Need for Speed is EA’s staple driving game, and it’s had some ups and downs throughout the years. Long ago I played the soft reboot and saw the potential of the then-new online mechanics, where the streets were your oyster and rivalries were started at green lights. Reception has been steady for developer Ghost Games who decided to refocus Need for Speed Heat back to its core roots of high adrenaline, customization and outrunning the cops in high style. They didn’t break the mold, but it’s a welcome entry on bringing the franchise back to its former glory.
The plot of NFS:Heat is wafer-thin as you tear up the Miami-like streets of Palm City and dive into the high stakes’ nightlife of street racing, where you break the law in order to gain clout when the fanfare of the car festival concludes during the daytime. Of course, all of this is being watched by the corrupt cops and they don’t let up especially when the sun sets, but it does support the alluring idea of leading a double life behind the wheel and open-world metropolis.
Yes, we’ve seen this before, but the arcade style gameplay is freshened with a newer coat of paint that’s less haphazard. Events that reward actual skill and driver mechanics have a bigger emphasis on whether you’re able to win races. While some circuits can be dominated by sheer horsepower, other races require more finesse and understanding of vehicle characteristics and available upgrades. Learning how to properly drift in tight corners is one aspect that can determine how well each race can flow, and what you can crash through without halting to a complete stop. It’s a decent amalgamation of previous NFS titles and other games like Forza Horizon, with an acceptable learning curve for beginners and experts to exploit.
The daytime events are relatively pedestrian, but the night is where things are more interesting. Law enforcement is more active and eager to stop you dead in your tracks, and it really does cost you reputation and a chunk of cash when arrested, so that’s bad. Conveniently, the same risks offer bigger rewards for tempting fate with “one more race” before parking it for the night at the nearest safe house, granted to also stand to lose everything as each underground race attract unwanted attention from the cops. Outrunning them is formidable and hard to shake, and that’s before they employ advanced tactics such as ignition jammers and ramming trucks.
Everything else is standard NFS fare with the usual array of upgrading and customization that the series is known for. You’ll quickly gain access to beefing up your ride, everything from suspension, exhaust, ECU and the like become necessary as the difficulty progresses, with the minor addition of auxiliary radar jammers to avoid police pursuits.
Need for Speed Heat serves as another relevant entry for long-time fans. The visuals pop and are splashed with neon lights that will make RADWOOD lovers blush, and the overall experience is great all-around among the likes of Forza Horizon and The Crew. It’s not a game-changer yet but it’s certainly worth rolling through Palm City and dodging the authorities.