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Review: Need for Speed Payback

If you’re a fan of the racing genre, you had some busy weeks. Publishers released racing game after racing game, all pushing the realism to another level. Great for those who seek realism in their racing games but not as much fun for the more casual racer. The king of arcade racing ‘Need for Speed’ made a comeback, promising to bring us classic arcade racing pushed to the next level. Did EA succeed? Did they bring back the king or should he have been forgotten about long ago?

A different racer

If you’ve played games like Forza, Project Cars or Gran Turismo lately, you’ll be surprised with Need for Speed. This isn’t another realistic racer. It doesn’t matter if you follow the exact line on the track, your car won’t take as much damage and you can easily drift by just steering hard enough. Need for Speed stands for fun and wants to deliver this to you in the most complete way possible. That’s also why the game is filled with variation.

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During the campaign, you’ll follow the story of different racers, brought together by their past and mutual hate for ‘The House’. The House is your stereotypical crew who aims for world domination and does all kinds of shady car-related crimes. Needless to say, it’s your job to be the faster man on the track and eventually destroy the organization. The story never really impresses and tries to be the next ‘Fast and the Furious’ a little too hard. Perhaps it was a better idea to go for a lighter story, fitting the arcade gameplay better. That being said, the story does offer the perfect excuse for variation in gameplay.

Different cars

What Need for Speed Payback does best is giving you the needed variation at the right time. From time to time, you’ll shift to another driver of your notorious crew, also forcing you to change your racing style. The game offer street races, off-road races, drag races and even drifting. It’s great to see that the developers pushed forward with their ideas and they really managed to combine different styles into one. It often reminded me of how Ubisoft’s ‘The Crew’ handled things. Payback comes very close to The Crew but that’s nothing to worry about, it’s a system that works, so why change it.

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Since this still is a racing game, you’ll be able to drive a lot of different cars. EA managed to grab a lot of licenses, including Porsche, Volkswagen, Dodge, Ford and Lamborghini. On the other hand, some big players are missing from the list, seriously, where is my Ferrari?! That being said, you’ll have plenty of cars to mess around with. To make things even more interesting, there’s an entire tuning garage added to the game. If you’ve played Need for Speed games before, you already know what to expect. Modify your cars with new bumpers, extra spoilers, new tires or make it look more epic with some stickers. It’s a nice touch and the tuning really is rather deep but aside from giving you an awesome looking car, it doesn’t really change the performance. If you want to experience different handlings, you’ll need to get different cars, that will cost you money.

Money won’t come easily

The thing I don’t like about the game, is how it handles progress. The story itself will take you around 15 hours to complete but if you want to stand a chance, you’ll have to get the better cars. Just like in ‘The Crew’, you can attach certain cards to your car, increasing certain abilities. If you don’t do this, you’ll notice you’ll no longer win the races. The AI gets better and better the more you advance, simply pushing you to increase your XP and money so you can get to the better cards. Since the story is a little too short, you’ll be forced to complete a lot of the side objectives. Most of them are fun to play but it often resulted in needless grinding in the open world. You can, of course, pay real money for certain packages with better cars and cards. Pay to win lurks behind the corner here and that’s really something that should have been avoided.

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If you want to gain more experience and money a little easier, you can jump into the online segment of the game but that’s really not as impressive as you thought. It simply doesn’t offer the same kind of variation found in the offline segment. Online, you’re able to drive in regular or off-road races, a bit more would have been better, to be honest. That being said, the servers run smoothly and I never faced a lot of problems finding other players.

Fortune City

The last thing worth discussing is the open world the team created. Fortune City looks like a new version of Las Vegas and truly offers a lot to discover. There are a lot of main roads but it doesn’t stop there yet. The map is filled with secrets and little roads leading you to new places. Just like the gameplay, the map offers a lot of variation ranging from busy cities to more natural environments. It truly is a fun map and it will keep you motivated to explore everything there is to find. Besides main objectives, the game will motivate you to complete other missions as well. Of course, facing the police is also back and that’s one of my favorite parts. Trying to escape the law is a feeling I missed in other, modern racing games, so I’m glad it’s finally back.

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The only downside about the world is that it doesn’t always look as pretty. The team did it best to create realistic looking cars and really succeeded in it, all cars truly look amazing! The environment is something else, textures aren’t as sharp and overall it looks a bit dull and empty, something worth improving during the future!

Conclusion:

Need for Speed Payback isn’t your regular racing game, it offers a more arcade approach set in a fun open world. The cars look amazing and offer enough variation to keep you motivated. The biggest downside is the ‘pay to win’ aspect or the endless grinding. It won’t be a game for everybody but if you’re into arcade racing packed with action and police escapes, this might be the racing game you’ve been looking for.

7/10

Got interested in games since I could read. Started with Nintendo but evolved into an all-round gamer. I love all kind of games; triple A games to Indie. If the vibe is right, I'll enjoy playing it.

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