- Game: Need for Speed Heat
- Consoles: Xbox One (reviewed), PS4, PC
- Publisher: Electronic Arts
- Developer: Ghost Games
A Need for Speed Heat review code was provided by the publisher.
Need for Speed has fallen from its pedestal in recent memory. After the next-gen series debut that was marked by 2013’s Need for Speed Rivals, the ensuing follow-ups to that franchise-high hit a disappointing low. 2015’s Need for Speed reboot was hampered by a strict focus on evening races and the always-online requirement. Then there was 2017’s Need for Speed Payback, another letdown for arcade racing game fans that featured a ho-hum story and bothersome loot box mechanics. With two duds from Ghost Games to look back on, fans have every reason to be worried about the development studio’s latest foray into open-world street racing. Need for Speed Heat makes all the right decisions when it comes to open-world activities and an amazing sense of speed. But a forgettable story, lame soundtrack and awkward drifting mechanic keep it from reaching a new series high.
Need for Speed Heat tells a simple tale revolving around street racing crews and the feds that are hell-bent on taking them down. As you complete campaign challenges, you’ll gradually widen your base of allies and earn a few extra haters along the way. While Ghost Games’ attempt at offering a worthwhile storyline to follow is commendable, there’s really nothing all that engrossing about it. The dialogue shared between your custom avatar and his/her fellow gearheads is uninspired, plus the main baddies that come in the form of the relentless feds are just as bland. The cinematics looks nice, at least. But the generic banter going on during them won’t pull you into the ongoing storyline at all.
From an audio standpoint, Need for Speed Heat’s automobile sounds is perfect. The tonality tied to hitting high speeds, crashing into unlucky cars on the road, driting, crashing through a billboard, etc. are done amazingly well here. And thankfully, the strong visual style attached to this neon-soaked racer is a definite plus. Hitting the road in the daytime gives way to brightly lit locales, while your late-night racing habits are marked by a smorgasbord of even more varied colors. Rain showers spring up from time to time, which adds another strong visual element to your on-road travels in the daytime and nighttime. It’s just too bad that you’re forced to ride in your best cars while listening to a weak playlist full of forgettable songs. With a tracklisting packed with 57 total tunes to jam to, it’s quite shocking how a good majority of them are painful to sit through.
The good parts of Need for Speed Heat keep it from reaching the lows of the last two entries in the series, thankfully. Overall, the feel of the automobiles is exceptional. Everything from old school rides to modern-day automobile marvels provides the proper sense of speed and power you’d expect. You’ll need to become accustomed to every new ride you acquire as you take on a huge array of challenges within the massive locale that is “Palm City.” There’s a ton of fun tasks to accomplish during the day and night cycles, such as intense circuit races, heart-stopping car chases, drifting challenges, time trials, high-speed gates, etc. That incredible feeling of “just one more race” quickly creeps in thanks to the rewarding cycle that comes with increasing your rep and earnings via strong performances.
The biggest change to the series that comes via Heat is the interesting risk and reward system that’s tied to your nighttime travels. Moving around when the sun is out is easy enough – you’ll be able to participate in races where the road is clearly marked off and free from the interruptions of regular car patrons. But once it gets dark, the fun truly begins. It always feels amazing to come out on top during the game’s much tougher freeform street races, where random cars and dangerous police vehicles ramp up the fun and challenge factors. Managing to outrun the police, raising your rep to an incredible high, and making it to a safehouse completely intact so you can cash in your earnings feels great every time you do it. The threat of the feds cutting you down to size and taking away your earned rep/cash is always in the back of your mind as you thread the needle once night falls.
While a lot of the racing challenges and other assorted tasks are a blast, the strange drifting mechanic will quickly put a damper on your overall enjoyment. Getting a decent score during the game’s drifting trials quickly becomes an exercise in frustration due to the wonky controls method tied to them. Need for Speed Heat asks you to ease off the right trigger, tap on the left one then tap on the right one again to maintain a solid drift. This control scheme never feels natural, even as you find yourself playing through the latter half of the game. It’s always a troublesome affair when you’re looking to complete drifting challenges. A drifting method that allowed players to quickly tap and alternate between the left and right triggers would have been much more preferred over the one being offered here.
Need for Speed Heat Takeaways
Ghost Games has done a commendable job at bringing Need for Speed back to the glory days of its Underground run. There are a ton of beautiful cars to drive, gorgeous day and nighttime scenery to take in, and a long list of entertaining challenges to busy yourself with. The “bigger risks, bigger rewards” theme tied to the night cycle experience is the most refreshing portion of the entire Heat experience.
But there is also a slew of issues that keep this Need for Speed entry from truly bringing the series back to its former glory. The C-movie plotline, a soundtrack full of ear-bleeding tunes and the iffy drifting mechanic are more than just mild annoyances. There’s a good amount of things to enjoy here as you lap AI racers and online rivals. Just be prepared to deal with a litany of issues that will bring your enjoyment levels down a peg.
Our Need for Speed Heat Review Score: 7.5 out of 10