The Need for Speed franchise has driven players all over fictional cityscapes, mountain passes, smokey forests and desert stretches. Need for Speed Payback doesn’t change any of that, but substitutes the realistically rendered cutscenes from the 2015 entry, back to the animated cast and arcade style racing. Tyler, Mac and Jess team up and partake in a variety of heated events from classic arcade street and drag racing, to off-road and drifting trials, all to take down the boss who runs the city of Fortune Valley, The House.
In the wide-open world of Fortune Valley, Tyler Morgan reigns supreme as the “best racer in the city”. His two close partners, Jess – the cops smashing, escape artist, and Mac – the off-road, thrill-seeking Brit, team up and find themselves stacked against the odds when facing off against The House – an Organized crime syndicate that secretly runs Fortune Valley, the trio is betrayed by the top street racer of the criminal organization, Lina Navarro.
Fueled by revenge, Tyler rounds up his crew and begin to infiltrate the underground racing scene n Fortune Valley. In hopes of getting closer to The House and Navarro, the skilled trio of racers will take down local street racing gangs all across the widespread map. Earn your spot in the streets, juice up your collection of powerful street machines and race your way to earn the ultimate payback on The House.
The huge map featured in Payback drives the player across busy Las Vegas-styled city streets, red canyons mixed with desert landscapes, rich mountains and lush valleys. Race events like time trials, sprint and circuit races, drags, arcade-style checkpoints and police chases will fill the county of Fortune Valley in no time. The map is riddled with various objectives for Speed Runs, Speed Traps and high-soaring stunt jumps. Other locations like tune-up shops, gas stations and car dealers will also unlock the more you explore, or the more money you earn.
Sliding from side-to-side
The car handling in Payback is driven towards the arcade style of the racing spectrum, featuring easy-to manoeuvre drifts, slides and hard turns. Though unrealistic, there’s plenty of entertainment and exciting thrills that come in almost each and every race. The cars are broken down into a handful of classes which act as the main portion of the difference in handling and overall driving. Drag, street race, off-road, drift and runner are the five categories to which you can equip your selected car with.
Races are the primary category, using the most of every performance part available, from high-speed to blurring acceleration, on the dime handling and quick-acting braking. Taking players through circuit races around various parts of the map, sprint races from point A to point B, and even high-speed pursuits to escape from law enforcement. Tyler is in charge of these events, as well as top speed drag races in Fortune Valley.
Drag races have been tweaked in almost every Need for Speed title since they first made their appearance in the 2003 Underground title. Still focusing majorly on the car’s tachometer and manually shifting gears, quick reflexes are required to achieve a perfect shift. However, the race countdown before the race has players revving their engines in an attempt to place the needle for a perfect launch on the green. Once the throttle is engaged, cars burn tread, lifting their front ends up into the air. Perfect shifts and well-timed nitrous bursts will have players screaming past busy streets, civilian vehicles and opponent racers.
Taking the racing off-road
The quick-hitting drag races and adrenaline-inducing street racing events bring the heart and soul of the long-running racing franchise. Drifting and off-road races have been included in a healthy amount of NFS titles in previous years, most notably the focus on car sliding drift competitions. Taking the wheel as Mac, the high-speed cornering of drift events feel slick and easy to navigate, but virtually no change between vehicles. Sliding through turns, ripping the e-brake and guiding the nose of your ride around the inside curve feels comfortable and never giving the player a lack of control. This may sound great in writing but comes off slightly diluted and unimpressive as far as diversity in vehicle manoeuvrability.
In the off-road events, players will tune a 4×4 vehicle, which could range from a smooth and flashy Subaru WRX to the hulking Ford F-150 Raptor. Dirt roads and huge jumps line the racing course with excessive airtime and rough rally style racing. These events are hectic and require skill to manoeuvre across the deep valleys and rocky terrain. Cutting across the course, finding the fastest way to the finish and smashing into your opponents serves as a nice change from the tight cornering and high speeds of street racing.
Building your derelict cars from the ground up
Aside from drifting, off-roading and drag racing across the vast map of Fortune Valley, there are also collectable poker tokens and the more valuable derelict car parts. Upon defeating a leader of each street racing gang, you’re rewarded with the first of five clues to a secret derelict car. The first clue reveals what car you’re investigating, as well as adds four more clues required to complete the build of the vehicle. Clues are small circled areas on the map to which the player needs to discover the location and unveil the hidden part by approaching the derelict item. After all of the clues are found, players may then select the derelict cars and categorize them to one of the five racing categories.
Upon receiving derelict cars or purchasing a new ride, players will then be inclined to improve its performance and upgrade their racer. The obvious choice is to spend hard-earned cash and improve your car by purchasing speed cards. The tune-up shops update randomly about every 10 minutes and a diverse selection of speed cards is available, from new exhaust and headers to enhanced turbos and brakes. Each card alongside its performance part also has one of 5 brands (or the stock part), and some also come with a performance bonus attachment. The brands act as a bonus when three or all six performance parts are equipped with matching brands.
After each race or event players are also rewarded with a mystery speed card which is revealed after the selection. Equipping, selling for cash or trading it in for coveted part tokens are your three options with what to do with every part you’re not using. Part tokens are another interesting way to receive other, sometimes more powerful speed cards through a “slot machine” style mini-game. With three wheels across the board, each one is labelled with a brand, performance part and bonus stat. Players will spend three-part tokens and select one of the three wheels on the selected part, brand or bonus, roll the other two wheels at random, and thus the gamble begins giving you a shiny new speed card.
A familiar NFS experience
The open world and diverse racing events in Need for Speed Payback are relentless in providing a thrilling experience. The story is brash and full of tiresome, predictable characters. The racing is tilted closer to the arcade side of the spectrum, leaving a controllable drifting, jumping and high-speed racing. Upgrading your car selection via speed cards is nifty and keeps things a little more randomized when visiting tune-up shops. Derelict cars provide a unique spin on the series with search-and-find missions and reward players with collectable cars. All-in-all Need for Speed Payback brings another familiar racing experience delivered by Ghost Games, with slight tweaks and enhancements for an exciting racing experience.
Need for Speed Payback delivers a racing experience that will become immediately recognizable after a few hours of playtime. The story is moderately entertaining but predictable and has a relatively short campaign. The tuning is new and inventive, giving players a unique approach at building their perfect ride. Racing fans should find a firm thrill in the car selection, racing events and overall control of the arcade racer.