Need For Speed: Heat launched November 8 on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC. After a few exciting hours with the game, it turned out to be almost exactly what I expected in the best ways possible. The previous iterations of Need For Speed since NFS Most Wanted in 2005 left a lot to be desired. However, Heat seemingly learns from those mistakes, at least in the early going, and plans to deliver in the long run.
Need For Speed: Heat Not Afraid to Trade Paint
Welcome to Palm City
Need For Speed: Heat brings the series back to true form while still aiming to innovate and include ideas presented by its predecessors.
Albeit a hipster’s paradise, Palm City is immersive and beautiful.
Solo (single player campaign) mode immediately drops players into the narrative that has some rather decent voice acting. The characters are convincing enough and introduced in cinematic fashion. The opening scene acclimates players to the controls with a brief bout of gameplay behind the wheel.
This eventually leads to choosing your own avatar and first vehicle. Don’t expect much from character customization. Players essentially choose from a diverse selection of presets with further options to only customize hairs, accessories, and clothes. Although, the option to change your avatar at any time is a good touch.
Heat’s opening transitions definitely give a The Fast & The Furious vibe which some may scoff at given Payback’s run. However, the entire sequence, backed by a complementary soundtrack and visuals, brings Palm City to life.
Under the Hood
Whether on the road or in the garage, the game holds its own visually and makes loading screens bearable with neat showcase style views of your current vehicle. Speaking of vehicles, there are plenty. The Heat Studio app is a good way to get a glance at what’s available. Customization options are plenty with some, of course, being vehicle specific. Cosmetic load-outs can be saved as wraps and switched out. Wraps can also be uploaded and shared for others to use.
Vehicle performance in Need for Speed: Heat is not as straight forward as seen in some previous iterations. Rides have four tiers to balance: Off-road, road, racing, and drift. Maxing one leaves you vulnerable in the others making tailoring and understanding vehicles within the garage a must. Luckily, characters met throughout the campaign and within the garage give some helpful tips. Each part also comes with a description and shows how it’ll affect your vehicle moving forward. There is a lot of parts to chew on if you’re 100% new, but Heat simplifies the process with decent naming conventions while offering simplistic and advanced tuning options.
What its like on the Streets
Need for Speed: Heat does not relax with its immersive open world. The core of the game still focuses on what make it Need For Speed, the racing. Each car feels different and can change based on swapped parts and engine kits. From shifting gears to feeling the torque behind your car, all of it builds to a gratifying race experience.
Cops are not a joke and they will punish you.
The biggest draw in gameplay is the difference between racing in the day and tearing it up at night. During the day, players are free to roam with options to fast travel to get around the city. There’s also chances to participate in sanctioned races around Palm City to earn bank, Heat’s in game currency, as well as free parts. The races are smaller in scale and push technique above style, typically.
At night, the safety is off. Restrictions are placed on fast travel and races are unsanctioned. You’ll earn rep at night which is essentially one’s street cred. Making a name for yourself gets you moved up in the racing world offering better cars and better parts. But, all of this comes at a price. The narrative paints the cops in Need for Speed: Heat as above the law and dangerous. Well, on the streets, they deliver. Cops are punishing and drive just as reckless should they deem it necessary. Police cruisers are well-built making trading paint ill-advised. PCPD has no problem intercepting mid-race so make sure you keep an eye on your radar. Don’t fret though, the game does offer countermeasures but you’ll have to work for them. Focus on learning maneuvering and mastering your cars will leave them biting dust in no time.
Outside of playing the campaign, the game offers an online mode pitting players against each other. Crews can race together against other crews earning rep which eventually unlock their own set of rewards. In a stroke of genius, Need For Speed: Heat automatically assigns players to a stock crew during the campaign. That way, players who do not want to be involved with online action can passively earn online rewards. You are free to leave and create your own crew at any time.
The not so Great
As expected, Frostbite still powers the game. This means it features some of the same rendering issues in terms of textures and models at a glance. However, this doesn’t translate to every aspect of the game which is why I didn’t notice until I was staring at one particular garage screen for too long. Outside of that, Palm City certainly has an atmosphere. If you fancy yourself a more mature person, you will have to tone yourself down and just bear with the clothing options and edgy choices in cosmetics. Fortunately, you can still pure your soul into your car and present yourself with style.
Need For Speed: Heat brings solid racing action making races during the day and at night feel respectfully different. Customization is deep yet intuitive. While cutscenes and repeated dialogue for objectives remind you its a game, none of it is enough to detract from the solid experience that is Palm City. As one of thew few games from EA seemingly worth every penny, Need For Speed: Heat is a safe purchase. This double downs if you’re a fan of the aforementioned ‘Fast & Furious’ films, but if you’re not, skip the dialogue and enjoying the race like its 2005 again.
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