Published on November 18th, 2019 | by Daniel
NFS Heat PS4 Review
Summary: NFS Heat is a great attempt to return to ye old form of previous titles. A strong foundation to build upon
Return to Form?
NFS Heat is set in beautiful Palm City, a large picturesque city with rolling hills, sandy beaches, gorgeous views and legal street racing. It’s here that drivers come from all over the world to compete in Showdowns. Legally sanctioned street races throughout the city. But come night time, the quiet city comes alive with the city’s most daring. Legal turns to illegal as racers take part in some insane races. Cops are out in force and will do anything to stop you. You’ve come for a slice of some hot action, but can you take the Heat? Strap in and lets find out!
The game first gives you a brief tutorial level playing as one of Ana’s crewmates whos’ race is interrupted by a bunch of tough cops and is subsequently nearly killed and quits the racing scene as a result. Then you, the player have come to Palm City after learning about these Showdown events. A news bulletin shows that police have formed a new High Speed Task Force. After meeting Lucas Rivera, a local mechanic and retired street racer and purchasing a tuned up car from him. You head out to get a taste of what the racing events are all about. After winning and attempting to buy NOS from a local supplier the player meets Ana Rivera and competes in another race to earn the NOS.
It’s here the player learns that the races by day, earn the cash to buy new parts. But the races by night, earn you the reputation suppliers want in order to unlock these parts. And so ensues the main focus of the game. Earn cash by day, earn rep by night. There’s a story mode as well, that basically pits you and Ana against the HSTF Police unit in a bid to keep street racing alive and race freely.
NFS Heat plays much like its predecessors, arcadey and fast. I can’t really compare it to other series in it’s class however as most of its direct competition has moved on to different things. However if you’re familiar with previous titles in the series you’ll already know the controls. The only major difference to controls is the drift to turn mechanics. The Most Wanted spiritual remake brought in a drift to turn mechanic that allowed you to keep most of your speed in some types of tighter turns by drifting instead of breaking.
Palm City, beautiful, picturesque by day and downright dangerous by night
This was done by a flick of the break button while accelerating around a corner. In Heat however, the controls have changed to the same as your acceleration button. Just let go of the trigger or button briefly before reapplying quickly for the drifting mechanic to kick in. I found this a little tricky to get used to at first, but after a while it became a little easier to work with than the previous method.
I’m probably about waist deep in the story at this point and I’m finding it okay. It’s no true spiritual successor to Underground for me, but it’s by far an improvement on Payback and the 2015 self titled entry. The characters are pretty generic. Evil hardcore cop boss, sinister no holes barred underling, and go by the books, words of reason cop. Versus, young fiery Latino racer girl, smarter, kinder, responsibilities got in my way older brother and then there’s you, a pre -rendered fully customisable rookie looking to make a name for himself/herself. It’s a bit cheesy at times but it has a bit of heart to it.
Some mechanics I really did enjoy; the split between cash by day and rep by night. It gives meaning to both times of day and also makes sense from a story narrative point of view. The game world is pretty darn big, the landscape too is gorgeous. There’s really all types of road surfaces and you can definitely feel the difference if you’re stupid or ballsy enough to try driving a road car on the dirt roads.
There is Heaps of customisation in this game. Front/rear bumpers, skirts, diffusers, lights, neons, fenders, spoilers, wheels, brake discs, calipers, number plates, exhaust, window tint, bonnets, wing mirrors, paints, vinyls, decals, even the sound of your exhaust. Yes, you heard me right. You can make your car sound meatier and meaner by tweaking the settings on your custom exhaust. Even down to your characters hair and clothes. Yes one would come to expect a certain degree of character cusomisation in video games but I don’t think Need for Speed has done it before Heat.
Naturally though, I have some issues with Heat. Firstly, for such an open world game, it feels really empty. Like there’s traffic and all, but there’s really not a lot. For a world that presents its’ own layout a little like Queensland’s Surfer’s Paradise mixed with Victoira’s own Olinda areas, there should be a lot more traffic. Now that’s not necessarily a bad thing, because traffic in racing games can be a nightmare. But the traffic also seems to have prediction algorithms because they stop in the middle of the road long before you’re anywhere near them, giving you plenty of time to avoid collisions. I found myself almost missing the odd crash at times.
But I digress, the games’ emptiness doesn’t stop there. Outside of racing, there’s not a whole lot to do, some drifting challenges, jumps, billboards to destroy, street art to collects and speedtraps to beat. Which is great, but its not a lot of content. Once the main game is done, is just a matter of free roaming until you’ve done all the collectables.
The limited repair option at night, is a double edged sword. It’s great once you get the hang of things, because it adds a bit of a challenge to the ever vigilant and relentless police chasing you during pursuits. But get caught off guard and you can get yourself busted pretty easily. And let me tell you, the game punishes you hard for getting busted. And when I say relentless I mean it, the cops are exactly that, they will pursue you like their lives depend on it.
Even after an escape, they will patrol your last known area and reengage if they find you again. As you complete activities in the night and your heat goes up, so too does the police presence, making each subsequent race more and more risky. It’s a knife’s edge and is done incredibly well. Of course you can play it safe and end the night early to bank what you’ve earned if you’re worried, sometimes I did myself. But of course it’s a lot less satisfying that way. Pursuits can be done during the day also, but your heat resets after escaping. Amusingly though, doing a burnout right next to a cop isn’t considered aggressive.
Graphically NFS Heat is gorgeous, Palm City is broken up into three distinct districts and everything else in between; a suburban coastal metropolis, a industrial port and an off road beach town, everything else in between is forest, plateau and bushland. That being said, due to the online nature of the game, some things in the games’ world can take time to render as it loads everything else around you.
Car graphics are amazing, the level of detail is immensely accurate. Customisation is really good, there are a lot of options to choose from and while there’s no wide body kits like its predecessors, various parts form a set and thus come close to a wide body kit. Vinyls and decals are extensive, I’ve seen some amazing community designs, people making characters from anime and games using just the shapes provided. The talent in some of the designs are amazing. Of course I’ve seen some terrible and down right wrong designs. But the level of freedom in them is encouraging and I really enjoyed dabbling in making my own designs.
I do like the damage physics in the game too, split into the four major categories of damage. This means at each stage of damage you can clearly see how wrecked your car is. Realism is still out the window, because even the hardest impact from a head on collision isn’t enough to seriously damage your ride. But for an arcade racer this is exactly the right step. I’m just glad I don’t have to repair my car after every race anymore just for cosmetic damage.
The addition of slightly dynamic weather is great too. I say slightly because it likes to rain a lot. Need for Speed has had some sort of obsession with wet roads and cars since the 2015 self titled installment. Now that’s not so bad when it’s done as well as it has been. But it gets a little repetitive.
The sun reflecting off the wet roads works really well and can definitely make it harder to see as the reflection hits the players’ perspective. The whole, water droplets hitting the camera even in third person thing, does seem like a little bit of overkill. The dynamic weather isn’t perfect though, I don’t think enough thought was put into the wind as much as there was for the rain. The most you’ll get is a slight ruffle of tree branches and some minor shifts in the grass. This wasn’t game breaking and I doubt many people would be paying attention or be as nitpicky, but it’s minor details like these that I notice, like to see and appreciate.
The soundtrack isn’t unique. You have the usual headbanging, bass loaded dubstep, trap and dance music and the usual R&B and rap tracks too. They suit the theme of the game and are good to listen to while you’re doing 220km/h beating all opposition and avoiding cops. But a little more variety would be nice, Underground had some really good rock and metal tracks too. This was continued in Most Wanted (not the early 2010s remake). But since the 2015 self title, rock seems to have disappeared from the track listing. This is probably a certain degree of representation of current music trends. But for myself personally, I like a good mix.
Ambient audio in Need for Speed has always been relatively impressive for their times. NFS Heat is no exception, burnouts especially, sound really authentic. Rain too has a strong presence in the game, depending on the severity the noise can increase or decrease. Driving in downpour was especially fun, the sound of my engine working hard, paired with the blistering screeches of my tyres, as I blasted around corners in full drift. Against the sound of heavy rain and rumbling thunder makes for a really immersive experience.
On that note, as mentioned before, exhaust sounds can be customised too. From deep, subtle hums, to loud, explosive roars and meaty, raw grumbles. It’s a really great feature, that’s not often seen. For most car games, it seems to be changing the exhaust part itself, that changes the sound. In NFS heat, it doesn’t matter what exhaust you equip, you can mod the sound indefinitely. It’s a really great feature that other developers should definitely take notice of and try to work in their own games.
I’m always going to be that guy that tells you never to buy a game above $80AUD. It’s in my blood. Unless it’s a game that resonates with my heart and soul, like the Ace Combat or Final Fantasy series. I’ll always be looking for a bargain. Gone are the days of my loyalty to specific game shops for reward points and trade in value. Rare were my purchases ever so disliked that they deserved a refund or exchange. But no game is ever so perfect to me that it has the right to demand so much of my hard earned money. Especially when there are plenty of places to find the game just that little bit cheaper to make it worth buying then.
That being said, Need for Speed has had a rough time finding its feet again after some less than well received titles. And EA is known for being a company that neglects to listen to its fanbase. However with NFS Heat, they’re finally on the right track. I don’t love the game, there are still better titles in the franchise in my eyes. But there were plenty of moments of true enjoyment.
NFS Heat is definitely onto something and hopefully the team can build on that for the series future. I for one would love to see some story DLC with new cars, new modes, more customisation parts and maybe new locations. I’m glad the game has so far not introduced microtransactions, there’s hope that it stays that way. A season pass, with the promise of expanded DLC would be acceptable. Good job making the foundations of something with a lot of potential EA, now please build on that. Maybe listen to the loyal fans a bit more please? That’s all we ask.
**All footage is from my own playthroughs**