Developer Ghost Games brings the next title in their arcade racer series in the form of Need for Speed Payback, which provides a cinematic high-octane experience in an open-world Las Vegas-esque city, but does it really feel the need for speed?
Immediately as you begin the game, you’re thrown into the action and behind the wheel of the three protagonists of the game: Tyler Morgan – one of the best street racers in the city, Sean McAlister – a brit living the American dream and Jessica Miller – the ‘runner’ of the crew who helps the others get out of sticky situations. It’s not long before the three of them get involved in the biggest heist of their lives involving stealing the fastest hypercar available, only for them to get double-crossed. Fast forward six months later and Tyler is wanting revenge on the one who crossed him and his crew, but to do that, he has to start from the bottom.
This is a cinematic experience, so throughout the story, you’ll be switching back and forth between the three characters, sometimes even mid-race, uncovering more to the story as Tyler works his way up through the ranks of Fortune Valley – this game’s Vegas style city. There’s races and time trials all woven into the story, however there is an open world map that gets unlocked once you’ve completed enough of the missions.
It’s clear that the developer has taken pointers from various games and blended them altogether. Which is all well and it’s cool that developers can learn from other developers, but it just seems like this title throws in the best of a bunch of games and made it their own. You’ve got billboards scattered about the city that you can find and smash through, not to mention drift zones and speed traps, all offering between 1 and 3 stars, dependant on the criteria for that specific zone/ trap – all akin to the Forza Horizon titles. The open world and ‘revenge’ style story is similar to The Crew, not to mention that you take control of three characters – Grand Theft Auto V anyone?
Nevertheless, this still is its own game in its own right. After all, there’s plenty of police chases to be had within Payback’s story – and Need for Speed has been including these before any other races from what I can remember. The police chases are probably the highlight of this game, requiring you to avoid storms of police cars and traps. Police have their own health bars so you can see how far off you are from smashing them out of play, and believe me, it’s a tonne of fun watching them get wrecked in slow motion.
This wouldn’t be a Need for Speed game without the tune-ups, after all this is a game about becoming better and faster. And so, as you gradually progress through the story, you’ll unlock various shops and places you can visit to upgrade and buy new cars. But the main guy you’ll be visiting is Rav Chaudhry, a mechanic in the middle of the desert who can tune up just about anything for you.
Fortune Valley itself is a vibrant world full of unique characters, with the main protagonists and antagonists likened by their actual self. I noticed the character of Lina Navarro instantly and recognised her from the TV show The Expanse, which prompted me to do some research and lo and behold the characters all look like the actors who play them, which is a nice touch. There’s plenty of traffic to give you that sense of illegality when racing through the streets, having to weave in and out of the traffic. Although there are plenty of nice locations with similar landmarks that represent Las Vegas, it’s all too easy to miss considering you’ll be boosting through the races and map most of the time, but if you stop to take a look around, you’ll notice how much depth has gone into creating this world.
The major downfall is the inability to change the difficulty mid-race. I was having difficulty early on in winning a race, and you have to win the race in order to progress, however I was playing the game on the hardest difficulty and needed to drop a level in order to win the race as I wasn’t having any luck. The problem was that you cannot actually change the difficulty unless you’re in the open world. Must have been close to 15 or so attempts before I just won, and then immediately dropped the difficulty as soon as I could. Not a game changer, but a major nuisance.
Overall, Need for Speed Payback is a mash-up inspired from other games, some instances they’re not even trying to hide the fact their doing it, but essentially the story feels like it’s thrown right out of a Fast and Furious movie, which to be fair, there aren’t many ways you can create a story involving drag racing that hasn’t been done before. If you’re a fan of Need for Speed, you’ll feel at home and is definitely a step up from the last outing, however it just doesn’t seem as good as what the series used to be.
Need for Speed Payback is available to purchase from retailers or can be downloaded from the Xbox Store, priced at £59.99.
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Need for Speed Payback improves slightly from the last outing, taking elements from other games whilst keeping the thrill of police chases through a cinematic story experience about revenge.