Players remember the best racing games of their heyday. Burnout 3: Takedown, Need for Speed: Underground 2 and Most Wanted shined bright among EA’s catalog nearly a decade and a half ago. After the recent Star Wars Battlefront 2 and Need for Speed Payback debacles, EA shifted away from the heavily monetized approach with some of their recent games. This might be their way of “testing the waters” after failed attempts to monetize loyal fan-bases which have reached the breaking point. Jedi Fallen Order has impressed in both sales and reviews and its time to look at what Need for Speed brings to the table this year. Is it possible for a once beloved franchise to regain what made it great in the first place? Need for Speed: Heat might have the answer.

Story and Motives 

Need for Speed: Heat starts out with a racer named Joe behind the wheel of a K.S Polestar, blazing through the streets of Palm City. Plans go wrong as cops catch racers speeding through downtown and send a whole task force behind them all. Joe ends up getting his ride totaled and almost killed by an officer named Shaw. Shaw is one crooked cop with the sole intention of making riches from taking down racers. Joe is lucky to be alive once Officer Torres catches up and makes Shaw leave him be. Joe’s crew-mate Ana rolls in with her 350Z in an attempt to help him, but he has made up his mind on leaving the crew and skipping town.

The Prologue of Need for Speed: Heat concludes and enter comes the Rookie, the player character for the game. Rookie is new to Palm City, attempting to make it big by earning reputation and bank to gain the attention of the League. The League is the city’s syndicate of the most elite racers. With the help of Ana, her brother Lucas and other characters, the Rookie begins his journey to rise to the top and become a member of the League.

Heat’s Progression System

Need for Speed: Heat’s progression system is tied to its day and night play sections. During the day, the player partakes in races in the Speedhunters Showdown. The Speedhunters Showdown is a Forza Horizon-like festival where racers enter in sanctioned races across the city for money. During night, the player focuses on street racing and getting chased by cops for reputation, a blend of Need for Speed: Underground and Most Wanted’s strengths. Players feed their bank into rides during the day, customizing them to their liking and set out to gain rep at night. In addition, day and night may be switched on the fly. It’s a synergistic combo that leads the player to success. Along with this, story missions and driving stories contribute to the overall plot of the game.

Customizing to Heart’s Content

Players may customize their car’s body, performance and equipment to suit whatever type of endeavor. The customization features are well rounded and easy to sort through. The decal wrap feature allows players to customize cars with all sorts of designs and logos. Connecting to the online servers allows people to upload their own body decal wraps, download player-created decal wraps and roll out in all sorts of style. Whether its some neon lights or a spoiler for the car, its all easy to access.

Customization menu (body customization is unavailable at the very start)

Cars may excel in the following ranges: Offroad, Race, Road and Drift. Investing specific upgrades for their areas will make them perfect for those type of races. However, the customization system is flexible so any car may be altered to race in whatever race type is available. Various performance upgrades including turbo, engine swaps and drive-train are available to turn stock machines into monsters.

Miami meets Los Angeles

Palm City is a mixture of Miami and Los Angeles, borrowing aspects of both to make an interesting city to explore. Billboards, flamingos, speed traps, drift sections and high jumps are littered throughout the city. There are also obtainable decals scattered everywhere, paying homage to past Need for Speed games. For a completionist, it might be a dream come true or a tall task but its still fun to explore and knock some of these off of the checklist.

Paying Tribute to the Past

Throughout the game, Need for Speed: Heat does a great job of showcasing why the series is renown. It reminds players of things that the series has done very well in the past by bringing it into a newer game. Drift trials return along with narrowing hillside courses to traverse, for example. Decals and collectible contain obscure references to older entries like Need for Speed: Nitro from the Wii. Signature cars return from previous games like Rachel’s custom Nissan 350Z from Underground 2. Need for Speed: Heat pays tribute to the games fans enjoyed and honors them faithfully for the current generation.

A Few Shortcomings

Need for Speed: Heat’s pursuit system is very risk vs reward based. At night, players may attract the attention of cops and gain heat up to max level 5. This is standard for Need for Speed games that use the pursuit system. However, car damage is turned up a notch. Slamming into cops may damage the player’s ride and vice versa. Equipment to combat cops isn’t available until higher reputation levels near the end of the main story. Repair shops are scattered around the world but only a total of 3 can be used at night. This leads to early/mid game pursuits being cut short due to avoiding high heat levels. If unlucky, reaching high heat with an under-powered car will result in lost rep after being totaled. It takes some getting used to and certainly easier near the end of the main story.

The new drift system may be jarring to veteran players as drifting now relies on tapping throttle (R2 or RT) and steering. The first race in can be a nightmare as the starter cars tends to drift every single corner. Some may adjust quickly but for others it may take a while. Once drifting is mastered, the game becomes exhilarating but its understandable to see why people may not like its introduction with Need for Speed: Heat.

A Series Reinvigorated 

Need for Speed: Heat returns the series to what made it successful, pure fun and high speed racing. The story doesn’t overstay its welcome and nothing is behind a paywall. For the past decade, Need for Speed has struggled to find it’s identity as a racing series and Heat takes many steps forward in the right direction. The new drifting mechanics and pursuits may take some time to get used to but after that, Need for Speed: Heat is one of the most enjoyable entries in the series. It rewards veterans and newcomers alike with fun gameplay, insane speeds and replayability. A once burnt out series has finally returned to form, at long last!

 

[Disclaimer]: This product was not issued by EA and was purchased by the reviewer.