Need for Speed was the top arcade racer for many generations/iterations. As more players like Forza Horizon and Project Cars enter the market, NFS has struggled to keep the title of king. The relevance of the title has continued to dwindle. Games like Forza Horizon have made it hard for competitors to make an impact in the market. With Need for Speed Heat, EA is attempting to breathe life back into a once great franchise.
One of the areas that I think EA is starting to do better is with the story. Initially, the elements that the Need for Speed series tried to implement came across a little corny. With Heat, things can still be a little corny or campy but story bits are getting better. The story reads like an early Fast and Furious movie. Your character is trying to make a name for themselves in the street race scene in a fictional Miami like town. While doing this, crooked cops are fighting to crack down on street racing while stealing cars. There is a good mix of Need for Speed Most Wanted and Need for Speed Underground. I gives a feel of nostalgia at times. You are fed story bits through cutscenes and conversations while driving. The conversations while driving were cool at first until I failed my first mission. Instead of starting you at the beginning of the race, you have to go through the entire driving sequence again.
Gameplay feels pretty good here. There are various different types of races and event types at your fingertips. The way that the game handles drifting here is a little different from it’s previous titles. It is hard to explain how it works but once you get a hold of it, it feels good. There is no rewind feature like the Forza games here. This can really make the game difficult or it can make things take more time. Without this feature, one mistake can take you from first to last place. The destructibility of the environments helps you get around some of these obstacles but it can also give a false sense of security. You can get so used to breaking through walls and trees that you become reliant on this and start running into unbreakable objects. In the day, races are pretty standard and this is where you win a lot of your money for upgrades and cars. During the night time events is where you earn rep and get into the occasional police chase. This can be both invigorating and infuriating. A chase does not stop the event that you are a part of and this makes things a lot more interesting. The downside of this is that it seems like cops can appear out of nowhere which can make things tricky and can seem unfair or unbalanced at times. When it comes to AI throughout the world, I am happy to see that they are not dumb. I noticed that “civilian” characters will stop and try to avoid hitting you while speeding down the street. This is something that a lot of racers do not seem to do.
While driving through the world of NFS Heat, you can’t help but notice the look of it’s game world. This can be good and…not so good depending on the situation. The player has access to both day and night modes in the game. In the day, everything looks okay. Car models look pretty good but the world isn’t that attractive and can feel a little dead. During the night, the game really comes alive. The lighting really shines here. Neon lights, reflections on puddles and cars, and shadows all look amazing. For some reason, the game world seems to look a lot more dense. I found myself getting sucked in to how the game looked and ended up crashing in some cases. Another impressive piece of this game is the destructibility of various items in the environment. This really shows the power of the Frostbite engine that is being used in this game. The characters that are a part of the story look pretty good but the player character can look a little wonky. You choose from a group of premade characters. You are not able to customize the model itself but the clothing can be changed. You would think that the characters would look a little better since you aren’t able to change facial features. This may have been a missed opportunity for EA.
One of the things that I was happiest about was the customization of the vehicles. In many driving games, the car customization would start to complex for your average gamer. The very detailed customization of the simulation racers started to leak into the arcade side of things. I am happy to see that there is a good balance in Need For Speed Heat. Upgrades are quick to select and purchase. The improvements or changes that you make are shown in charts and graphs. You can tailor your various car parts to your style of driving or the races that you are competing in. If you are focusing on drifting, you may need to swap out tires or various other car parts. Everything is simple and easy to understand.
Overall, Need for Speed Heat is heading in the right direction. The night time visuals and lighting are really impressive. EA has some really talented people working for them so I can see future games addressing the dull day time visuals. The story can be a little campy but I don’t necessarily mind that. Companies can only go so far with the generic stories that seem to plague all racing games (if they have one at all). If there was more advertisement put behind this game, I feel like it could have made more of a splash. With the release of Jedi Fallen Order, I feel like this game was just thrown out to the market when there could have been a little more time spent on development and marketing. This isn’t dethroning Forza at the moment but it is definitely a solid game.