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Need for Speed Hands-On Preview – Speed King

Could this be THE racing game this generation has needed?

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Need for Speed had its glory days on the PlayStation 2 with titles like Hot Pursuit 2 and Underground 2. Since then, the series hasn’t quite reached the heights of yore. This is about to change however with the upcoming self-titled Need for Speed. This game is taking everything that made the series great and distilling it to create one of the best racers of the year.

Before I rode out onto the streets, I had the chance to customize my car. Customizing is something the developers wanted to bring back but at the same time, didn’t want to make it too daunting for players. This was a demo build so we weren’t given full options of what we could customize, but I was able to change the color of the car, change the tint of the windows, and swap out different tires and hoods. Cars can be fine tuned as well to make them more “grippy” or more “drifty” via a slider. If you really want to, you can micromanage your car to the point where it handles exactly as you want.

After I finished setting up my Porsche, it was time to hit the road (literally). Scattered throughout the map were events that we could drive to and launch. The developers had some of us go to one specific event so that we could race each other along with some NPCs. As soon as the race started it felt like the classic Need for Speed that I remember. This was great since the old games, particularly Underground 2, has a nice balance of arcade and simulation controls. I picked the Porsche because it has good drifting; something that I was able to do nearly effortlessly as I raced.

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I noticed that no matter what type of race I participated in, whether it be a traditional one, head to head, or time attack, that there was always the possibility of the cops showing up. Being chased by and evading cops is a series staple so it needed to be introduced into the game. It may make the challenges a bit more difficult, but it adds a certain air of unpredictability that makes the game that much more exciting.

Like most games, you gain experience as you play. Need for Speed gives you experience points for driving fast, drifting, maintaining high speeds, and so on. You gain experience in five different areas (Speed, Style, Build, Crew, and Outlaw) but you do not need to focus on one particular area to gain experience overall. It’s set up this way so that players can play how they want and not feel obligated to change their playstyle just to gain XP in one field. The more experience you get, the more things that you can unlock for your car.

The one thing I need to bring up are the game’s graphics. When I saw the reveal trailer, I had a very hard time believing the “these are in-game graphics” disclaimer on the bottom of the screen. This generation has had very few “next-gen” looking games but this is definitely one of them. While I was racing, I was too focused on the race to admire the visuals, but whenever a race finished or when I saw others play, I was blown away by what I was looking at. This is going to be one of the best looking racing games of the year for sure.

I’ve been away from this franchise for a long time but I’m now ready to head back in. The fact that Need for Speed feels like an updated Underground 2 is what makes me the most excited since I absolutely love that game. With that said however, this is its own distinct racer and I think it will give fans of the genre what they’ve been missing this generation.

Need for Speed will be released on PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One on November 3rd.

About The Author
Tony Polanco Executive Editor
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