“From the windooooooooooow, to the wall” is repeating over and over in my head as I roll around Palm City at night, feeling like Vin Diesel on a good day. I picked the Mustang as my first car in Need for Speed Heat; how could I pick anything else? The engine sounds meaty, flames spit out of my exhausts as I drift round corners and the cops are desperately trying to catch up with me and my monster.
There are two types of racing game players: those who like to spend hours under the hood, fine tuning their drive train so they can get the maximum intake out of their ojamaflip, and those who like to race pretty cars at very high speeds and pretend to be Domonic Turetto. I’m definitely a Turetto and that’s why these kinds of Need for Speed games have always appealed to me.
Ghost Games are really trying to capture the magic of NfS Underground with Heat’s heavy leaning towards the illegal street racing scene. You have some expectations of what a story in that setting entails, even if story is really tertiary in racing games. In Heat you pick your own character from a line up of twelve possible avatars, who randomly walks into all around nice guy Lucas’ garage, you know, just on the off chance he can sell you a race car. He gives you one on the cheap and takes you to your first race, but before you know it, you’re linking up with his sister, Ana, who just so happens to have a bit of a reputation around Palm City. Queue fun and games on the illegal street racing circuit.
Lucas and Ana are fine, but I soon found myself getting annoyed with everyone else. Most of all, the absudly nasty police force. They are real assholes! One scene plays out where a cop turns up and impounds Ana’s car because it was reported to be involved in an illegal night race. He then proceeds to verbally bully both you and Ana till he’s had his fill and saunters off. I honestly didn’t know what to make of the scene. It was either highly unrealistic or poorly written. Maybe both.
Like I said though, the story is tertiary and the main meat is definitely in the racing.
Palm City is open for you to drive around, take in the sights and get involved in some high end racing in your fancy car. This is all divided between night and day. Day time driving is all above board, with sanctioned races to earn you some top dollar, while night time driving is where you step outside the law and earn Rep. Rep is important as most car parts and new models of cars are locked behind Rep levels. So if you want that flashy BMW, you’re going to have to risk racing at night.
Earning Rep is as simple as taking part in night time races, but being unsanctioned and illegal, you’re racing on street circuits with no set layouts, hurtling down busy roads and with cops looking to sniff out races and chase you down. Each race earns you bankable Rep points which get multiplied at the end of the night based on your Heat level, but the higher your Heat, the more cops you will have to avoid to get back to a safe house, and the more aggressively they will pursue you. If you get caught, you lose all of your Heat levels for that evening as well as losing a portion of your cash. It’s horrible.
you lose all of your Heat levels for that evening as well as losing a portion of your cash.
I found this happening to me a lot during my first few runs, as my car was just not good enough to outrun them. After being a little thrifty with my cash, and clever with my night time escapades, I was able to save enough to unlock my first load of performance upgrades which helped a lot. It wasn’t long before I was able to switch back to day time, visit the dealership and buy that Honda Civic I’d been eyeing up. My career was starting to take shape.
Day time racing is a pretty peaceful affair in comparison. Everything is bright and sunny, the soundtrack switches to something a little more upbeat and you have the freedom to explore without the rozzers hassling you. It’s best for hitting up the many collectables on offer. Now, I did groan very loudly when I saw there were collectables, but as it turns out, they are not intrusive and do serve as a fun distraction from hard racing. You might even complete a bunch of them by accident! There are billboards to smash, speed traps to hit and drift zones to conquer, to name a few. Completing all activities in an area unlocks new customisations for your car, and there’s street art painted in various locations, which you can drive up to and add to your library of decals.
You are going to spend a lot of time customising some of the 127 cars on offer. Boosting performance has been made a fair bit simpler, while still letting you tune your vehicle for different types of races, terrain or weather. You can also add gadgets to you car to help with varying situations. For instance, you can purchase a Nitrous Refill which can boost the engine output or a Kill Switch Jammer to stop the Five-O from using Kill Switches on you in chases. I’m currently using a Radar Disruptor which interferes with Police radars to make it harder for them to find me.
The actual look of your car is where it’s at though, right? NFS has always been good at providing a robust customisation system and it shows no sign of aging. You can create some really true works of art in the extensive customisation tool, but if you can quite decide what to put on your car, there’s a handy tab which shows user creations which you can just download. Quick and simple.
It wouldn’t be an EA title without some online features being horseshoed in. Thankfully, it’s not online only, because that would really suck. Heat heavily promotes the Crew feature, in which you team up with up to 32 players to earn Rep and cash bonuses as a collective. The great thing is, you don’t really have to do anything. It’s all based on your crew’s combined Rep, so as long as everyone playing, you’ll get some great bonuses. You can also claim crew leadership once you hit 50k rep, but I have yet to see what that does. Even better, you automatically get placed in a starter crew without having to do anything, though if it’s an area that you care little for, you can just leave it. There is a benefit to sticking around though in the form of a very expensive car you can unlock.
Running on a PS4 Pro, Heat is runs smoothly and is gorgeous to look at, especially at night, and especially in the rain. Oooooof, the rain. All this accompanied by a really good sound track gives you exactly everything you want from the scene. Pumping sounds and roaring engines.
Need for Speed Heat tries to be all things to all NfS fans, whether you want to team up with friends (or be forced to make friends) or go it alone, customise your cars to the Nth degree or just bolt on performance upgrades when you need them, whether you prefer racing at night or day. That could be pretty messy, but as I race toward pinning a score on a review, I’m having fun with Need for Speed Heat so far.