Need For Speed: Heat Review
Strap in your seat belt, get into gear and slam that right foot flat down on the gas pedal, because it is time for yet another Need for Speed game to blur past in a “hum drum” of hype. With Need for Speed: Heat being the twenty fourth title to be released in the series, the immediate factor that sets it apart from all it’s predecessors, is how it was released this year, specifically to celebrate the 25 Year Anniversary of the Need for Speed Franchise. Is that all that makes it special though? Does Need for Speed: Heat redeem the already stigmatized ideal lost a long time ago or does it burn out faster than luminous colored NOS does in a desperate attempt to catch up to it’s competition?
Who am I kidding? Need for Speed is in a class of it’s own, whether you love it, hate it, or love to hate it, you will find yourself, just like me, always wanting to try out the new one to see whether it comes close to Need for Speed: Underground (2003) or Need for Speed: Underground 2 (2004), which was by far the most memorable in the series of them all.
It’s Not Always Just About The Racing
Need for Speed: Heat starts off with a very dramatic intro, where you are very quickly introduced to the deadly world of Palm City’s Illegal Night Street Racing. However, Circuit Racing during the day has been sanctioned and is legal on the streets for the Speedhunter Showdown, a racing event which is drawing racers in from across the country to compete for their piece of the action and make a name for themselves.
While the idea of a sanctioned racing event sounds appealing to most newcomers, they are not aware that they will also be required to race at night when the “wolves come out”, because the leader of Palm City Police Department’s High-Speed Task Force, Lt. Frank Mercer, along with Officer Shaw and Eva Torres, are on a personal mission to eradicate the night races (and racers) at any cost, while making a statement of zero tolerance. Straight off the bat, you come to despise one of these task force officers and also see who might not be so mean after all.
After choosing your character from 12 different pre-made racers, you make your way to Palm City and meet up with Lucas Rivera, who sells you your first car, and through his connections, helps you win your first race in the Speedhunter Showdown. Not long after winning and you wanting to “Pimp Your Ride” at the local Parts Shop, you meet Ana Rivera, Lucas’ younger sister who is the most passionate racer in the Rivera family. Ana invites you to spend the night at the Rivera Garage (Auto Repairs and Service) and after convincing you to race at night for reputation, gets you to start a new Racing Crew with her, as her previous crew could not take the “Heat” after having a close encounter with Lt. Mercer and his “Task Force”.
This is where things really start heating up (pun was not intended) and a certain officer starts falling apart at the seams, gets reckless and defines his own rules within the task force. It is going to be up to you to expose what is really going on, and that can only be done by taking to the streets, building your reputation in the racing scene and lastly by getting noticed by both the good and the bad guys, setting everything in motion for a stellar finish that nobody in Palm City is soon to forget.
Driver By Day. Racer By Night.
When you peel the story away from the game, you ultimately end up with a great driving simulator, that allows you to buy a car, upgrade it, make it look fancy and then choose whether you want to take on opponents and race or just want to explore the world and take part in the activities and collectible hunts. When you leave the Rivera Garage, which is your main “Base of Operations”, you can choose whether you want to hit the streets during the Day or during the Night. If you could read between the lines in the previous section, you should know which time of day is the safest to explore in and which is best to be taken very seriously.
There is a very nice split between the “Cop” factor and the “No Pressure” factor of the game, by segmenting them perfectly with the introduction of the Day or Night Cycle, which can also be changed anywhere in the world at anytime without returning to the Garage (which is also your Safe House). During the day, you will not be chased by police, even if you speed past them in the streets, however, the only thing you earn during the day by taking part in race events, is Money (or “Bank”), and at night, you earn Reputation Points for taking part in events, which is termed in “Heat Levels”. They go hand in hand, because you cannot spend the whole game playing the night scene or only the day scene, as you need “Heat” to unlock higher tier parts or cars, and you need “Bank” to pay for unlocked tier parts and cars respectively.
There is also a “Racer Challenge” feature, where you can select from either a set of Day Challenges or Night Challenges before heading out, which rewards you with an inverted bonus if all tasks are completed successfully (Reputation for Day Challenges and Bank for Night Challenges). These challenges take on the seriousness of the time period, as an example, during the day it will be something easy like winning a specific performance rated event and at night it would be something difficult like escaping a high heat level chase or taking down a certain amount of cop cars, which then calls in Officer Shaw to join the chase, which under no circumstance, is something you want to ever have happen, because it is almost always a guaranteed ticket to getting “Busted”. The worst that can happen if you get busted at night is for your entire day’s winnings to get “confiscated”, but there is also the opportunity to “bribe” the busting officer to let you off the hook for a short period of time.
If you do decide to focus more on the “no pressure” style of gameplay, between races you can also choose to hunt down all the Safe Houses, Gas Stations, Billboards and Artwork which all add toward a Region Completion Tracker. All collectible artwork pieces will be added to your car customization palette, under Decals in the Paint and Wrap section for you to add to your car at a later stage. Completing a region is not required for you to finish the game, it is simply an additional way for you to pass time and earn additional customization rewards within the game or to motivate you to spend some time on upgrading your performance parts, as certain areas or events can only be reached or completed by achieving high speeds, as an example, Ramping over a River to Crash through a Billboard on the other side or Hitting Three Stars on a Speed Trap.
The Multiplayer option in the game is absolutely magnificent! When you load up the game, you can choose whether you want your session to be Online, or Solo. When you play solo, all multiplayer features are disabled and nobody can join your session, whether it be random server instance overlaps or friends wanting to join your party and earn crew rank points. This mode is designed for the players that just want to do their own thing and mainly focus on the story, so in a nutshell, it is the “Single Player Campaign Mode” of Need for Speed: Heat.
The online mode is where the game thrives, as people that join your online session (random players or friends) will show up in your Garage, on your map and will earn your crew some valuable rank points by them participating in race events whether it is day or night, as long as they share your Session ID. The best part about this feature is the Race Challenge feature! Note: Do not confuse this with the “Racer Challenge” feature. When you arrive at a race event on your map, before you launch into the race, you can decide whether you want to Play Solo, where the game puts you against NPC (Non Player Character) racers, or you can Challenge your Party (friends) or Challenge All (friends and random players) to the same race before starting it, and you then wager some “bank” into a winner prize pool.
During the night scene mode, it is particularly fun to all band together and terrorize the cops, or to join in on the Heat Chases of other players to distract and split the cops, especially when Officer Shaw shows up! I spent most of my time doing exactly this; hunting down the shared player locations when I saw a bunch of red triangle following them on my map and crashing into the cops or racing past the chaos to split the chase numbers without me needing to do any damage to instigate a personal Heat Threat Level.
During a chase, if you pick up any damage, you can drive through a Gas Station to instantly repair your vehicle should you struggle to loose your tail(s), but you need to be very mindful of when to do your repairs, because you are only given three chances to repair your vehicle on the fly, as a fourth “drive through” will be prevented by a police blockade at every gas station, and those that have no blockade, will be shut down (lights are on but nobody is home to fix your car).
It Ain’t Just For Show Shorty
Once you have unlocked all of the cars and the custom parts in the game, you can easily spend an hour tuning your ride to look and sound exactly the way you want it to. There are four Performance Zones that you need to pay attention to when purchasing your upgrades, namely Race, Off-Road, Drift and Road. As you select a new part, you can see how it will impact your overall performance before you buy and apply. As an example, if you buy Suspension Parts that shift your balance more towards the Road Zone and away from the Off-Road Zone, your car will slow down and handle poorly on Dirt should your race event have any Dirt Road sections on it, which could very easily reduce your ability to hold the lead if you are winning or your ability to catch up to the leader if you fall behind.
This encourages better race technique, because depending on your NOS (Nitrous Oxide) alone is no longer applicable. Smashing that NOS in the above situation on Dirt, will cause your car to potentially spin out, and that means a guaranteed loss, because there are no solid race barriers to automatically correct or prevent you from leaving the race circuit. You can crash through barriers and stray from the course very easily, again, something that encourages proper racing technique, because too often we depend (me included) on the ability to just hit NOS and hope for the best if we hit a barrier on a bend, this time, you will crash through the barrier and just keep going straight while your opponents hit the checkpoint and take the lead.
If you want your ride to match-up to Papi’s legendary 1967 Chevrolet Camaro SS, you can either do it manually by upgrading each part to your own preference, or you can save up and Upgrade the Whole Engine in one go, which then upgrades all Performance Parts, Suspension Parts and Engine Parts (usually much cheaper in the end). If you are done with your Performance Customization, you can then head into the Visual Customization, where you can replace all Stock Body Parts with those flashy Body Kits, Scoops, Exhausts, Headlights and sweet Rims. You can then either apply a Full Wrap or Paint Job to your car, including those Decals you found scattered around Palm City or search through a Library of Custom Wraps done by other players and apply that to your car (online mode required).
As if choosing which Brake Caliper to use was not enough customization for you, you can also add effects like Tyre Smoke Color, NOS Flame Color and Car Neon Underglow Color to your ride, because in the world of street racing, anything “Stock” is strictly taboo! Then lastly, you can customize your car’s Stance and Exhaust Sound. The stance being the angle at which your tyres meet the road between the body of the car and the tarmac, because if your Hydraulic Suspension Kit does not get your car low enough to the ground, why not angle your wheels at a 45 degree angle to gain those extra needed inches to make your car more Aerodynamic (I jest ofcourse). Changing your exhaust sound is pretty self explanatory, and allows you to change four sliders to effect the overall tone of your car’s Roar when you Rev Up your Engine.
Need for Speed: Heat is Developed by Ghost Games and Published by Electronic Arts, and was released globally on 8 November 2019, to commemorate the Need for Speed Franchise’s 25th Anniversary. It is available for PlayStation 4, Xbox One and Microsoft PC with no mention of it becoming available on the Nintendo Switch platform. At the time of this review, you can get a console copy from BT Games for R999.00 or a PC copy from Takealot.com for R999.00 (currently on special, normal price for PC is R1099.00).
The game is like many of the other Need for Speed games, but as an old school fan of the franchise, I personally feel it is a lot better than the dreaded Need for Speed: Hot Persuit (2010), Need for Speed: The Run (2011), Need for Speed: Most Wanted (2012) and Need for Speed: Payback (2017), having mentioned that nothing comes close to Need for Speed: Underground (2003). The game is stunning visually, with all the focus being spent on the Vehicle Models and the World, and very little focus being afforded to the Character Models. The Color Palette is Flashy and Funky and works in the Neon World of High Octane Virtual Street Racing. The music is good too, and is triggered according to the Day or Night Scenes you are Racing or Exploring in. The Story though, I could see coming from a mile away and I found it to be very predictable, which probably frustrated me more than it should have because of my instant rage toward Shaw’s attitude from the moment I saw his face in the intro.
This is a bias view, and does not necessarily represent that of others, but I have a very low tolerance level when it comes to verbally and physically abusive people, it triggers me personally, so please, do take the criticism on the influencing factor on the story with a pinch of salt. If anything, like everything, we all deserve to make up our own minds, so if you are looking for a street racing game that is oodles of fun socially or on it’s own, Need for Speed: Heat is going to be worth the money once it drops below the R800.00 mark for a copy, but like most vehicles today, once you drive it off the showroom floor, it looses most of it’s market value, so give it some time before your drop a grand in cash.