Need for Speed really brought back the “Heat” with their latest entry in the franchise. Coming in after Payback, Need for Speed: Heat looks to bring back the thrill of having cops and racers running down your neck as you aim to join the League in Palm City. With a genuinely menacing police force consisting of cops, like Mercer, looking to end the racing scene by any means necessary and the different crews, including your own, with Ana believing that they deserve a place among the League, the game is set up for a fun and somewhat difficult time achieving the goal set out for you.
The game immediately throws you into the action using Ana’s old crew member, Josh, who is participating in a sprint race at night against other racers, possibly looking to enter the League if he wins. As the race goes on, they are intercepted by police with one objective in mind: stop the race. But at that point, you don’t really get a sense of how intense cops are until the cutscene after Josh crashes. Mercer steps out of the car looking to “send a message” to all the racers by taking out Josh before being convinced that the better message sent is to run him out of town and ensure racers see that they will all be out eventually. The anticipation I had about how far police were willing to go to stop underground street racing really had me feeling more hyped for police chases that have not really been truly difficult since Need for Speed: Most Wanted 2005 with Sergeant Cross.
One thing I really appreciated about this game is that there was a blurry line between realism and it being an actual game. The mechanics in place make you feel like you are driving an actual car regardless of the make because they have specifically designed each driving style of car to be different (which is probably why they were able to accommodate four different BMW M3s). Then it is still able to remind you that it is a game with insanely high drifting speeds and police that will always move faster than you, even if you are at 300km/h, which is absolutely insane. It really just satisfied my urges towards cops that are a lot more challenging, especially when you hit Heat Level 3 and they just become so difficult that taking them down increases your chances of getting caught. This is not a complaint though, it puts you on the edge of your seat when playing, particularly with cop chases, and this has not been something I’ve felt with this series for a long while. The soundtrack never disappoints. Discovering new artists is one of the main reasons I play this game.
Something else this game does really well is provide players with many customization options. When I first heard about this game, I thought to myself, “I am so glad there are no speed cards.” Cars can now be tuned up to your own specifications, so it feels the way you want it to feel. No more having to get Block or Transmission cards from drag races, instead you get more specifications on how you want your car to play. Which brings me onto the races. Drag races have always been and will always be my most despised race in any Need for Speed title or any racing game, for that matter. For as long as I can remember, drag races have always been a part of Need for Speed, and I’ve never been a fan of them, so I was absolutely on board with them not being in the game at launch.
I was also really impressed with the game’s characters. Most games strive to make characters complicated and in doing so, they end up losing the point of what the game is all about. Need for Speed were heading there with Payback, even though it was not so bad, but curbing the idea of complicated characters before it became an actual problem is good because they now focused on why people play Need for Speed. Having your chosen player interacting with other characters in the game, it shows the clear line between who is with you (Ana, Lucas) and who is against you (Mercer, Shaw, Torres), and you just enjoy the thrill of having to bring down those who are against you.
The graphics in the game don’t exactly scream improvement. In fact, when I first opened the game, I thought they had downgraded from Payback (though that is not the case). Especially in the opening prologue of the game just before you enter your first race with your chosen character, I was not impressed with how the graphics were presented, probably because they seem awfully similar to the last two Need for Speed games, so I am unaware of any graphical improvements in this game. Maybe there were some, but I did not really notice any.
When it came to the racing, it seems as though AI suffered in order to bring back police the way EA did them. With the first two races, I actually struggled to complete them, and I thought maybe it was due to me not really understanding the game just yet, but afterwards, I actually found racing to be quite easy. Even at the highest difficulty, I could still outrun the second placed racer by over a kilometer with absolutely no effort, and it made the racing quite dull, especially when you are doing one race multiple times over. Hopefully in the future, patches will be released to balance out racers.
Before Need for Speed: Heat was released, I really had high hopes for the game considering all the features returning and unwanted components of previous games removed. It looked to be a recipe for success and did not fall short on achieving its goal of wowing you as the player. Yes, it has its issues with difficulty and graphics, but the soundtrack, characters and overall feel of the game brought back a feeling that previous titles failed to do. It brought back the Need for Speed.
Developer: Ghost Games
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, PC
Release Date: 8th November 2019
Do you agree with our review of Need for Speed: Heat? What are your thoughts? Tell us in the comments below.