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Need For Speed Heat

Posted by GG Goblin On November - 26 - 2019

Work by day, party by night.

EA’s Need For Speed series was, for a long time, the go to game for street racing. For those who wanted to test their mettle on the track, there were plenty of other choices, but taking it to the street and especially having to deal with the police would always mean dropping into the latest Need For Speed game. However, despite cruise culture seeming to be more popular now than ever before, the Need For Speed games seem to have fallen out of favour to the point that the latest title, Need For Speed Heat, drifted into stores with no fanfare or screeching of tyres. This could have been down to the relatively poor reception the previous NFS game had, something which brought into question whether there would even be another game in the series. Well, no matter what the feelings of the previous game, the good news is that Need For Speed Heat is a very enjoyable racing game.


Stories in racing games always make me chuckle and Need For Speed Heat is no exception. Welcome to Palm City, a fictional version of Miami with far too much love of neon. The game begins with a late night street race, something which is obviously illegal. Before long, the police give chase and show themselves to be far too aggressive. Everything takes a step back at that point and the player is invited to choose one of a small selection of characters to represent them as a newcomers to Palm City, interested in competing with other street racers during the sanctioned day time races. The player will get to choose their first car at this point, and then will begin the process of meeting key characters and progressing the story. Anyone expecting a Shakespearian tale will be disappointed in Heat, but the players are not really here for a story, they are here to race, and thankfully the story won’t get in the way of some serious speed.

Presented with a large map, the player is free to cruise around and head to the various races or distractions marked on the map. It is a nice big map and the player is quickly ushered to their first race. Completing the race will result in a nice little cash reward, and one of the other characters suggests getting some nitrous fitted to the car. That would be a good idea, but the car parts store won’t let you in. The reason? They have no idea who you are. This is where things get more interesting.


The day time races are legal and once the player crosses the finish line, they stop and pose for a selfie while collecting their winnings. However, clicking the left stick during the map screen will flip the screen a couple of times and it suddenly becomes night. The neon is glaring and the races are far more interesting. Crossing the finish line now means just continuing to speed away without stopping to pose, and there is no cash reward. Night time racing is all about reputation, and increasing the reputation unlocks new car upgrades. It’s a great loop in that the player races in the day to earn money to buy upgrades that are unlocked by racing at night, ensuring the player spreads their time equally between the two different scenes.

But the night racing is not without risk as these races are deemed illegal and the police are particularly enthusiastic about running street racers off the road and arresting them. The police will often give chase part way through a race, or even when the player is minding their own business just driving around the map. But it is a risk reward situation as the player will have a heat rating that increases the longer the police are chasing for. The heat rating acts as a multiplier for reputation, meaning the more heat, the quicker the player can level up and unlock new stuff for their car. But the higher the heat, the more aggressive the cops will get, and getting caught will not only result in losing that sweet multiplier, but also a hefty fine that will dig into the players daytime winnings. Does the player do race after race at night, increasing their heat and reputation, or play it safe and head to the nearest safe house to end the night? It’s always a gamble, especially in the early game. As the police presence increases, escaping becomes more and more difficult as they gradually nudge the player and whittle down their car’s health. Nipping through a garage will get it repaired, but the player is limited to only three visits a night.


When it comes to upgrading the cars, there is plenty of variety here, along with loads of customisation options. The cars and upgrades are rated in four different areas. Using this method, the player is easily able to purchase parts that will make the car better at off-road, for example, or drifting, or by buying mixed parts, keeping the car evenly balanced. It is a simple system that is easy to understand and will allow any novice to tune their vehicle exactly as they need it.

The racing itself is fairly solid. Early game cars are slow and not great on corners, but that is to be expected. But once the player unlocks a few upgrades, things become far more enjoyable and depending on the upgrades purchased, the player will quickly find themselves sticking to the road like glue around the corners, or sliding round sideways in the perfect drift. I will say that the tracks are quite messy in Heat, something made worse at night due to the neon indicators. But still, it’s good racing fun.

Outside of the day night, cash and reputation racing, there are some story races that pop up occasionally, and there are places to visit, such as car dealerships to buy new cars, or petrol stations to get repairs. There are also billboards spread around the map for the player to drive through, should they need further distraction. The races are the core of the game though and, while they are varied, they don’t feel varied enough. The loop of making money and then unlocking new parts is really cool, and the police chases can be equal parts thrilling and frustrating, but it can all become a little samey, which will put some players off.


Considering the lack of fanfare around the launch of Need For Speed Heat, the game is far better than I was expecting. The racing is enjoyable and solid, and there are some really nice ideas in the game. Everything looks really good as well, although the night time racing is far more difficult than it needs to be due to track layout and neon markers. It may not have hit the levels of enjoyment that the older Need For Speed games reached, but Need For Speed Heat is by far the most entertaining NFS game in recent years.




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