Do you have the need for more Need for Speed? If so, read on to find out more about the latest entry in the long-running series.
Need for Speed Heat is set in the fictional locale of Palm City and what a huge world it is! Once you get your hands on the map, you'll be surprised at the size and variety within. From downtown streets with skyscrapers to shipyards filled with containers and wetlands to a rocket launching station; it's quite impressive how much of a world Ghost Games actually built here. There's a nice variety of terrain and plenty of detail in the buildings, traffic lights, and natural scenery, too. The graphics fall somewhere between the quality of the awesome Forza Horizon 4 and the subpar recent release of GRID yet the weather effects are fantastic with storm clouds bringing in torrential rain as you drive and watching it splash on the camera is quite the sight.
With the world of Palm City being the most impressive aspect of Need for Speed Heat, second place goes to the day / night cycle. There is no 24 hour clock but you can choose to exit the garage during the day or at night then swap between them on some occasions. Racing in the day allows you take part in good old-fashioned legal racing events with the ultimate goal of earning cash while at night, the racing is underground and you're constantly at risk of cops chasing you. If you can evade them and complete a few races, you'll earn rep points which are used to level up and unlock more of the story. It's an interesting dynamic that provides a bit of structure but who really cares about the story in a racing game anyway?
Need for Speed Heat has a rep meter that increases as more cops chase you, earning you bonus rep the higher it goes. Cops can start chasing you as you're leisurely driving 150mph down country roads or if you're in the middle of a race which means that you'll be challenged with finishing a race while avoiding cops who are trying to take you out. Meanwhile, you'll try not to hit the motorists who are completely unaware that they just drove into a night-time street race.
These hazards make the races interesting but unfortunately, not interesting enough. The developers of the recent Need for Speed games also developed the Burnout series which is very highly regarded with the key element being the ability to take down other players by ramming them into things and earning points by doing so as well as getting into very risky situations. Some recent Need for Speed games also implemented this but there is no such system here and without there being any other new and exciting gameplay elements, you basically just get an average racer with the odd cop popping in to wreak a bit of havoc. There are a few different styles of racing such as time trial and drift-focused races but they're just not enough to keep me engaged for long.
Some other design choices also hamper the fun to be had such as making almost everything smashable with a slight touch from the front of your vehicle. I've taken down numerous oak trees and telephone poles without any effort. Heck, even the barriers that show you where to go in some of the races are dead easy to plough through but if you accidentally hit other random structures, you'll find that they won't budge. The only way to know what is made of paper and what is made of stone is to purposely hit it. This makes knowing how to turn a corner in tight races very tricky, especially if you're a reckless driver like me.
Another annoying part of Need for Speed Heat is hearing the chatter between cops. Why are they talking like they're in some childish school play? Aren't they professionals? Another thing is the fact that if you accidentally miss a checkpoint (which is surprisingly easy to do), there's no rewind or reset to checkpoint option meaning you often have to restart the race to have any chance of winning.
If you're a completionist, there's a ton to sink your teeth into here when it comes to collectibles such as billboards to smash, spray cans that grant you stickers, and speed traps and jumps to beat. Finding collectibles and completing missions rewards you with a wealth of car upgrades and customization that you can spend hours with to make your perfect machine.
Need for Speed Heat unfortunately doesn't support local multiplayer but it does have an online mode. Online seamlessly integrates with the same offline experience only real players are driving the streets. One advantage to this is that you can use it to your benefit as you watch cops chase a player with higher heat than you. So, if you're having trouble evading them (which I did about 50% of the time on normal difficulty), it might be a good choice. Even if you're not online, you'll be added to a crew automatically with other players and the better your buddies do, the more rewards you unlock such as rep and cash bonuses.
Need for Speed Heat boasts a large varied world and a cool gameplay twist with the addition of cops who are often on your tail. However, it doesn't do much else to stay interesting, making it just an average racer in a genre that has so much more to offer.
- + Packed game world is fun to race in
- + Plenty of collectibles
- + Interesting day / night cycle that changes the focus of each gaming session
- - Few stand-out gameplay elements
- - Lack of event variety
- - Random durability of scenery can be confusing while racing