This year has been fantastic for racing games so far however there is still a void left for games that target open world arcade racing experience. This is where the Need for Speed series comes into play here and with Payback, it has managed to fulfill this void with success.
Need for Speed Payback is basically a b-grade cheesy Hollywood movie when it comes to the story. The narrative is laid out between three unlikely heroes who form a gang together and start planning heists to get rich rather quickly. It is clear just from a quick glimpse at the story that the main inspiration here is the Fast and Furious series and this is seen in the diverse cast as well, something for which the Fast and Furious films are quite well known. The story takes no time to set up putting you right in action and introduces you to the skills and specialty of the leads: Tyler Morgan, Jess and Mac.
Tyler along with his friends makes a plan to attempt to steal a multi-million dollar car owned by someone called ‘The Gambler’ however to no one’s surprise, things don’t work out as expected and Tyler has to choose between going into prison or working for The Gambler. This sets up the story for the game leaving you working for The Gambler as he utilizes the skill of Tyler to fulfill his own needs.
Need for Speed Payback controls wonderfully. It is not realistic handling as expected but it can be fun to drive around in the game. The developers have also incorporated some of the slow motion crash elements – that were featured in the Burnout series – for takedowns that you can perform during driving. These are not as dynamic as you might expect but they can prove to be a fun distraction. During several of the missions, you will be chased by either the goons or the police, giving you the option to takedown their cars in order to escape to safety.
The mission structure lets you attempt the story in the game’s single player mode while you are free to drive and roam around the world map attempting the various challenges that are present throughout the game’s open world. These challenges range from speed traps and challenges to jumping through billboards for some sick looking jumps. They might not provide much variety but they atleast offer some reward for roaming the open world.
The world map is also full of garages, dealerships for buying cars or points for tuning and upgrading your car. Garages have to be bought before they can be used and also act as fast travel points. You can buy new cars from the dealers that you can find on the world map. Tuning and upgrading cars has been made relatively simple and it is essential in progressing further in the story. You can tweak your car stats to make sure it meets the recommended upgrade level for a particular mission or race.
Upgrading your cars will require you to find cards that are unlocked by either winning a race, using your item parts to test you luck and randomly get a upgrade card, or buying them using the in-game gold currency. Speaking of the latter, you might have to make sure to beat each race with the optional challenges since money won’t be easy to come by in the start. The cars that you can customize and collect are all neatly stored in a garage however the capacity is limited at first. You start to get more space as you buy more garage spaces around the world map.
Car customization is unfortunately not as deep. You can customize your look of the car but the specs customization is limited by the car upgrade cards that you can collect in the game. These are also tied to loot boxes which is where the grind for progression takes into effect. During the story missions, you can be locked out of a race if you don’t meet the required car level. Sure enough, you can attempt to power through them by using a lower spec vehicle, but it won’t be an easy experience and leads to plenty of frustration.
The aspect of grinding is something that has proven to be controversial for the game and has led to the developers implementing changes in the most recent update. This means you will now earn more rep points and gold from races, however it is still in the beginning stage and more updates are expected further down the line. In its current state, it is honestly not ideal and this leaves you attempting to either grind out races in the hope to get better upgrade cards for your car, or buy the upgrade packs using real life money. This is sadly something that makes the game repetitive and breaks the flow of the story.
Sound quality is a step back from the 2015 iteration of Need for Speed. It feels like the focus this time has been to create an open world experience that has more cars to collect, but it comes at the expense of lower level of quality for the sound. There is no more online-only aspect here and the multiplayer has been separated from the main game. This also means you aren’t allowed to free roam in the online multiplayer and since there is no split-screen support here, it feels rather lackluster next to the main game.
Need for Speed Payback Review (PS4)
Game Reviewed on: PS4
Game description: Need for Speed Payback is a racing video game developed by Ghost Games and published by Electronic Arts for Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. It is the twenty-third installment in the Need for Speed series.
Need for Speed Payback is a well made arcade racing experience that is somewhat held back by a terrible progression system.