After the disappointing 2018 entry Need For Speed Payback, us fans of the Need For Speed franchise really needed something fresh to turn this around. As a franchise, Need For Speed has always been that adrenaline-fueled ride that’s all about speed, style and and the thrill of the chase, whether it’s after competing racers, or outrunning cops. Need For Speed Heat is a roaring comeback, that packs in the best elements of past NFS entries in the series, and rolling them into a solid cohesive thrill-ride, making this arguably as one of the best in the current generation. Without further adieu, here’s our full review of Need For Speed Heat!
The game sends you to the beautiful and vibrant city of Palm City, a fictional take on Miami Florida. Players from all over have been gathered for the Speedhunters Showdown, a legal street racing competition. As a newbie racer in town, you first encounter Lucas Rivera, who sells you your first car in the game, and shortly meet his sister Ana Rivera, a reckless street racer. These two will be the focal point of the campaign, and as you meet the locals of the city, you will uncover a bustling street race culture, that’s being clamped down by the Palm City Police led by Lt. Frank Mercer, together with his officers Danny Shaw and Eva Torres. You’ll soon find yourself entangled in a story of corruption that rocks the police force.
Story-wise, it’s not that too complex of a story, and unfolds just about right in terms of length. Campaign missions are tied to your progression, so it’s something that’s not easy to rush. Campaign missions also breaks the repetitiveness of needing to take on races as different mechanics are introduced, like taking down police cars, and stalking cars among others.
The main story campaign ends at Rep Level 30, and after that, there are still plenty of races to play, and tons more parts to unlock.
NFS Heat takes the best parts of past NFS games and focuses on simplifying the racing experience, that it’s hard not to recognize the bits and pieces of it as you play. From the sweet customization and upgrades from the legendary Need For Speed Underground series; the Bounty system in Hot Pursuit (2010) and Rivals, which is now the Heat system; and the sanctioned legal races from Pro Street, all come together to make a solid racing experience that arguably makes it the most complete NFS game in recent memory.
Difference Is Literally Night & Day
Unlike NFS Payback that featured a day and night cycle, the game asks you which time of day you play in. During the day, the streets are littered with sanctioned races, ranging from standard circuit races, drift duels, and off road races. These races will let you earn money called Bank, that you can spend on cars, performance upgrades, visual upgrades and effects, and even your own player character customization. At night however, the streets will go wild with illegal street races that include circuit races, sprint races, and drift trials, for you to earn Rep. Rep is your main progression system, with higher Rep levels allowing you to unlock cars and even more powerful upgrade parts. Watch out though, as the Palm City police will be on the hunt for illegal street racers at night. As you win races or perform activities at night, the higher your Heat will be. The Heat acts as your Rep multiplier, which can go up to Heat level 5. Evading the cops and escaping to a garage will net you your earned Rep, multiplied by the Heat level. Getting busted by the cops though or getting wrecked will reduce your heat level down back to 1, but you’ll still get the Rep you’ve earned. Also at night, High Heat events will be open for racers to take on, which will earn you not just Rep, but also Bank and an upgrade part, which you’ll need to safely bring back to the garage to earn. A high-risk, high-reward mindset is needed to take on Palm City at night!
This gameplay loop might seem to be a slow burn at first, since you’ll initially be driving low performance cars, and races might seem to be difficult to beat. But simply fight your way towards your first engine swap upgrade and then you’ll start to appreciate the addictive nature of constantly upgrading your car. In the end, I ended up with the Nissan 180SX I started with, but with almost all parts fully upgraded.
Speaking of upgrades and cars, there’s a whole lot of cars to unlock, with returning favorites Ferrari, Koenigsegg, Pagani, Porsche, McLaren and more! Over 120 of them will be available for purchase, which you’ll gradually unlock as you level up, or complete collectibles, and driver stories.
It gets even better with the performance customization. You have tons of parts to unlock, from crankshafts, to ECUs, forced induction systems and more! Maxed out the performance of your car? Then it may be time to swap out the engine! Fine tune your car for the type of races you’ll take on: drift tires for drift events, race tires for street races, you get the drift.
Then before hitting the streets, change the way your car look to suit your own unique style, where there’s plenty more customization options to choose from. Don’t fancy doing your own customization? Download some player-created wraps from the collection and slap it on to yours! Or better yet, create your own and upload it and let others enjoy your own unique creation.
Not only that, you also have tons of items to choose from to customize your player character, which you can also change anytime, even if you have started the story mode already.
And it’s not called Need For Speed for nothing. The races at the start of the game might feel slow, but as you upgrade your car, you’ll get to drive at higher speeds, demanding more control and finesse, while getting that boost of adrenaline and you fly past cars and traffic during races.
Also, unlike past NFS games, you can play this completely solo, or online. Personally, I prefer playing solo so I can pause my game, put up the map and plan my route. When online, you’re placed into a server of up to 16 players, thus you can’t pause. Which makes it harder when in a pursuit where you need to plan out your routes. However, playing online lets you challenge other racers when you take on an event, which will let you earn more Bank and Rep.
Speaking of multiplayer, when you start off your game, you’re also placed into a random Crew. It’s like a clan system in other games, where collectively as Crew, you earn rewards that enable you to earn Rep and Bank faster, and even earn a high performance car when your Crew hits level 50!
The graphics are great, especially on current gen machines. On the PS4 Pro, there’s 4K HDR support, which makes night time races so much prettier, however, it runs only at 30FPS. Palm City looks vibrant and lively at night with bright lights filling the city streets. At day time though, at certain in-game weather and lighting conditions, the game can look pretty bland, and surprisingly empty when there’s less NPC cars on the road.
The game retains the classic NFS look and feel, and gameplay interplays with the visuals really well. For example, when you hit the nitrous and your camera blurs, or that cinematic close up when drifting a tight turn.
Oh and this is probably the only time I admire loading screens, and that transition between day and night. They are just so cool. My only gripe about the graphics is how bad some of the player character models are.
The game sounds great. You’ll feel the intensity of your vehicle as it roars through higher revs, hear each pop of the induction, and as your tire screeches with each drift. You can even fine tune how your engine sounds for greater personalization!
NFS Heat is a solid refresh for the franchise. Taking the best of what worked in the past and reintroducing them altogether, while distilling them to its purest and best forms, makes it a great amalgamation of what a great NFS game should be. While the story mode feels a bit lacking, and character models bland, its addictive gameplay makes it a truly worthwhile racing game, that fans and non-fans alike should pick up. This definitely earns our seal of satisfaction!