Thursday, 21 May 2015

21st Need For Speed Game will be Fast, Furious and Stylish [UPDATED]

If you had your childhood in the '90s or later and/or have loved cars at any time in your life, chances are you've played Need For Speed games at some point. My first one was Need For Speed II (not the "SE" version) back in 1997 when it was new, and I stayed loyal to the series right up until NFS SHIFT left a sour taste in my mouth and I became disillusioned once and for all. The only one I've bought since then was the third Hot Pursuit (2010) and that had been made disappointingly idiot proof compared to the older Hot Pursuit titles. There have been a lot of different ideas for what direction the series should take since the simple original title landed in 1994, courtesy of Electronic Arts and Road & Track magazine in the USA. Supercars, modified cars, modified supercars, police chases, street racing, Japanese touge, drifting, mixtures of a few of those, attempts to encompass every car "scene" and tarmac racing discipline at once, packaged as something arcade-y or as a serious simulator or somewhere in-between, all these ideas have been tried and not all have worked particularly well... and then they went and released a shit movie with the same name and branding. I still refuse to watch the full film. It will just piss me off.

In the intervening 18 months since NFS: Rivals, the 20th full title, Swedish/British developers Ghost Games have been busying themselves with the next full installment in what must surely by now be the longest-running video game series of all (unless they're still stringing out Final Fantasy or something). We'll see a lot more of it in a month's time, but for now we have a teaser trailer, some development screenshots and a blurb from their website:

With over 20 years of history in its rear view mirror, Need for Speed™ returns with a reboot that delivers on what Need for Speed stands for - rich customization, authentic urban car culture, a nocturnal open world, and an immersive narrative that drives your NFS game.

Fuelled by our very own car culture community, Speedhunters has helped deliver a NFS experience that is grounded in authentic car culture by diving into the world of past, present and emergent trends of the urban car scene. NFS will unleash the passion for cars when it releases this Autumn, 2015.

So there's that.

The Speedhunters connection explains the RWB Porsche, Rocket Bunny BRZ and Vaughn Gittin Jr-style Mustang seen so far. Something I only found out today is that the major car culture blog was actually launched by EA as an extension of the series, so their collaboration now makes total sense. They also like things that are very fast and/or elaborately customised, which is very NFS. We will see a lot more about the customisation function in this new game - seemingly just titled Need For Speed, in the style of the 4th Fast & Furious film - on 15th June, but SH promises "real world, well... everything," as well as lots of behind-the-scenes posts in the build up to the game's release a few months from now.

I'm actually rather intrigued by all this, as a reader of theirs and a former NFS fan. Can game number 21 really be a major hit? Will it be a more legit, slightly less cartoonish version of the early-2000s Underground titles? Will it try to be a serious sim or an accessible arcade fest? Given the long and varied history, it could still go any number of ways, even with the style apparently being confirmed as nocturnal street racing... with style. Look out for more info the day after Le Mans. If you're still awake after watching Le Mans ;-)

UPDATE (30/5): There has been a small leak of information (found via Carscoops) since this post was published.

XBox Store recently put a post up previewing the game, with a few snapshots and some info, which reads thusly:

Discover the nocturnal open world of urban car culture, driven by 5 unique ways to play and win, in this thrilling reboot of Need For Speed. Carve your own unique path, via multiple overlapping stories, gaining reputation on your journey to become the ultimate icon.

> Rich Authentic Customization: Build a car that reflects your character through extensive visual & performance customization.

> Five Ways to Play: NFS returns with five unique ways to play - Speed, Style, Build, Crew and Outlaw - enabling you to earn reputation and ultimately win your way.

> West Coast Urban Setting: Discover a nocturnal open world of urban car culture you never knew existed. Ventura Bay is your [fictional] urban playground; from downtown, the harbour and the canyons, the city comes alive while others sleep.

So there's that. One sure-fire way to add replay value is to offer multiple paths through the game, something we've seen in NFS before. Hopefully it will be worth playing over and over. The release date is currently set at 3rd November.