EA and Ghost are smart. They’ve consistently released trailer after trailer of the new Need For Speed Payback, teasing, roping, reeling us in. Month by month gameplay of the new Payback is shown off: a Mustang chasing a lorry containing a Koenigsegg Regera, followed by a customization trailer, showcasing the depth and lengths one can go to personalise their weapon of choice. Next, the one we’ve all been waiting for: the police. My oh my, do they shine. From Crown Victorias, Corvette C7 interceptors, including the return of everyone’s arch nemesis, the Rhino. My pants were practically wet from the damn thing chasing the M5 throughout the trailer.
By this time it’s safe to say most of us (myself included) have tried to piece together whatever hints and details that were plucked from the trailers, all in anticipation of what’s going to happen in the next iteration of Need For Speed. It seems as though the game has ticked most of the boxes that the previous ones failed to do so: an exciting story, full day-night cycle, a much more extensive car list, and separation of shops, just like in Underground 2 and Most Wanted.
Let’s talk story. I think we’re all familiar as to where the direction is heading with this one, referencing plenty of Fast and the Furious in its plotline, jacking expensive cars with a bunch of close friends against a cartel. There’s much to love, packing intense encounters not only from villains, but the law enforcers as well. This time round, it’s much more close to a blockbuster setting, compared to the last one, where the story was drier than the Atacama Desert.
The customization aspect in this version has been refined, delving deeper into the details of what you can change. Each car can now be customised to one specific purpose, be it drag, race, drift off-road or runner, with each class having their own strengths and weaknesses. Separating the cars into classes means it’s essential that you build a garage to use for different events, encouraging you to explore more of what the game can offer and experiment, rather than in the previous game where you can literally finish the game with your starter car.
A new addition to the game is the existence of the derelicts, where players search for the junk chassis scattered around the map, bring them back to factory conditions, and modify the living daylights out of them, capable of beating the supercars. It sorts of bring a project car angle to it; previously in all other games, you take a factory fresh car and start from there, but further extending the process of exploring barn finds, to really put in the time to refurbish it, only cements your relationship to the car.
It all seems to point to a game that has heard the cry of the fans, but fans being fans, are never satisfied with what they are going to get. Many a person has commented and whine about the new Need For Speeds are never going to top up Most Wanted and Underground 2. For the most part, Payback isn’t all Most Wanted. The police, for instance, do not bother you when you’re driving in free roam, and the new customisation system pretty much prevents you from ricing your vehicle (Looking at you, Underground 2). For better or for worse, I think they shouldn’t copy Most Wanted’s or Underground 2’s formula completely and bring it back for the newer generation.
Learning from past mistakes, seeing what works and what doesn’t, and integrating all the best bits into one game is what it should be. There are hints of previously mentioned titles, as well as influences from NFS Rivals and Most Wanted (2010 version) echoing in the game, shaping the uniqueness of what Payback can become, and honestly, I’m excited for it. The last few NFS games have just been sorely decent to me, but this time round, it seems like Ghost have finally got their shit back together, and I’m ready to pour all of my time and effort (and cash) into it.