Need for Speed franchise has been declining for a while now. It has faced a lot of criticism for diverting attention away from its roots and trying to focus on a demographic that is completely different. The last Need for Speed game had another major criticism regarding its use of in-game microtransactions. Need for Speed Heat feels like a worthy entry in the franchise that has been developed to counter against any of the criticisms that were faced by the previous games.
Need for Speed Heat is set in the fictional Palm City which takes its inspiration from Miami, Florida. The game offers a cinematic story but stays closer to its roots by focusing more on car customizations and races, which make up the core of the game. The open-world elements feel like a mere distraction to the more than 120 playable vehicles that are available to purchase in the game. You can customize them as well by making your reputation to earn money and then use it on personalizing the cars. The customization is available quite in-depth and makes up the best part of the game easily.
The story in Need for Speed Heat is one of the most forgetful experience that suffers from terrible dialogue, cringe-worthy cutscenes, and a narrative that takes itself too seriously. To give it some credit, the cutscenes look nice but there is usually something off about them which makes it clear the budget was low. They are just not as polished as most other cinematic games that can offer similar high-quality cutscenes. It is a basic story focusing on the struggles of street racers against corrupt cops.
Need for Speed Heat incorporates its day and night cycle into gameplay by letting players do street races in the morning to earn money and then illegal races at night to increase their reputation. Cops are back but their integration this time feels slightly disappointing. Cops can catch you during these races making you lose money or reputation points. They are more active during the night and there is a higher chance of getting caught during nighttime. If you do manage to get into a frenzy with cops and still win the races, you earn a bonus by getting additional reputation points. The higher rep you have, the more aggressive cops will chase you during these races. It is a dangerous game of cat and mouse at times.
It is hard not to compare the open world in Need for Speed Heat with other games in the genre like Forza Horizon. While attempts have been made to flesh out the world, it still doesn’t offer much to do aside from finding collectibles, doing different challenges for rewards, or performing the various time trial races. The geography of the open world is diverse so you aren’t just limited to the city thankfully. The lack of interaction in the open world is disappointing but it is not a big deal if you focus on car customization. There are a lot of customizations and vehicles that can be purchased with each of them tailoring to a specific type of race, e.g drift, off-road or street racing.
If you are into car customization, you will spend a lot of your time in the garage. Upgrades have to be purchased along with vehicles so get ready to make money to meet their requirements. Some upgrades will help improve the performance of the vehicle itself while there are plenty of cosmetic upgrades as well. The game carries a nice balance of cosmetics and regular upgrades and the lack of microtransactions means that every investment is worth the money that you acquire through completing races in the game.
Car handling has been greatly improved in Need for Speed Heat. Drifting is a lot more fun now especially if you can find the right car for it. The gameplay loop is repetitive though so unless you are knee-deep in customization and enjoy building reputation around the fictional Palm City, this won’t hold your attention for long. The story is not that engaging in the first place so that is out of the question. It tries to appeal to hard to the Fast and the Furious demographic instead of setting up something of its own. The visuals are easily one of the positives to say about the Need for Speed Heat. The cars look great up close and especially during nighttime lighting which can give some of them the appearance of pre-rendered cutscenes. The soundtrack is also equally as sublime and meshes in well with moments when you are racing around the Palm City.
Ghost Games has put a lot of effort into making this new entry so it is a little sad to see this getting neglected right now. They have taken the criticism from fans seriously and used it to create a new Need for Speed that is fun to play and focuses on its roots including cop chases, open-world exploration, cars, and their customization.
If I had to pick a negative, it would be the progression system. It is nice to see the thrill of cop chases but if sometimes you end up making a mistake or a wrong turn and get caught, you will lose your heat rating which has to be built up again. The flaws are not that bad this time and if you are a fan of the series, this one is worth some of your attention. However, if we have to compare it to other open-world racers then it doesn’t come close to the best offered in the genre. Need for Speed is a good game, it is just not that great.
Need for Speed Heat Review (PS4)
Game Reviewed on: PS4
Game description: Hustle by day and risk it all at night in Need for Speed™ Heat, a thrilling race experience that pits you against a city's rogue police force as you battle your way into street racing's elite.
Final Score - 7.5/107.5/10
After a series of bad games, the Need for Speed franchise is back on the right track. It offers gorgeous visuals, beautiful car customization and solid gameplay mechanics in an open world.