Toast On Jam: What The Hell Was EA Thinking With Need For Speed?
I really like Need for Speed, we’re talking Carly Rae Jepsen levels of really liking something, but there are so many issues with it that beggar belief. Issues arising from elements and functions which shouldn’t be there to begin with. It all left me a little sad because Need for Speed is just brimming with the energy and atmosphere that made Underground 2 such a timeless classic.
So really, what the ever loving fuck were EA and Ghost thinking with some of the things they did to this game? Get rid of them and I honestly believe that Need for Speed would be great.
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Now, I’ve already covered some of this in my review of Need for Speed which has just been shamelessly plugged and you should definitely read. It’s got pretty pictures. I’ll wait, you’re just going to scroll down to the score anyway.
Before we get properly started I’m going to ask the audience a few questions. Have you played Need for Speed Underground 2/ Most Wanted (not to be confused with the other Most Wanted)? Did you enjoy them? Have you played them recently?
Unsurprisingly you’ll find my answer to all three being in the affirmative.
Underground 2 has aged surprisingly well and is though it looks a little off-kilter the vibrancy of the visuals, the excitement of races and the delight of modifying a car to greatness have lost none of their charm or appeal. This is somewhat down to the fact that for a good while arcade racers have been stripped-down simplified affairs and Underground 2 is rather complex by comparison. After that the series started a very rapid decline into oblivion.
Need for Speed 2015 (not to be confused with the other Need for Speed 2015) capitalises on that big time. It more or less lifts the Underground street racing formula and tosses it into a pot with Frostbite. The result is something with that old magic but in shiny new threads. Like Gandalf in Return of the King or Anakin after the volcano.
Need for Speed’s biggest problem is trying to fit in with the new breed of arcade racers – DriveClub and The Crew. The problem is that those games are just a tiny bit shit. Need for Speed should really have locked eyes with Forza Horizon but hindsight is 20-20 eh?
Those games are persistently online? So should Need for Speed!
Those games handle modification in a very simplistic manner? So should Need for Speed!
That’s all good and well except those two things clash cataclysmically with Need for Speed’s core.
The game demands an internet connection even though your encounters with other players are nothing but trouble and your experience is very, very solitary. They take it one step further by actually seeming to handle some data processing server-side so if your connection coughs, you’ll probably miss a checkpoint despite passing straight through it.
Need for Speed is laden with these odd idiosyncrasies which don’t need to be there.
Then we get to the modification and customisation which is great but also not.The interface is aces, the details in the performance mods are excellent but the game pretends its handling tuning is easy as tweaking some sliders when it is so much more complex than that. It’s an excellent feature that the developers simply didn’t take the time to properly explain. There’s also a strange lack of variety in visual mods. Every car has much the same set of spoiler options yet there are no ducktails for Porsches or less outrageous wings for the high-end cars. I don’t want a piece of scaffolding on the back of my Ferrari thank you very much.
These are small things, niggles and nitpicks really but they speak to the greater issue with Need for Speed – a game that is being pulled in two directions.
One is towards what fans want – speed, mods, excitement, drifting – while the other is towards the always-online dull humdrum doldrums that most arcade racers have fallen into. For the most part, and thankfully, the former wins out but these little issues come from certain sliders being pushed a little too far to the right. If you catch my drift.
There’s a lack of understanding for how some of these features and functions actually affect the player experience let alone whether players want them at all. I imagine nobody wanted Need for Speed to be an always-online game.
Local split-screen would be nice though.
Ghost Games had a perfect template in Underground 2 and had only to learn from what Forza Horizon, DriveClub and The Crew did right or wrong to succeed. For the most part they’ve done a good job and really, Need for Speed is a good game. However, it is simply baffling to see that them dragging the game down the way they have.
In all likelihood some of the decisions such as keeping the game online came from EA but they couldn’t stop Need for Speed from being a really good springboard from which the series can once again gain some altitude. At least I hope so. I really really do.