Need For Speed will never return to its glory days
Carbon and Underground remain undefeated.
Need for Speed has been wandering for decades. It’s not a secret. Each new entry is a reboot, a way for Electronic Arts to rekindle interest in a franchise that has long lagged behind Forza Motorsport and Gran Turismo. Arcade racers aren’t particularly common these days either, so it’s doubly odd that one of the genre’s original founders struggled so long to keep up. So what’s wrong?
I didn’t grow up with racing games, but Need for Speed has always been one of the big gamers. It stood alongside Burnout as the crowning glory of the genre, with entries like Underground, Carbon and Most Wanted building on the popularity of street racing and the Fast and Furious films. The race was cool, even more so when done under cover of night to the beat of techno music and the distant wail of police sirens. These games are great, and still are, but not once has that magic been found.
A simple glance at the Need for Speed wikipedia page reveals dozens of games we’ve all forgotten. 2010’s Hot Pursuit felt like the last big entry, and everything since has attempted to pick up on what came before or catch up with industry trends the show had no business being in. What was once an extremely sleek take on motorsport has become either a drab mix of grays and blacks (Need for Speed Rivals) or a squeaky facsimile of much better games with gimmicks that have aged worse than milk in the first place. sun (The Run, Payback and 2015).
I didn’t even mention Heat, Pro Street, Shift or No Limits. So many games, and none of them in the modern age really stick in the memory. EA tried to reinvent the wheel every time, and so it never really had anything to fall back on when it started working on something new. We’ve learned to cancel the series, and Unbound wants to change that.
Part of me was surprised to see a handful of colleagues showing active anticipation for this new entry, despite it being announced out of nowhere with a release only a few months away. Having artists like A$AP Rocky acting as the face of the game as their music helps build the soundscape provides a foundation young gamers can immediately relate to, while the anime-infused aesthetic is a far cry from the lackluster visuals I’ve hated from titles of the past decade. Ever since Burnout’s death, it feels like Electronic Arts hasn’t figured out that street racing doesn’t have to be too edgy or reliant on realism, it can aim for the moon and represent something different. Strange as long as they play brilliantly and stay confident. in his artistic vision. Here’s hoping the full game doubles down on this approach.
Unbound might do just that, but it also represents another individual chapter in a series that isn’t going anywhere. The three-year hiatus since Heat’s release gives me hope, but why announce it with so little fanfare as if you’re almost afraid of its very existence? Do not be. Go to town on the nonsense and zoom anime trends that permeate its music and visuals, because that’s really the audience you should be aiming for in the first place. I don’t think that’s the right direction for Need for Speed, nor do I think an aesthetic like this is almost timely enough to iterate in future games without ultimately overstaying its welcome.
We’ll never get the unstoppable combo of Most Wanted, Underground and Carbon again – and that’s okay – but I wish this series was more than an experimental flash in the pan kept alive for name recognition only and actually represents something . Even with all of its style, the jury is still out on whether Unbound can change the tide or just be another passing wave.
Next: Playing Too Much Overwatch Ruined Overwatch 2 For Me