EA studio Ghost Games has been releasing games which haven’t exactly been well-received for quite some time now. Need for Speed (2015) or Need for Speed: Payback (2017) did not do very well. These games have just been too short, had a poorly written story and have just not been great games over all. It’s been over a decade since we’ve gotten a really good Need for Speed game like NFS: Most Wanted or NFS: Hot Pursuit, but the latest installment in the series is a step in the right direction.
I’ve been playing Need for Speed: Heat since launch, and I mostly have positive feelings about the game. The last Need for Speed game I played was Payback which was pretty poorly received by fans and reviewers alike. While playing Heat, I’ve found that this game is more polished as compared to the last game, with less bugs and more content overall. Although they improve the performance of this game, it still doesn’t quite compete with a five-star game like Forza Horizon 4 though which has been well received by basically everyone that has played it.
In Need for Speed: Heat, there are a fairly large variety of events you can participate in. From street races to offroad races, drift events, and more, there is something that almost every racing game fan would enjoy. Heat has a unique feature that we’ve never seen before, which is the ability to control whether its day or night. While this feature alone is not anything new in a game (take Minecraft for example), it isn’t like the day/night cycle in previous Need for Speed games, which is strictly a visual effect. In Heat, it has a function. Both day and night have their own races and campaign events and certain missions can’t be played unless you are in the right time of day. I’m quite a fan of this unique mechanic and find that its almost a whole new world at night then day, and vice-versa.
During the day, you can participate in legally sanctioned races, which rewards you with Bank. This money can be used to upgrade and customize your car, alter your character, and even bribe the cops to leave you alone during a cop chase. Since these races are completely legal, you won’t have to worry about the police interrupting you mid-race to chase you down in an attempt to arrest you, but at night, this is a different story.
During the night, you can participate in illegal street races which will reward you with Rep (short for reputation). Rep is very important as it unlocks new events, missions, and upgrade parts. You must unlock new upgrades because as the game progresses since races get progressively more difficult and you’ll require new upgrades if you want a shot at competing. It’s also worth mentioning that some upgrades will help you escape the fuzz, like a reinforced frame which increases the damage done to police cars, or a jammer that makes it harder for police to find you for example.
Police chases have always been a big part of Need for Speed games. They are impossible to avoid and you’re bound to run into them from time to time. During the day, you’ll rarely see police and you shouldn’t be too worried, but at night with all the illegal racing, there will be a significantly larger police presence. If you’re driving around and following the law, the police won’t bother you. However, if you speed too fast past a squad car, they’ll hunt you down and attempt to take you out. It’s also important to know that this game utilizes a heat level mechanic, which ranges from one to five.
If you’re following driving laws and you heat bar is empty, police won’t bother you. If you were previously in a police chase later during the day/night, they’ll continue the chase again if they spot you. The higher your heat bar gets, the harder the police chases get. As your heat increases, you’ll start seeing more police as well as stronger police cars. Get all the way to heat level five, and you’ll find armoured police trucks coming at you head-on which will damage your car substantially if you fail to avoid them. A police chase ends when your damage bar reaches zero, or the police bring you to a halt for long enough. When you get caught, you lose the Bank or Rep that you have earned that day/night. While police chases are fun and all, just like in real life, it’s best to avoid them if possible. You’re safe if you manage to escape the police and return to one of the safe houses around the game world.
Need for Speed Heat has an extensive upgrade and customization system for your cars. You can use the Bank you earn to upgrade your cars to your liking. Most of the upgrades are task-specific, so you’ll want to set up different cars for different events and uses. This means that there are upgrades for street racing, track racing, off-road racing, and drifting. You’ll want to build a car around a certain event type, rather than trying to mix and match.
There is also a great visual customization system. These parts won’t change your car’s performance, but will give it a slick look. Different options include things like bumpers, spoilers, fenders, rims, and more. You can use these parts to turn a boring car into something special that fits your taste. It’s also worth mentioning that you can choose from a variety of characters that can also be customized with many different hair styles, glasses, masks, shirts, pants, and shoes.
Need for Speed Heat has quite a lot going for it. Most people who are fans of arcade racing games would enjoy the game, but fans of racing sims will probably be bothered by the lack of realism in the game. Personally, I find that the lack of realism is what makes this game so enjoyable. The ability to launch your car off a ramp, smash police cars to bits, or pull off some massive drifts on desert roads may not be very realistic, but it just adds to the fun.
Image Credit: Ghost Games/EA