Need for Speed: Heat (PlayStation 4) Review

By Josh Di Falco 02.12.2019

Review for Need for Speed: Heat on PlayStation 4

The Need for Speed franchise has enjoyed a long and luxurious journey across the various console generations. While it seemed to hit a minor speedbump that saw developer Ghost Games take over the mantle of the franchise, Need for Speed seems to have reinvigorated itself. The latest title, Heat contains everything that has made this franchise stand-out from other racing titles on various consoles. With a new story set in the Miami-inspired Palm City, that pits street racers against cops, this latest open-world racer delivers more of the same, with a more refined driving style that is one of the more enjoyable racing games of 2019.

While an open-world racing title is nothing new in this age of gaming, the latest Need for Speed packs a world filled with racing events and activities to complete, along with a range of collectibles. In Heat, Palm City acts as the hub world that houses all the various events, and this hub can be traversed in solo mode offline, or online. The world features race events that can be started upon driving to the icon's location on the map, akin to Forza Horizon 4. In addition to the different race events, mainly the multi-lap 'circuit' events and the one-way 'sprint' ones, there are billboards to smash through, flamingos to run over, and art designs to discover. Speed and drift gates also litter the map, granting drivers with many different options to invest into.

While the previous title in this series, Payback, had a revolving day/night cycle, in Heat both times are manually chosen; and different 'currencies' are garnered in their respective time-of-day. Progressing in Need for Speed: Heat requires building up 'reputation' points by winning events at night, and then reaching the required rep level to unlock the next campaign mission. Completing that mission then unlocks new side-events to tackle in Palm City, both during the day and at night, and the next campaign mission requires reaching a higher rep level. Winning events during the day rewards with money, which is used to purchase new cars and upgrade parts.

This gameplay loop is a simple and effective way to force drivers to experience both day and night events. Plus, not having the revolving clock means that drivers can simply switch between day and night at the press of a button, removing the unnecessary waiting periods to access the desired time of day. Aside from the fact that night events grant reputation experience while day events grant money, the other main difference is that at night, the cops are like pack hounds chasing meat on wheels.

Screenshot for Need for Speed: Heat on PlayStation 4

While during the day, the only opposition are the other racers, at night the police are in force, and they will chase down the street-racing lawbreakers. These moments are the more thrilling experiences in Heat. Starting off with one car, the police cars in pursuit will ramp up quite quickly, with a 'Heat' meter that brings more cop cars as it increases. At the maximum Heat level 5, the police 'Rhyno' comes into play, and can destroy most cars with one good hit. Making the night chases more riveting, is that cars can tear to shreds much quicker. During the day, cars seem to take a lot more hits with most crashes or bumps causing minimal damage. However, at night similar hits will do a lot more damage, and police cars can send most drivers into the 'critical' stages more frequently. Luckily, petrol stations are aplenty and driving through them will repair the car, though usage of these are limited per night. Car repairs will automatically reset at the conclusion of each night, which is brought on by returning to the nearest garage.

Where Heat gets its name is during the night time races - heat is the multiplier that can boost rep that's earned after each event. Gaining heat is a risky proposition as it will increase the cop cars and how relentless they are in their pursuit to shut down illegal street racing - but returning to the nearest garage with high heat and over 60K rep points can be hugely beneficial. In fact, it's these multipliers that are important for those who wish to jump up rep levels quickly to unlock the next campaign missions or other optional side-events.

Ultimately, for those who are deciding whether Need for Speed: Heat is worth it, well the cops will either make-or-break the experience. They are as relentless as ever, and they will happily disrupt events while pursuing drivers at the conclusion of the event also. The only way to make it back to the garage safely is to lose them in the pursuit. While 'rubber banding' is something that used to apply to opposition drivers in previous games, here this definitely applies to cop cars.

The main gripe with this is that regardless how fast the driver's car is, the police will also seem to catch up. While this keeps the threat of getting caught present at every stage of the game, this also hampers any idea of advancement or progression. Improving the car with the best parts shows when racing against opposition racers as lap times become much better - the cops will always be able to keep up in a pursuit. It would've made more sense to have the police cars themselves also get upgraded during the story to justify why they can keep up with the better car unlocks near the end-game.

Screenshot for Need for Speed: Heat on PlayStation 4

When thinking about Need for Speed, arcade is a word that comes to mind and here it's no different. Unlike some of the other racing titles, Heat remains arcade-like, but that's a good thing, as the gameplay loop just wouldn't work with more simulated car physics. Double-tapping R2 initiates a drift around corners, and knowing how to time these perfectly is key to winning most races, as it provides such a huge advantage against opposition racers.

The story in Heat is ok at best - however this isn't the reason why most will be playing this latest Need for Speed title. Instead, the story is the driving force behind unlocking new cars and events, the justification that keeps this from being a menu-based racing title. At certain points in the story, there were serious Fast and Furious vibes, and these were the more fun missions to do. The final mission was especially enjoyable, and it's a shame there weren't more like it. While every 'event' was simply to win the race against all competitors involved, they were dressed a little bit differently, so in some cases, it looked like all the racers were going against the police rather than focusing on winning the race, and these were fun races to be involved in.

At times ,progressing in the story became a bit of a grind, as there were large jumps in rep level requirements between story missions. In the early-game, these jumps were small enough that required only two or three levels to grind up to - but in the end-game, these became a seven or eight level jump. This meant countless repeats of the higher-earning rep events to earn the maximum experience needed to quickly attain the required level to progress the story. It seemed like there were a couple of missions that were missing that would have helped to bridge the large level-gap a little bit, or it seemed that Ghost Games was getting bored of the story the closer it got to the end and it just wanted to wrap it up.

There are 127 cars to unlock, purchase and upgrade in Heat, with cars ranging from drag and drift cars, to racing and off-road cars. There are varying events across Palm City that requires doing up a drift car to earn drifting points on specific tracks, while off-road vehicles are better equipped to tackle the off-road circuits. Despite there being drag cars and options to add drag wheels to the car, there are no drag events to actually race in, and there's no real benefit to having a drag car because of it.

Screenshot for Need for Speed: Heat on PlayStation 4

Upon finishing the story, Palm City becomes quite emptier. Although there are better and faster cars to drive, and higher rep levels to gain, there's not much point to this. Maxing out a car doesn't bring about new challenges or higher-end races to test them out against. Where The Division 2 had end-game content to test fully-equipped gear against, or Monster Hunter always had bigger and badder monsters to test end-game weapons against, Need for Speed: Heat just lacks all that. Hopefully Ghost Games has some end-game content planned in DLC later on, but for now, expect this section to become a grind without purpose.

Online mode consists of going up to an event icon and switching the play from solo against AI racers, to allowing online drivers to jump in and play instead. There were no issues with online play, and everything worked as it should - however there's not much to divulge into either, as this just works as expected. After completing the game, perhaps going online to race other drivers is the only real justification needed to improve and seek out the high-performance cars.

One of the big things with online play is the ability to join a crew of up to 32 racers, where everyone contributes their in-game rep to the total crew's rep. The higher the level of the crew, the better the bonuses will be for each member, whether it's more money in their bank, higher rep rewards, or quicker multiplier gain. The good thing about this online crew system is most of this happens in the background, and it doesn't necessarily require an active concentration for those racers who don't wish to delve into this. For those who want to assist their crew they can, and for those who want no part in it can still passively contribute to it without ever worrying about it.

Crew time trials are little events that appear on the map after a certain point, where crew members can set times and try to beat the times set by other crew members. These events are harder than regular AI events, however, these can earn the biggest amounts of currency. Once the end-game hits, this seems to be the only real activity to do to test out the best cars with maximum upgrades, and even this can eventually wear thin when the currency hits a wall without much need to spend it on anything else.

Screenshot for Need for Speed: Heat on PlayStation 4

Cubed3 Rating

8/10
Rated 8 out of 10

Great - Silver Award

Rated 8 out of 10

Ghost Games has delivered a great new addition to the Need for Speed franchise, with Heat certainly bringing the 'heat' with its relentless cop pursuits that play out against a beautifully-looking Palm City. Street racing is the name, and winning events while escaping pursuits is the game. The city is filled with events and activities to undertake, though the scope of these is limited to simply winning events or driving through collectibles. With over 120 cars and customisation options to improve performance, there doesn't seem to be much purpose to continue rising once the story mode is complete, and the only sense of competitiveness comes from the standard cop pursuits. However, there is no doubt that Need for Speed: Heat is one of the better entries in the franchise since Ghost Games has taken over development.

Developer

Ghost Games

Publisher

EA

Genre

Driving

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  8/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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