Need for Speed Heat is your classic street racing game. Developed by Ghost Games and published by EA, it is set in the fictional town of Palm City, meant to resemble Miami. It’s been a while since I played a NFS game. I have fond memories of NFS Underground 2 and the last one, Need For Speed (2015), was great fun so I was looking forward to jumping back into the franchise to see what it’s all about!
You play the role of a rookie street racer, trying to make a name for themselves. You can choose how you appear in the game from a dozen or so pre-generated avatars. This feature instantly makes you feel more connected to the character you play, rather than playing as the default young, white male or a person you never see.
You can play in either online mode or solo. Online, you will have other racers with you around the map meaning randoms could crash into you, but as you may guess, solo mode means it’s just you. I prefer playing in solo as you have the ability to pause the game, whereas online everything has to remain in real time. This means if you get into a police chase you can’t pause to mark a route, or more importantly in a long gaming session, means you can’t pause to go for a pee! In addition to these modes, Need for Speed have changed things up for the better with the Day and Night cycle.
Lets talk about daytime first. This is relaxed, fun and easy going. You compete in racing events to earn money, which can range from off-road racing to drifting. They feel very Forza Horizon-esque. For each you will need the right type of car with the right spec to stand a chance, so you will need to keep various types of vehicles in your garage to suit the race in question. The events are full of fanfare, they’re legal and are relatively stress-free due to the absence of police trying to ram and arrest you.
At night time, however, it is all about pure illegal street racing. At the start of the night your heat level is low but the faster you drive and the more races you do, the more police presence there will be and the more rep you can earn. Night races are all about building your rep, rather than generating cash. The races are exciting and the police chases are crazy.
You need to build up your reputation in order to enter the bigger races, which in turn earn you more money and help you get noticed. This is what moves the story along and enables progression through the game. This nice co-operative mix of daytime cash generation and high-rep night races is done smoothly. There is no automatic transition between the two modes based on in-game time – instead you choose when you want to switch between the two.
Whilst it’s nice to have such a contrast between the day and night, it is a little unrealistic. It means you can speed around as fast as you want during the day with no police interference – it would be good if they were present in both.
If the police do catch you, you will lose a bunch of rep and money you have earnt. In order to get caught they must stop you or do sufficient damage to your vehicle. To escape them you have to drive quick enough for them to lose sight of you. Your car can be repaired up to three times a night by going through a petrol station. When you’re being chased the timer is very unforgiving, so be careful. However, I found an easy way to escape them is to simply take a jump as the police cars can’t handle it. In order to bank the rep you’ve earned you have to go back to a garage, or else it’s at risk if you enter another chase and get caught.
The story feels like a classic Fast & Furious/getaway movie, with twists and turns. The characters in the story are OK but there’s nothing overly special about them. They include all the classic personalities you’d expect – the mysterious officer, the officer with an aggression problem and friends with a sibling rivalry.
The music is fantastic. Ghost Games have managed to include a great variety of tracks and I don’t find myself wanting to mute the music. It’s easy listening and fits the racing theme. The sound effects, including the engine roars and gear shifts, are all on point too. It would have been nice to have a variety of genre of music to pick from depending on your mood though.
Visually the game is well put together and the variety of vehicles you can choose from is vast. Several car manufacturers have thrown themselves into the mix and you will easily find some of your favourites – I currently love tearing up the streets in my Porsche. The game ran smoothly, and I can’t say I ran into any issues during my time playing it, but I did focus on solo rather than online.
Need For Speed Heat has done a fantastic job going back to its routes (😉) with loads of cars, tons of customisation and the feel of two games in one with the day and night cycle. It has a couple of flaws with the police chases but you still find yourself having a fun, intense experience!
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version. Game provided by the publisher.Want to keep up to date with the latest Xt reviews, Xt opinions and Xt content? Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.