Story-Driven Payback Looks to Chart Route for Need for Speed’s Future

The Need For Speed franchise has released 23 different titles dating back to 1994. The latest title, Need for Speed Payback, looks to usher in some new innovations to the series and change its course going forward. There was a lot of negative feedback from fans after the most recent Need for Speed forced players to be online. The game, ultimately, was a disappointing experience. So Electronic Arts and developer Ghost Games took a year off to work on Payback. Hardcore Gamer was flown to Electronic Arts Studios in Redwood City, California to get some hands-on time with the latest action racer.

Ghost Games is broadening the open-world spectrum with Payback. The map is the largest world ever to be seen in any Need for Speed. This includes different terrains that involve different styles of racing. It will take you through the Las Vegas-like city of Fortune Valley and expands to a desert and a woodland canyon filled with twists and turns. Payback looks to be the quintessential version of Need for Speed, as the game will take aspects that worked from previous titles and packaged them nicely into this. The game will also offer more cars than the previous version, as some cars will be better suited for different styles of racing. These styles will include road, drag, drift, and off-road. Yes, you read that right, off-road. The desert area lets players drive wherever they want to, which is quite exhilarating and is something the series has never done before.


The game will feature missions but a new scavenger mode known as Derelicts, will have players slowing down to find parts to rebuild rust-buckets. Players will be given tips throughout the story to go and collect pieces to help rebuild and restore cars. This is a new fantasy element that Ghost Games wanted to incorporate and it also includes a bit of strategy in having to locate the parts. Once these are put together, and the same goes with any car in the game, Payback includes a livery editor that players can quickly dish out a new look for a car.

The bulk of Payback surrounds the narrative. With an area this big, you need car gangs and a cartel to be involved. Known as “The House,” this group essentially runs Fortune City. When attempting to transport a Koenigsegg Regera (an ultra car), Tyler gets thrown under the bus. Tyler, who is known as “The Racer,” is one of the three main characters in the plot. He focuses on drag racing and road racing. His other two colleagues, Mac and Jess, all contribute to his group’s work. Mac, “The Showman,” focuses on off-road racing and drifting. With Mac, it’s all about getting air. Jess, “The Wheelman,” focuses on getting cars to destination and escaping the police. The police are a force to be reckoned with in Payback as multiple cars will gang up to bring you down along with obstacles and road blocks. According to Lead Designer Riley Cooper, a lot went into advancing the difficulty of the police. Different police cars are included in the game.


Six months pass and essentially Tyler wants payback for what was done to him and his crew. Waiting for the proper time to strike, he aims to bring down the House. From here, players will need to start getting some different cars in order and upgrading them to win races. There are a few different directions to take upgrading depending on the type of handling model desired. Graphs will indicate what specific part upgrades will do, as credits are earned through completing events. Besides the Derelicts, there are other side missions as well that will grant credits.

Ghost Games is aiming to make this the largest scale Need for Speed to date. New aspects to the franchise and a character-driven story look to provide a direction for the future. Payback will not require players to always be online, as Cooper stated that there was a huge gripe from fans. This CAR-PG revolves around its story and still aims to be a car action racer that may invite players who don’t normally enjoy racing games, but enjoy story-driven games. Look for Need For Speed Payback on November 10 for PlayStation 4, Xbox One and Windows PC.

For more on Need for Speed Payback, be sure to read our interview with Lead Designer Riley Cooper.

  • ShammyDubz

    One of these days they’ll aim to do things like “make it fun to play” and “tighten up those controls so they’re tight and responsive instead of being loaded with oversteer and wide swings”. What use is a larger open world if it still is WAY LESS FUN TO PLAY than NFS: Underground or Nitro? Or Burnout? Or Ridge Racer? Take your “busted driving sim” racing model and get out of here, Need for Speed. Just another series where EA loses massive amounts of a once-enormous playerbase, and decides, “lets not fix it or make the game better; we’ll just milk the smaller remaining audience for more money! How do we get trading cards & loot boxes into Need for Speed?”

    Shame what has happened with Arcade Racers these days – even indies aren’t getting a lot out these days. At least we got OnRush coming out soon.