Need for Speed: Heat Review
Reviewed on Sony PlayStation 4Also available on Microsoft Xbox One and PC
Even though I am not really a racing game fan, I seemed to have played just about every Need for Speed game since Underground on the Gamecube. I don't play many racing games, Mario Kart is obviously a shoo-in but I do play them now and again for a change of pace. It's fun getting into mischief and relentlessly annoying the police or as my 10-year-old hilariously referred to them earlier, the po-po. I have never heard him say that before, it was brilliant and it made me laugh a lot.
I was hoping for a bit of a change to the slightly stale formula if I am honest, I think the last few entries I have played have been far too safe and not really pushed the boundaries or moved the genre forward in any way. They have all had roughly the same framework, generic open-world objectives and a very cliché storyline.
I am quite saddened to report that Need for Speed: Heat disappoints on this front. It's basically the same as every instalment of the series in recent years. It has a few minor changes, such as the day-night cycle with different gameplay loops but overall it feels all too familiar. I really wish Need for Speed series would push the boat out a little.
You start off by picking from a gaggle of very generic looking protagonists, picking a car from a small selection in this blokes garage and your off. Not only that he then lets you live there even though he has only just met you. I wish I knew someone that would give me a car then let me live in his garage even though I had just met them, it was very strange indeed.
Even though the game is very similar to previous entries and has a very generic and story, it does have a few things going for it. Its car customization is as good as ever and the actual racing is quite fun. The new night/day gameplay loop is solid and as long as you do not think too much about it, Need for Speed: Heat is a bit of mindless, enjoyable fun.
The customization in this game is insane. Everything from bumpers, skirts, license plates and decals can be bought, tweaked and applied, which is nothing new for the series but it's still entertaining. Now though you can do things like edit your exhaust noise, add colour to your nitro's and add an all manner of baubles and trinkets for your favourite ride. I think I spent more time than I should have pimping my ride but I did enjoy doing so immensely.
The day-night loop works as follows, in the day you complete story missions and earn cash to put towards more cars, parts and upgrades. At night you annoy the po-po, still cannot believe my lad called them that, it still amuses me. The more you avoid and irritate the police, the higher your heat multiplier and the more rep you earn. Get caught though and its all for nothing. It is a nice risk-reward system that rewards taking chances and driving like a looney.
The higher your rep, the more parts, cars and events you unlock. You then need to earn cash, upgrade or buy cars and progress further. The gameplay loop is identical to other Need for Speed titles but at least the day-night cycle does mix things up a tad. I enjoyed the gameplay but every now and then I did get a feeling of deja-vu and I could have been playing any Need for Speed title in recent memory.
Other things are dotted around the open-world to distract you from your grinding, yes you guessed it, billboards, speed cameras and graffiti are among the small tasks peppering the overly familiar landscape. While they are a distraction, again they feel too familiar. More billboards, really? Speed cameras? Yawn. I again would have liked something to excite me or at least surprise me a little.
Graphically Need for Speed: Heat was underwhelming. While being nice enough, the character models were very bland, very rigid and animated quite poorly. Character models have really come a long way in recent years but these models look like they are from the PS3 era, sometimes when the sun gleams off your car or its raining the game can look very attractive. Most of the time though the graphical presentation is quite forgettable.
I really enjoyed the music though, the soundtrack is your usual mix of drum 'n' bass and dance music, that has never changed throughout the series and neither should it. It was really enthralling to bounce along to a thumping soundtrack while thrashing motors around the city. I really liked the soundtrack, it certainly fits the style of game and it kept my ears interested.