegal night races, where the police will be on your tail.

EA have said; “[The game] deepens and expands everything Need for Speed fans love – expressive customisation, an authentic urban car culture, and an immersive narrative that pulls you into the game.” 

From what little we’ve seen so far, though, it seems as though Ghost Games have heard the complaints from the community with both ears. Let’s just hope not too much emphasis is placed upon the story, that’s the series fell down in the past. There appears to be a real fear factor with the law back too thanks to the new “Heat” mechanic, hopefully they’re hard to elude. 

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Customisation appears to be in-depth and, if you wish, absolutely ridiculous, with style definitely over substance. The options on appearance also extend to your avatar, you can finally put yourself in the game!

Of course, we can’t say anything for sure before we pick up the game in the Autumn. NFS Heat may look good in the trailers like its predecessors, but play like a Fast and Furious B-movie knockoff. Only time will tell, but let’s hope Ghost Games can resurrect this series from the grave.

Need for Speed Heat is released worldwide on PS4, Xbox One and PC on 8th November 2019.


George Howson