After some wild party scenes, introduction to characters and a workshop that would serve as the players? garage, I realised that the game delivered most things in fives. Five characters as friends and opponents, five icons of urban car culture to impress with your progress, five ways to earn reputation points that unlock modifications and five slots of garage space.
Much to my surprise, I found that I had access to the entire car line-up of over 50 cars from the outset, unlike any NFS
game before, with only lack of funds stopping me buying any among them. However, the traditional 'unlock with progress' segment greets the player in the form of visual and performance part upgrades.
The car collection comes as a mix of iconic European, American and Japanese manufacture models ranging from Volvo 242s, BMW M2s, Mazda mx-5s and Ford Foxbody Mustangs to midlevel Nissan Skylines, Porsche 911?s to top tier Lamborghinis and Ferraris. It's a line-up that seems to feature a car for everyone?s taste. The player has five slots in the games garage that they can buy/store/sell five cars and customize each to their hearts content.
Customisation-wise we are faced with the usual visual paint and vinyl updates, exterior parts, performance hardware and car tuning, each having a selection of sub options giving the player the opportunity to make their car truly unique.
A new parts inbox section is introduced to this mix in the form of custom performance hardware parts that players can find scattered across the open world. A quick look at each of the above reveals a rather large collection of vinyl, paint options and stickers to change the look of your car under the paint section, a very poor selection of exterior parts such as fenders, spoilers and lights (more on this later), performance tuning that simply makes your car to either be optimised for drifting or speed (which translates into either a sideways rubber burner or a stiff time-attack machine) and finally the usual performance update parts from sway bars, ECU upgrades to forced induction updates.
As mentioned before, the exterior visual parts and performance upgrades are tied into the amount of reputation points the player accumulates. At the start of the game, I was offered a rather small collection of parts to upgrade my Subaru BRZ. While the parts were fantastic, most being modelled after real world car part suppliers and their iconic products (i.e. rocket bunny bodykits from Speedhunters, RTR wheels from Mustang Racing), I felt a twinge of disappointment and hoped that I would unlock more parts as the game progressed.
Along the way I found to my dismay that certain parts were never available for certain cars and the parts available differed rather significantly for each car. For instance, the player has the ability to upgrade their headlights and taillights, but I was never given the option of parts for these for my BRZ, even at the very end when I finished the game with it.
A bit of research online and a couple of other car mods in the game by myself led to the realization that the number of visual customizations was simply an illusion to trick the player and seemed to only offer a very small number of parts to be selected for each car and part type.
Leaving the disappointments behind, performance parts are done superbly in this release. With realistic top speed, 0-60 and weight figures, the parts bring unique driving dynamics and observable differences in handling, feedback and sound with each level of stock, street, race and elite part applied. From tires that focus on either grip or speed and wiring harnesses, all the way to brakes and superchargers, each part adds significantly to each cars performance output.
And how does that translate into gameplay? Check back tomorrow for Part Two. CLIFFHANGER...