This is Part Two of SPOnG's Need for Speed review. For Part One, click here.
With the cars and parts handled, let us move on to the narrative, or what we would call the campaign of this game. You are slowly introduced to a circle of five friends, Spike, Travis, Amy, Robyn and Manu. Each of these characters represents a branch of the game that the player should compete in.
Spike, a trust fund kid with a need for pure speed gets you involved in sprint and circuit races in the hopes of getting in the books of Magnus Walker, a real-world custom Porsche builder and car culture icon. There's Amy, an amateur mechanic who inspires you to become the next Akira Nakai, another real world custom car builder and icon, who wants the player to race in different styles of races and rewards the player with specific performance part unlocks.
The real world street racing and motorsport group, Risky Devils, are brought into the mix via the character Robyn, a free spirit who gets you to drift and race around the massive map. Manu, a devout follower of all things drift, leads the player up to riding gymkhana style with none other than Formula Drift champions and car culture legends Ken Block and Vaughn Gittin Jr.
The final character, Travis, who is not afraid of run-ins with the law, involves the player in races and situations with law enforcement and aims to impress Shinichi Morohoshi, an underground car icon in Japan.
I must say at this point that I rather liked the progression tree the game builds for the player. It does a good job of making one feel like a part of a narrative instead of thowing up the progress bar completion chase that is offered in many other racing games.
With each race that the player competes in, and each stunt, drift, near-collision pass, high-speed race, property damage and many other tasks, the game rewards the player with reputation or REP points. These can be earned under five different action categories and each category separately keeps a progression completion chart that contributes towards overall game progress. These categories include:
Speed: in which the player engages in high-speed and clean driving.
Style: points earned for smooth and fast drifting, donuts and air time.
Build: earned for quick 0-60 times, max speed and using NOS.
Crew: points for matching speed with other players and keeping a consistent drift train.
Outlaw: in which the player has to engage in cop chases, property damage, near misses and other reckless activities.
A simple and short-lived interaction-based story is led by the characters mentioned above and grants you access to various parts of the massive map. The player is offered a downtown/city area with financial districts and tight alleyways; a harbour with technical corners and construction sites providing grim and run down neighbourhoods; and two canyon/mountain ranges, each with a different feel and vistas that take the player's breath away.
The level of detail is exquisite for an open-world racer and the frostbite engine does justice to the digital artistsí hard work in creating the lush environment. Ending a race on top of a mountain at dawn is quite a rewarding experience and more than once I found myself just parked on the side of the road admiring the view.
Admiring visuals however does, however, lead us to the second issue I noted with the game, which is a quite annoying rapid change of time of day. Within the course of a single race, I would run into dusk, night, dawn, and night situations repeatedly. The ambient lighting, noticeable mainly through the colour of the sky, changes rapidly enough to be noticed. A similar visual issue was presented when
exiting tunnels. I would enter a short tunnel during what was clearly night and a couple of seconds later I would emerge from the other end and the ambient lighting would have a panic and change from full blurred dark to daylight to night again.
A further example of the issue would be starting and ending run-ins with the law. The player's screen is layered over with flashing blue and red hues and, rather than adding to the thrill and excitement of a cop-chase, this becomes a hindrance, blocking what is in front of the driving path for seconds at a time with bright flashes.