IGN’s review sums up exactly how I feel about Need for Speed: Payback. It takes a step forward and two steps back. I cannot come close to understanding why EA would make a game about customizing and racing cars like a mobile app. Need for Speed: No Limits is excusable because it is a mobile game, but this? This is a huge slap in the face to both car culture enthusiasts and NFS loyalists alike.
I love Need for Speed, especially the Underground arc. Carbon was great and The Run, while different, still had a driving plot and premise, and who can deny the ground breaking games; Most Wanted and Underground 1 and 2. This game, however, is like picking an old man up and then beating him upside the head.
This isn’t going to be a review because I’m afraid I won’t be able to keep my personal opinions out of what should be an unbiased post. I’ll simply be expressing why I believe this game is a disservice to the franchise. With that in mind, let’s talk games.
The Return to Underground Roots
Let’s go back in time for a bit. Much like Call of Duty did with WWII, Need for Speed 2015 tried it’s best to revive the Underground theme from the PS2 days. No longer were there baseless races with limited to no customization. After taking a year off, Need for Speed was bringing the Underground era to the next generation. What we got was less of a crown achievement and more of a lackluster attempt that, although appreciated, fell extremely short of expectations.
Let’s start with what NFS 2015 got right.
Comparing the next gen Underground game to Most Wanted or Carbon, NFS 2015 looked magnificent. The cars, the world; everything looked as it should. The details in the game were incredible. The droplets of rain as they ran down the side of my cars added a level of realism that increased the depth of the game.
They way mods worked in the game were fantastic in my opinion. Everything had a purpose. Tires, brakes, turbos; the various modifications dramatically altered the way your car drove. Obviously, the game was built around drifting, so grip and drag modifications were more of a hindrance for your car than an upgrade. My only complaint is the RX-7, which has a rotary engine and thus cannot have head or bock modifications. Other than that, everything is incredibly detailed. The player knew what each part did and which part was best for his or her driving style.
Real Life Legends
Probably the biggest addition to an aging franchise were the real world personalities appearing in the game. Ken Block, Magnus Walker, Akira Nakai; real world legends of the car culture appeared in NFS 2015. This added a level of authenticity to the game. You could race side by side real life people who have influenced the car culture greatly.
As for what the game got wrong, I honestly don’t want to make this a long post. Between the limited body modifications, the decal debacle, the incredibly bad rubber-banding, and the abysmal handling, we could be here all day. I’ve already talked about Need for Speed 2015 in a previous post, so feel free to read it here.
Need for Speed 2015 wasn’t great. By all means it wasn’t very good either. But, it was a step in the right direction. This game felt like the developers were trying to create something that would resound amounts gamers and car enthusiasts alike. Need for Speed: Payback should have been another logical step in the right direction. Unfortunately, it wasn’t.
Big Bad Wolf; EA
Everything NFS 2015 got right was blown over almost immediately by EA. Taking a page from the Fast and Furious book, Payback tries to be an action driving game with the same customization and detail of the previous game. Unfortunately, if feels worse than NFS 2015.
That’s not to say the entire game was bad. Customizing cars is as extensive and detailed as ever. Unlike NFS 2015, there are more body modifications offered in Payback, and you can really make your car your own. The police take downs are also a welcome addition, reminding me of the Burnout games of old. The map is huge, and the terrain varies, adding another dimension to the traditional racer. The handling in this game is also improved, and the game is also no longer online-only.
Unfortunately, this is where the positives end. The graphics feel a lot more blocky than the previous game, and the cars look less sharp. The world looks good, but it’s still just as dull and empty as the one from 2015. The story is only slightly better than the one from 2015, but given the bad voice acting and total lack of enthusiasm from the main character, I’d rather have the cheesy dialogue of NFS 2015 back. The fact that they’re trying to milk the remains of the Fast and The Furious movies isn’t helping, as those movies are also running on fumes.
Payback tries to mimic GTA:V by including three playable characters. Unfortunately, there isn’t enough variation between the three to work as well as the system did in GTA. The police chases, although much better than they were in the previous game, are linear and structured, taking away the thrill of the chase. The entire game feels lackluster, like it only fixed the biggest issues of the previous game at the cost of ruining other things.
The biggest problem in the game is the modification and tuning. There is none. Whereas in 2015 everything was explained and each part had a purpose, here, you get a run of the mill rpg upgrade system via speed cards. Basically, you earn or buy cards that level up a certain part of you car. You can’t even get the ones you want, you have to “win” them by chance.
What? How does the exhaust aid in jumps? Where is the deep level of customization an tuning? Where are the different variations of the same part that alter drivabilty? Where are the individual parts we can tweak to perfect our ride? Why the f*** do you need speed points?
GOD F****** DAMN IT!
EA took a another game and added their stupid microtransactions. Not only did they add them to the game, they built the game around microtransactions. Why? Are you that broke that you need to steal from me? From other players? How about you allow your developers to create a competent game before shoving your god damn rip offs down out throats! You SOLD us a game with s**** gameplay, a s**** story, and s**** tuning. The only redemption you have is the handling and customization, and if that’s the case, I rather go back to playing Underground 2 on my PS2.
Bottom line, I regret buying this game. I regret giving my money to EA for a mediocre game. I gave them $80 that I could have used to modify my real life car. Instead if a fun experience on my down time, I got a poor excuse of a game and a slap in the face from EA.
Guys, this is probably better for another post for another time, but seeing the way Need for Speed: Payback is built around these Speed Cards, I’m confident that the reason why the game is so bad is because of EA. Overall, without the microtransactions, this game is maybe a 5 for me, and that’s not even taking into account the stupid upgrade system. With the microtransactions, the game gets personal rating of 2, equivalent to a mobile game.
As I stated before, this is all personal opinion. I love Need for Speed as it used to be the go to game to live your fantasy of tuning and racing cars like nowhere else. Hopefully, with all the heat EA is receiving from Battlefront II fans, they’ll reconsider their shady tactics and allow the developers to create a true sequel to Need for Speed 2015; a game that can stand next to Most Wanted and the Underground games with pride. If not, then the only other game I can look forward to for an underground feel is The Crew 2. If the rumors are true then maybe Rockstar will reboot the Midnight Club title as well. If they do, then they will probably make the racing game fans have been starving for.
Either way, I am truly disappointed with Need for Speed: Payback, but that’s just my opinion. If you agree, or have another view about this game, feel free to comment below. If you wan’t to read about my opinions on both Need for Speed 2015 and a possible Midnight Club reboot, please see my posts Back in the Driver’s Seat and Midnight Club Reboot?. Remember to follow and share and like us on Facebook.
As always, have a great day.