Need for Speed: Heat Review
One of the greatest racing franchises to ever grace our consoles, Need for Speed has become synonymous with outlaw racing. Known for putting you in high-speed, adrenaline-fueled pursuits and providing creative opportunities to wreck police cruisers, Need for Speed has developed a reputation of being very entertaining without taking itself too seriously. Some recent titles garnered less praise than usual, but with the latest installment, Need for Speed: Heat, being released last week, the series had a chance to remind us all just what it is capable of. Can NfS: Heat reignite the excitement of the franchise’s early days? Let’s take a look!
From the get-go, it is quite clear that Need for Speed: Heat intends to up the pace of the racing game genre. The pseudo-tutorial puts you directly into the thick of underground street racing, and as to not provide any spoilers, let me just say it gives you but a taste of what is to come.
When it comes time to choose your character, it is slightly disappointing to realize you have but a dozen pre-determined racers to choose from – at least until you realize that you’ll spend a solid 95% of your time in this game behind the wheel, so it doesn’t make a lick of difference what your driver looks like.
Hopping into your starter car (you’ll have to select one of three options but fret not – you will be able to unlock the others before long), you will be fairly well guided into learning the basic mechanics of the game, which will come quite naturally to most players.
One of the core concepts of the game is the duality between day and night driving. Night racing earns you rep, which is how you level up and unlock additional cars, parts, races and collectible – but you can only cash in on this rep by safely arriving back in your garage.
While chaining together multiple races in one night will increase your rep gain multiplier, it will also increase police presence by upping the Heat Level. Keep in mind that if the cops bust you, you will lose a significant part of your rep gain, and your multiplier will reset. This will also end your night immediately. Finding the balance between boosting your rep multiplier and eluding arrest and cashing in on your rep is key to successful nighttime racing.
Daytime racing will earn you cash, allowing you to buy your newly unlocked cars and parts. The devs behind Need for Speed: Heat have made it easier than ever to tune your car to your racing style by providing you with a quick and easy grid by which you can gauge how your car will drive.
Like to take unofficial short cuts? Consider tuning your car slightly towards off-road racing. Looking for some more oversteer? Better buy some parts focused on drifting. As the parts become more advanced, they will often combine focuses, allowing you to create a very balanced or singularly focused ride.
Going back to police chases, you will quickly learn that the nighttime pursuits are nothing to scoff at, especially at higher heat levels. To this end, I highly recommend planning your route carefully after each race and do not forget to equip helpful passive and active auxiliary items to your car as they can really help in a pinch.
One of the drawbacks to Need for Speed: Heat is the staggered unlock of collectibles. At an early rep level, I spent about 20 minutes driving around one area attempting to collect everything until finally giving up, only to realize later that I had not yet even unlocked the capability to see and collect certain activities in the world. My advice is to not focus on these completionist tasks until you are well into the game.
Another, albeit very subjective, issue I found with Heat was the soundtrack. The songs are repetitive and do not have the same pump-up factor that I am used to from my NfS games. While I acknowledge that music is one of the most subjective areas of any game, it is something to beware of if you are one of those people who focuses heavily on game soundtracks.
I must say that, overall, I was taken aback by how much fun I had with this game. Easily the best NfS game in many years, the constant upgrading of cars and parts, tuning your ride exactly how you want and then eventually dedicating different cars to different race types as well as the ebb and flow of night racing and pursuits vs daytime racing and storyline progression has kept me thoroughly engaged with Need for Speed: Heat, and it likely will for a long time to come. If you are a fan of the genre whatsoever, this game is well worth your time and money.
Learn more about Need for Speed: Heat here.