E3 2015: Need for Speed is the Need for Speed We’ve Been Waiting For

It’s not a stretch to say that the Need for Speed franchise has seen better days. After the disastrous Need for Speed: Run, EA doubled down on creating a quality Need for Speed by putting Criterion Games in charge, and later Ghost Games. Though Need for Speed: Rivals was a solid entry, Ghost Games and EA opted to skip 2014 to increase development time on 2015’s Need for Speed. Here we are one year later, and we might be on the cusp of getting one of the best Need for Speed games in years.

Need for Speed is a complete reboot of the franchise, incorporating elements from some of the best entries in franchise. The game takes its cues from Most Wanted, Underground 2, and Carbon to deliver a new open-world racing playground. I got to go hands-on with Need for Speed at E3 2015, and ended up being blown away by Ghost Games’ latest racer.

Need for Speed 01

I was immediately thrown into the garage, the main customization hub. I’m happy to report that customization is as deep as the older Need for Speed titles. Ghost Games has provided an incredible amount of tools to customize your cars with. Tires, mufflers, hoods, skirts, spoilers, and windows can all be customized to your liking. Even more impressive is that you can customize how you can play. A new Grip vs Drift slider gives players the chance to tailor the experience to their liking.

The game mode I got to try out is the new 8 player Rep Attack. Here, eight racers are thrown into an open world with one simple objective, get as many rep points as possible. Rep points can be earned by winning a race, pulling off a drift, near-misses, or evading the police. Need for Speed does require a constant internet connection, and this mode is mostly likely the reason. It feels like you’ll always be in some sort of competition in Need for Speed, and whether this is a good or bad thing remains to be seen.

The open world returns in Need for Speed and offers plenty of different activities to choose from. Like in previous games, players need only drive up to an activity on the map and tap a button to initiate it. These activities include races, drift challenges, and sprint challenges among others. Of course, playing around in the open-world is also just as fun as participating in an activity.

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I only got to play a total of nine minutes, but managed to have fun. I’m not the best racer, but the Rep Attack system ensured that I was at least being rewarded for trying. It didn’t matter that I didn’t get first, because I was having fun racing around, taking tight corners and evading the cops.

Like every other EA game this year, Need for Speed was originally shown off via an in-engine trailer. Like those other games, Need for Speed does not look as good in-game as the trailer would have you believe. Still, the Frostbite 3 powered game looks really good. The cars are clearly the star of the show with breathtaking detail etched into every model. The open-world also looks amazing, though it felt sparse and under-populated in the demo.

That extra year off appears to have been just what the Need for Speed franchise needed. Need for Speed is shaping up to be the best Need for Speed in years. It’s a beautiful game that doesn’t punish its players if they aren’t the best racers in the world. That constant internet connection may turn out to be a thorn in the game’s side, but for now Need for Speed is a game all racing fans should be looking forward to.

Need for Speed is out November 3 on PS4, Xbox One and PC.