The Need for Speed (NFS) racing video game franchise has been around for a quarter of a century. I still remember playing the first NFS game in 1994 when I was in junior college.
Fast forward to today, with numerous releases and a few forgettable titles along the way, and we have the NFS Heat.
Unlike some of the story-heavy single-player modes of the past, NFS Heat is an open-world arcade racing game similar to Microsoft’s Forza Horizon series.
You start by choosing your avatar from 12 preset characters. This is not a role-playing game, so there is not much in terms of customising your character even though you can change your avatar’s clothing and hairstyle.
You also get to pick your first car from five starter cars, which include the 1996 Nissan 180SX (my choice) and the 1965 Ford Mustang.
Set in a fictional, picturesque city of Palm City that is clearly inspired by Miami with its palm trees and sandy beaches, you can drive around aimlessly, mow down street lamps, visit workshops to upgrade your car, get a speeding ticket if you drive too fast or just stop to marvel at the gorgeous surroundings.
The graphics are fantastic with realistic rendition of the surroundings and the cars. Lighting effects are excellent with reflections of street lamps clearly seen on the rain-soaked roads. Sound effects and the pulsating soundtrack add to the enjoyment of the driving.
In the single-player mode, you have to earn both money and reputation in order to increase your level to buy new cars and get car upgrades.
There are over 120 cars from 33 manufacturers, including Ferrari and McLaren, in this game.
There are no micro-transactions – a trend these days – to help you “jump the queue” to get the supercar you want with real money. You have to grind it out to earn in-game money to get the cars you want.
The unique selling point of NFS Heat is its day and night mechanics. Unlike the day/night cycle in other racing games, you will be asked if you want to race in the day or at night when you drive out of your garage.
Racing in the day earns you money with official sanctioned races, while racing at night in illegal street races or when you are engaged in cop chases earn you reputation.
If you do not have enough reputation, having enough money will not grant you certain car upgrades. To earn reputation quickly, you have to generate heat. This means evading arrest in long pursuits with police cars or smashing up police cars. But if you get busted, you lose both money and plenty of your reputation.
As you can see, this is not a racing simulation like the Forza Motorsports or Gran Turismo franchises.
The racing mechanics is on the “arcadey” side, even though each car handles differently. I could master a drift by the second hour with the Nissan 180SX that I was driving. But when it comes to the Forza Motorsport and Gran Turismo franchises, I am still not able to drift properly to this day even with a drift-inclined Toyota AE86.
While this ease of mastery might deter hardcore racing enthusiasts, it makes for good brainless racing fun and a really great way to destress.
My only issue is the suspect artificial intelligence (AI) of the computer opponents. They seem bent on sticking to their racing lines with no regard for other cars. I could be doing a nice drift through the apex, but get hit by another car as if I am not there.
To make things worse, there is no rewind feature in NFS Heat. Thus, you have to restart a race if something screws up.
Furthermore, while racing at night, a police car will start chasing you the moment you are spotted. This is even when you are just stationary.
If you are bored with the single-player mode, you can try the online multiplayer mode to race against real humans – up to 16 players for each race. You can even create or join an online team of up to 32 players to have your own online racing community.
– Superb graphics
– Plenty of arcade racing fun
– No micro-transactions
AI of rival drivers is suspect in solo mode
Cop will chase you at night for no reason
No rewind feature
Price: From $79 (PS4; PC; Xbox One, version tested)
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