When I obtained the latest iteration in the Need for Speed series, namely Payback, I was really unsure what to expect. The series has been taken somewhat of a nasty dip lately, although I felt the last Need for Speed game by that very name was decent enough for a positive review. I would never skip a NFS ever if I can help it, and so made sure I bought myself a copy as soon as I could.
Here is my initial gameplay from the game, and I will talk you through the rest.
As you start the game, you are immediately introduced to three characters that you will be playing as throughout the game. There is Tyler, the race-head who torques his race cars to the max for the best speed ever. Then there is Mac, who loves his drift and dirt races, and Jess, who helps the guys out when it comes to the cops and escaping them, better known by the title Runner.
And you play as all three of them. In the movie sequences of the main storyline, you will swap between them. No, not voluntarily, but based on where you are at a certain point in that mission. It will test your various skills that you will develop throughout the game.
The story is simple enough and very familiar to those that enjoyed NFS The Run and the film, Need for Speed. You are running with a crew when someone betrays you and things go very sour. A few months later, the Gambler, the dude you now work for, sends you on a job, but you decide the time has come to get your crew back together. You then spend the rest of the game focusing on one mission: beat League crews and House crews and get an entry into Outlaw’s Rush to show you are the king of all badass racers.
I found that the most exciting aspect of Need for Speed Payback was the mix of two of their favourite gameplay mechanics. With The Run, there was linear racing gameplay, where you raced through stages and had no open world. The latest NFS was all open world, where you could ride wherever you wish and accept any races you wanted, storyline or not.
In Payback, you are treated to both, although the linear racing is more story driven than anything else and is what allows for the switch between characters during a story mission. You start of with linear gameplay, which almost had me worried as I love the open world racing . But as I hit the main world you will be living in for the rest of the game, I realised what a glorious balance they achieved.
Gone are the irritating performance upgrades of the past. You now get performance “cards”. When you complete a race, you can select one of 3 cards which will increase the performance of one of your car’s parts. You can go to a tune up shop to buy more, or trade in cards for others by way of a casino type slot machine. This is a far easier system to upgrade with while getting rid of all the technical data we had so much of before. This is not Gran Turismo afterall.
Between chapter endings and beginnings, you can challenge leagues around the map. There are different types of races, mainly Racing, Drift, Drag, Dirt and Runner. And you have to build a car for each type. You cannot take your BMW drift car to a dirt race. You have to build up a new BMW with dirt settings. And you have to start building that one up from scratch with regards to performance. Which means re-racing old races and getting new cards until you reach the performance requirements for your next mission.
This might sound tedious, but I actually found it realistic and fantastic to do. When I reach a new chapter in the story, I buy a new car for each mode and supe them all up to where I need them before continuing. Yes, a massive waste of time, but hey… this is Need for Speed.. and racing and suping cars up is what it’s all about.
GRAPHICS, SOUND AND ATMOSPHERE
Ghost Games went to town with the graphics. The cars are absolutely stunning and each race mode makes them unique. A BMW will have different visual optimisations based on the type of race mode you chose for it. Which is why when you obtain a new car they ask you to select a race mode first.
Derelicts is a feature I feel was stolen from the Crew, when you roamed around the map looking for Hot Rod parts. Except, I feel Payback does it better. You obtain clues on map sketches as to where car parts are located. You also have to find innovative ways to get to the parts, as they are not as simple as just finding them. Some require ramps to be found to jump over into the location. Once the parts are found, you will have a one of a kind scrap car to build up from scrap, so to speak.
Music is always superb with NFS, but there was one striking sound feature I love. The characters speak through the television speakers. When cops chase you and they speak over their radios, the sound comes from your PS4 controller. This means that while you are listening to the characters shout to each other over their phones the police are shouting to each other on your controller. It is one hell of an experience that is absolutely surreal.
The open world scenery is stunning and sometimes you just want to stop your car on those Fast and Furious Tokio Drift type canyons and look down at everything around you. Visual effects are very realistic and you can visual damage really makes you feel like your car may fall apart soon, even though your performance doesn’t suffer at all. Visit a garage station and they will fix it up for you as usual.
They’ve added some stunning in-race cutscenes whenever you take a police or House car down. This has its ups and downs. I’ve had instances where I want to take a sharp corner, and then a cutscene occurs of a cop wiping out, and when it returns to me I smash straight into a wall and get busted. Sure, most times the character corrects it for me before the game returns to me, but not every time.
Payback takes Need for Speed back to the best racing game series ever. This was what I expected from a NFS title, and it has given so much more. Many who have not enjoyed the way the series has been going will probably cry about this title too, but not me. I have come to love Need for Speed again thanks to Payback, and will keep playing it even if just to buy new cars and build them up.
Disclaimer: AIR Entertainment purchased a physical copy for reviewing purpose. This review is the author’s own opinion and not influenced by the developer in any way, as per our reviewing Code of Ethics.