0 0
Read Time:6 Minute, 7 Second

’Need for Speed Unbound’ Review: A Spunky Ride That Needs an Oil Change

Need for Speed Unbound - screen 1

Ten years later, Criterion Games leads another Need for Speed entry to hopefully reinvigorate the series. But old tricks and a fresh style aren’t everything…

 

After several years of middling Need for Speed entries, the jump from Ghost Games (now EA Gothenburg) to Criterion Games (makers of Burnout and two strong NFS installments) was received with open arms. The veteran studio has always had a knack for raw and sharp driving experiences, lending its talents to recent Battlefield entries and Star Wars Battlefront II (2017) as well. It’s been a bit sad to see such an explosive group of devs relegated to “support duties” in recent times, so taking over the Need for Speed series for the first time since 2012’s Most Wanted was a huge opportunity for them to regain much of EA’s confidence in the studio.

 

While Unbound definitely feels and plays like the most robust NFS in years, and sports a striking visual style that sets it apart from the competition, the machinery under the hood needs further tinkering or, even better, a full-blown overhaul…

 

Need for Speed Unbound - screen 2

 

Need for Speed Unbound takes players to Lakeshore City, which is loosely based on Chicago and contains more than enough streets, highways, and country roads to race on. Open-world ain’t going nowhere, borrowing from past entries and behemoths of the genre such as the Forza Horizon series to fill the map with all kinds of races, challenges, and secondary tasks. One will get their money’s worth with Unbound for sure, but its world and the activities found within don’t bring anything new to the table, so most of the game’s personality resides elsewhere.

 

Criterion’s biggest achievement with this installment might be the game’s single-player structure, which embraces the day-night design of NFS Heat while making each half of each day more unpredictable and unique. As you progress through the calendar, the goal is to grind enough cash to be ready for major story-related events. The catch? Cops are on the hunt and will grow in numbers and ferocity the more activities you participate in. Big risk, big reward. If you’re caught, you can kiss a huge chunk of your hard-earned money bye bye. Even though police chases typically happen after races (or while traversing the open-world), cops also have a habit of breaking into the competitions, making for chaotic races that often are among the series’ best.

 

Need for Speed Unbound - screen 3

 

Despite some early dramatic promise that goes beyond the usual street-racing angle, the story in Unbound quickly becomes an excuse to keep new events coming in. That isn’t an issue in and of itself, but overabundant, frequently cringy dialogues and characterization take over entire activities and much of the open-world driving, and you’ll often find yourself more annoyed and/or stressed by the (cartoon-looking) characters than the actual game.

 

Of course, the “make or break” part of any racing game is the quality of its driving mechanics and the available customization. The latter, while far from the meaty offerings found in the heavy hitters of the genre, is completely fine and gets the job done; moreover, tuning setups and visual glow-ups can be shared with other players. Unfortunately, the driving never feels quite right, and while this sentiment may be linked to each individual player’s preferences, I believe Need for Speed Unbound doesn’t fully come together as an arcade racer nor a more simulation-oriented game. Handling can be switched from drift to grip-based, making for a more natural experience in specific car setups. However, there’s always the weird feeling of “something” muddling the connection between the player and the car itself. As you climb up the ranks and upgrade your rides, things are improved, but there’s something inherently wrong about the driving physics and/or how the entire system has been built and updated for years.

 

Races, on normal difficulty, are quite competitive most of the time (the game nails the feeling of being an underdog taking small steps), so it’s sad to on top of a situation only to lose several positions because of, for example, a sluggish turn that doesn’t reflect a more aggressive input, or the entire car going crazy for two seconds because of a nitro-boosted jump-and-land that was absolutely fine. Again, improving stats and toying with different parts definitely helps, but driving any kind of car never feels wrong in other games, no matter how slow and mundane they are. In NFS Unbound, you may feel the urge to jump to another racing title before you adjust to its peculiar behavior.

 

Need for Speed Unbound - screen 4

 

The competition can take place online too, though that alternative lacks the most interesting chunks of the game, which reside in the single-player portion that I described. Regardless, NFS Unbound works smoothly across all its sections, with minimal connection problems and quick load times. And that level of polish also extends to the overall presentation, which marks a strong entrance into current-gen hardware (PS4 and Xbox One versions aren’t available) with gorgeous lighting and rendering of materials, all while hitting 60 FPS on all platforms. Even the Series S version of the game, which unsurprisingly aims for a lower resolution target, looks pristine and runs great. While I suspect much of the game’s overall jankiness has to do with Frostbite (an engine originally designed for FPS games by DICE), it can’t be denied that it remains a remarkable piece of technology when used by veterans. Whether you’re okay with the off-beat cartoony elements added to the mix, which undoubtedly give Unbound a special visual flavor, depends on your tolerance for experimentation.

 

That flavor also impregnates the customization of player characters, who are treated with nearly as much importance as their rides. And last but not least, there’s a big roster of artists who lent their voices to be heard as part of the game’s street-level soundtrack, which might push you away or reel you in with as much strength as its cheeky visuals and histrionic narrative.

 

Need for Speed Unbound - screen 5

 

All in all, it’s abundantly clear that Criterion has found success putting out a solid Need for Speed entry in less than ideal circumstances (the bulk of its development has taken place during the pandemic), and highlighting a desire for experimentation. On the not-so-good side of things, the core gameplay loop and driving mechanics remain too familiar and rigid to truly consider Unbound a major step in the right direction, especially in such a highly competitive ecosystem of racing games.

 

Need for Speed Unbound is now available on PC (Origin, Steam, and Epic Games Store), PS5, and Xbox Series X/S.

 

Thanks to EA (publisher) and fortyseven communications for the Xbox review code.

 

 

Happy
Happy
0 %
Sad
Sad
0 %
Excited
Excited
0 %
Sleepy
Sleepy
0 %
Angry
Angry
0 %
Surprise
Surprise
0 %

Average Rating

5 Star
0%
4 Star
0%
3 Star
0%
2 Star
0%
1 Star
0%

Dodaj komentarz

Twój adres e-mail nie zostanie opublikowany. Wymagane pola są oznaczone *