Need for Speed Payback is EA’s latest NFS game and Ghost Games’ third NFS game that they developed. I’ve never played Ghost Game’s NFS reboot or the NFS Rivals as the last NFS game I have played was Criterion Games’ Need for Speed Most Wanted which was very lackluster to say the least. Let’s see if this game reinvigorated the Need for Speed series.

Platform Reviewed: PS4
Platforms Available: PC, PS4, Xbox One
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Developer:  Ghost Games
Release Date: November 10, 2017
MSRP: $59.99
This review is based on a review code provided by Electronic Arts.

First thing that you will notice when you play the game is that your driver now has a name and a face. Whereas previous NFS games only had a faceless silent protagonist, we are now given with not one, not two but three walking, talking, driving protagonists. I like this new direction that they are taking and it makes the game feel more like an interactive movie game rather than just another racing game that you can play.

The three protagonists that we get introduced to are Tyler, Mac and Jess. These three characters each have a unique playstyle that is tied to the car they are driving. They come alive as they interact with each other, with their enemies and even have monologues which is basically commenting on how poorly or how awesome you drive as a player. It’s like your very own sounding board. They’re fun to have around and I like how they still motivate you should you encounter a bad turn in the game. It does make the game feel more alive even though you still don’t see a lot of people walking around in the streets but at least you get to see people at the starting line of each race.

As I mentioned earlier, each character has their specialty class that is tied to a specific car they are driving. There are five types of classes of cars each with a corresponding race type that they are used for. And each class is connected to one of the three characters. For Tyler, he drives Race cars and Drag cars. Race type cars are the ones used for the ever classic speed racing. They are built to be fast and quick enough to cut through that tight turn around the corner. Drag cars are built with high nitrous boosts and easily has the craziest speed among the cars.

Mac is known as the showman and it shows with the cars that he drives. Mac prefers Drift and Offroad cars. Drift cars are built to have great speed when it comes to the insane turns that drift racing has. Drifting is where you burn a lot of rubber as the car makes that turn leaving off tire smoke that would look especially cool if you apply visual customization on them. Offroad cars on the other hand are built for the rough terrain. Cruising and jumping off to the horizon, these cars are easily the best when it comes to long jumps and being able to recover during landing.

Jess may only have one type of car as preference which is the Runner but she has the heaviest of responsibilities out of the three of them. While Mac and Tyler are off competing in races, Jess has to serve as Uber driver to high profile people outrunning cops and rivals along the way. The Runner car has the best top speed among the car classes as it’s important if you want to outrun the cops.

Out of all the car classes and their corresponding missions, I truly enjoyed the Runner cars and the Runner type missions that I had to do. They are ones that I feel are the most intense as you race not just against the clock but against the cops as well. Along with the cops you will also have to avoid hazards like blockades and tire spikes, or just being cornered by the cops. It truly feels a lot like Need for Speed: Most Wanted, the original 2005 game.

Aside from the race missions there are also unique missions called the Blockbuster Missions. These missions involve the three protagonists and is usually the turning point in the game moving the story ever forward. They are called Blockbuster for a reason as the insane car chases that ensues are reminiscent of a blockbuster race car movie. One movie that comes to mind is The Fast and The Furious and I feel like that’s what influenced the game developers when they made this game. These missions are so intense and they are more similar to the Runner type missions but they are more elaborate and more action-packed. In these missions the control usually jumps from one character to the other making it feel like a relay race with cars involved. The way they did it is very entertaining that I always look forward to it when it comes around and I wish there more of this in the game and less of the races as this is where the game truly shines as a story mode.

That’s what I feel is frustrating about this game because for you to get to those Blockbuster missions you have to complete a series of race missions beforehand. What’s more frustrating is that it’s not just a single race type that you’ll have to complete. At the beginning it’s just two race types with about four to five races each but as the game progresses you will have to complete four to five race types before you get to a blockbuster mission. This is also where the game starts to become repetitive. Complete a race mission series. Complete another race mission series. Complete a blockbuster mission, rinse and repeat. Don’t get me wrong though the race missions provide a lot of variety as each race type are very different from each other. It’s just that I hope there were more Blockbuster missions in between race type missions rather than just one after a ton of race types. It impedes the fun and the joy that each Blockbuster mission brings.

Aside from the missions, the world is laden with a lot of activities that you can do regardless of the car you’re currently driving. But first, let’s get this disappointing thing regarding driving in the open world. You cannot switch drivers on the fly while you’re cruising around the open world. You can only switch drivers/cars before a race starts or if you go to the nearest warehouse. I was hoping they would take a cue from GTA V where you can switch characters on the fly. It would have been fun dropping in and out on the three characters and seeing where they have been driving. Instead, they are probably holed up inside the warehouse or riding shotgun in your car, and yet I never see them inside someone else’s car not unless during Blockbuster missions.

This also poses a problem when you want to upgrade a car before attempting a race but you’re not currently using the said car. You will have to go all the way back to the warehouse and then drive that car out so you can upgrade it by then. Thank goodness there’s fast travel and thankfully fast travelling to the warehouse is free. Also, it is possible to fast travel to tune-up shops where you can buy, sell or trade-in speed cards (which I will talk about later), for a fee. Another fast travel point are gas stations where you can fix up your car after a bumpy, car-wrecking race or just go back to the warehouse as your car gets instantly fixed without having to pay for fast travelling to a gas station. But still I would have wished switching were possible on the fly. It would have made the game have more freedom and would feel more accessible to players.

Now back to side activities, the world is laden with a lot of side activities that you will happen across just by driving on the streets. There are speed runs, speed traps, jumps, drift challenges and so much more. In fact there’s a lot that it eventually covers the whole map. It’s fun to do as they are like quick fixes whenever you have the need for speed. Completing these side activities awards you with money that you can use to buy speed cards, cars, car customizations andwarehouses. One distinct side activity that you can do is challenging roaming racers. Beating the roaming racers is as simple as making sure you are always ahead of them during the challenge. After you beat a set number of roaming racers, you will then have a chance to challenge their Street League boss.

Street Leagues are the various factions in the game that will challenge our players in races that they specialize in. You can challenge a Street League’s boss once you complete the series of race missions of that Street League or by beating the roaming racers as mentioned earlier. Beating the boss in the series race missions will give you clues for Derelict parts.

These car parts are hidden in the open world and all you have are location clues to their whereabouts. It was fun finding each of the car part and it feels like you’re trying to solve a puzzle. Finding the location is just the first step and once you get to the location that you think where the car part is located, you will then have to figure out how to get to the part. A signal will sound off which will tell you that the car part is nearby. The chassis is the easiest to find as they are only hidden at ground level. The other parts are found at elevated ground that you can only access by figuring out which ramp will take you to the car part’s location.

These Derelict parts start off as junk cars when you assemble them and you can assemble them to a specific class car you want. Once you’ve decided what class they are going to be, you will then have to complete various tasks to unlock parts customization. Also, once you’ve upgraded your Derelict car to performance level 300 you can then unlock the super build which will allow you to customize the car much further. Completing the tasks took awhile but I had fun seeing my cars become aesthetically beautiful as each rusty part gets replaced by elegant and shiny parts. They were truly cars of beauty that you’d be proud to show off on the streets. There are five Derelict cars to assemble each of which represent cars of elegance and beauty. One of them is the original Volkswagen Beetle 1963 car that I turned into a Drift car. It was such a sight to see! Good thing this game has a photomode which I can use to capture this beauty and share it to the world. If you’d like to make another copy of the Derelict car and build it into something else though, you just need to buy them off from the dealership stores.

Aside from Derelict clues, you can also win Speed Cards from race missions. Speed cards are Need for Speed’s way into making this game a true caRPG as EA would coin it. They are used to upgrade your car’s performance and components. Gone are the days of worrying what engine to get or what spoiler to use to get maximum speed. All you need to get now are speed cards. You can get speed cards whenever you win a race or you can buy them  from shops. You can also trade in your old speed cards for speed tokens which you can use to randomly get a speed card with a specific component, brand or attribute. There are six components that you can upgrade and if you match three or six brands of a component you get a bonus performance boost.

Completing race missions also earn you reputation points. You can also earn reputation points through the activities or just by doing tricks while you’re driving on the streets. Reputation points is your experience points in the game which levels up your Reputation. Each time you level up, you get awarded with a Base Shipment. Shipments are the game’s way of introducing you to lootboxes. Each Base Shipment will contain a random vanity item  to customize your smoke tires or horn sounds, money and speed tokens. On the other hand, if you want to get more vanity items and money quickly, you can always purchase a Premium Shipment for real money. If you also want more money in game, you can also search for casino chips scattered all over the place that will grant you money.

Once you’re done with the story mode and you feel like you’ve maxed out your cars that the challenges are races are no longer a match to you, you can head over online and challenge players real-time. There are two ways to enjoy playing online, casual speed lists and ranked speed lists. Casual speed lists are your no-frills no-hassle racing lists that pits you against up to seven players online. This is where the real race truly begins. Build your ultimate car and outrace the other drivers leaving them in the wake of your dust trail. Matchmaking still needs some fixing as I found myself being matchmade with players who were two tiers higher than me. Making me feel inferior with my puny build and just made the race unfair and depressing.

Overall, I can truly say that this game has breathed new life into the series. This is a true comeback for the series and Ghost Games has done such a good job providing lots of entertainment and fun with this game. Despite the shortcomings of the game, I have enjoyed my time while playing it and I hope that the series can continue on with the same kind of feel. It was such a rush in a good kind of way and I can’t wait to get the same kind of feeling in the next installment.

Image Source: EA

8.5
Great
Need For Speed: Payback - Review
Score Definition
When the issues of a game are rolled and stomped by its greatness, then it’s something to invest on if you have some spare.
Pros
CaRPG
A plethora of activities and missions
Great cars and awesome customization
The real The Fast and The Furious game
Cons
Can get repetitive
Can't switch characters on the go
Fix Matchmaking please!