The Highs and Lows of the Need for Speed Franchise
Starting with Need for Speed 4: High Stakes, the game was in many ways just an expansion of what was done with NFS 3 and yet it just never sat well with me, I can’t really say why. While never having played it myself, I was told that the Porsche NFS title that released on console was pure ass, which kills me to this day when I think back to how good the totally different PC version was, I’m sure there’s a story out there explaining why the made the very strange decision to do two different games. This era was then capped off by Hot Pursuit 2, another title that I just absolutely never liked. I know of many (let me know in the comments) folks who did enjoy it quite a bit, but for me it just felt like an impostor.
As I mentioned earlier, Underground, its sequel and Most Wanted were all pretty awesome fun, and carried the series into a new generation and while Carbon was still sort of okay for people who just wanted more of Most Wanted, ProStreet didn’t resonate with just about anyone (I must admit I only ever played the demo a few times – but I guess that means something) and Undercover was just awful and a big indicator that the formula wasn’t working anymore (enter Burnout: Hot Pursuit to save the day).
A few massive deviations from the formula came in the form of NFS: Pro Street and NFS: SHIFT and were likely a bit of a me-too reaction to some other popular franchises such as Codemasters’ TOCA Race Driver and the ongoing battle between Gran Turismo and Forza Motorsport. NFS: SHIFT was actually developed by the same folks who are now making Project CARS, and if you go back and try them you will see that it’s not that hard to tell. SHIFT frustrated me when I finally played the sequel as it was clear that they really were onto something pretty darn good, with some really great ideas and potential that fell short due to very twitchy controller inputs and a few other problems (sound familiar, Project CARS fans?). As an aside, I did have NFS Underground: Rivals on my PSP at launch, and it actually really wasn’t that bad for a decent on-the-go version of the Underground experience.
Due to a combination of me leaving the industry as a critic for a few years and the bad taste left in my mouth from the last few titles, this was the point where I no longer received copies to review and also just lost interest in spending my own money on the franchise. As a result I didn’t end up playing The Run, Most Wanted (2), or Rivals or Need for Speed (2015) but from what I heard along the way The Run was really bad (I did try the demo), Rivals was actually not so bad and I honestly have almost no recollection of the newer Most Wanted game at all, and the 2015 Need for Speed was so-so. Either way, I tried a few demos here and there and I found it sad that a long time fan such as myself had just lost interest.
SIDEBAR: May I just say that the Need for Speed movie was actually pretty good and probably a far better driving/racing movie than most people realise? Pretty much everything in the movie was done for real, including a bad-ass close up of Aaron Paul driving at speed RIGHT up to a camera and pulling off a sweet handbrake side-stop thing (while also having to act out the scene). Properly under-appreciated game-movie, also considering it features Rami Malek’s naked ass:
Enter Need for Speed:
Paycheck Payback which is the brand new game from EA that’s just released and is currently being reviewed by your truly. I’m not done with the review yet but it’s very clear that this one would have featured towards the bottom of this piece if I had written it later. Need for Speed looks like its in a bit of a spot once more and in need of a shift in gear to bring it back to a high point once more, but stay tuned for our my final verdict soon and let me know what you think if you’re playing it.