Need for Speed Unbound review: the racing series’ best new game in years

The stakes and the racing action in Will need for Velocity Unbound may perhaps be familiar, but the game is a breath of fresh new air for racing supporters — and for a 25-calendar year-outdated collection that badly wanted it.

What surprises me the most about Need to have for Velocity Unbound, nonetheless, is a delicate adjustment to the game’s economic system and progression that allows me to do anything I’ve constantly preferred to do with this franchise: spend authentic time with a person car or truck, developing it up and blinging it out, without the need of the panic of lacking out on the flashier automobiles that are consistently unlocking (or are out there at triflingly low cost fees in an in-environment dealership).

Additionally, I come to feel like I’m in fact racing, fairly than trying to engineer a cinematic to start with-location end in each individual celebration just to get to the up coming 1. The standard gameplay loop of Need for Velocity Unbound is a lot the exact as 2019’s Require for Pace Heat, whose working day-night cycle experienced players racing in sanctioned gatherings in daylight, but expanding their “rep” — and drawing cop awareness — with routines at night. As these, you never ever misplaced income, just rep.

But in Unbound, the climb to the top of a money pile is heading to go considerably additional bit by bit. Nighttime racing pays off in funds only, all of which you can drop just after a race if the law enforcement chase and capture you. There is no “rep” to unlock sure substantial-price automobiles and customizations Unbound runs a straight hard cash financial state, and its finest-paying out races have invest in-ins. This implies development is going to be a lot steeper (this is specifically true if you are likely to shell out money on the game’s new customization options). The cash purchase-in to the core occasions represents its have possibility-compared to-reward dilemma (though you are ordinarily only dropping dollars if you end past, or shut to it). However, there are generally at minimum two meetups with a no-dollars get-in, even if the payouts will be more compact.

A person with a bullhorn stands on the hood of a street racing car over a dockside area where another car zooms past.

Image: Criterion Online games/Digital Arts

The grind inside executing “free” races is obvious, but I essentially appreciated their availability mainly because they are a significantly safer option to finding a struggle with the cops in Want for Velocity Unbound’s open entire world of Lakeshore (think Chicago). The cops can be rather formidable, specially in figures and certainly on the surface area streets, where breaking the line of sight is nigh unattainable no matter how hard you make a squared convert or an emergency brake U-switch.

Thankfully, a minimap offers you a generous detect of the cops’ areas, so you can slash down aspect streets just before they place you, or back again off if you are trailing them on the freeway. If you are spotted, the cooldown to a total chase is extremely short you have to be blowing past them full-throttle most of the time. Figuring out a route again to the freeway, with a large amount of nitrous crafted up from shenanigans getting there, is crucial to survival against the Gentleman, and in maintaining your dollars. And when you have a 5-figure total on your dashboard, you get extremely desperate about trying to keep it, which inevitably delivers in reinforcements and can make the chase even far more demanding.

What you do with that cash appears to be a whole lot much more pure and much less pushed by the repeating dopamine hit of unlocking as a lot as you can. Coming back again to the garage following a significantly strong haul extremely early in the sport, the initially massive-ticket option wasn’t my upcoming car or truck — it was a incredibly nice tuner offer for the 1 I was at the moment driving.

It’s form of ironic, mainly because I was, in point, hoping to help you save my money to get into a unique automobile and start out knocking down much more races the 1988 Lamborghini I chosen at the character creation stage was a function-taking part in option, actually. Just after half a dozen events, I located myself wanting anything more like the 1969 Dodge Charger — muscle mass and drift — for the issue-to-position races out in the suburbs that feature a whole lot of switchbacks and corner-cutting.

One street racer, seen from the passenger side of another, points her finger to issue a race challenge. The racers are cel-shaded characters while the cars are photorealistic.

Impression: Criterion Game titles/Electronic Arts

If you regret your first car or truck option, although, Have to have for Velocity Unbound’s tale route is heading to simplicity that fret rapidly. It gets evident that a malcontent pal at the garage wherever you do the job has their have strategies they just take off with your car or truck, and Unbound’s narrative unfolds along the standard, rote arcs of interpersonal revenge, with a key avenue-racing function as the story mode’s overall objective.

Even there, a much less-is-additional tactic from Criterion assists Unbound’s pacing, and therefore its very long-time period enjoyment. In the earlier, the franchise has emphasized beating all people, in every event, ordinarily due to the fact of a major-handed tale that attempts also challenging to imitate an motion motion picture. Past Need to have for Speeds (primarily 2017’s Payback) experienced me continually swapping car or truck sorts to complete initially for the reason that it so normally dictated progression to the upcoming function. In Will need for Velocity Unbound, I could possibly be grinding for the obtain-in to the up coming massive race, but it is basically manageable, even devoid of a win.

That’s a good factor, since just after having my A+ starter car or truck taken from me, I obtained mowed down by the AI industry. A ton. Unbound’s much more versatile post-race results suggest I can construct a connection to a pick number of automobiles primarily based on far more criteria than “first-spot prospective.” It’s also worth noting that there is no rewind function (identical as Heat) and only a constrained range of restarts for every event. So I actually did have to talk to myself if that fourth-place complete seriously was worthy of rectifying (or if the ugly head-on collision with a minivan genuinely did advantage a do-over).

All of this is meant to emphasize that there is extremely pleasing gameplay under Require for Speed Unbound’s hood, and it is not just the “anime Want for Speed” that players may have noticed in the game’s meager publicity ahead of launch. It’s true that Unbound’s unorthodox visible model does the most to distinguish the match from past entries, but I was astonished that one thing I was well prepared to resent ended up a stable, supplementary style choice, as opposed to staying the position of the total activity.

Close up rearview shot of a racing car highlight the stylish graffiti and lighting effects that are part of Need for Speed Unbound

Graphic: Criterion Video games/Electronic Arts

The automobiles and the racing entire world are all photorealistically introduced, but the drivers are anime-fashion characters. And each and every stunt they execute comes with avenue-artwork emphasis, whether that’s neon-coloured highlights on the rims, go-quickly strains popping off the hood, or a pair of graffiti-style wings when you launch off an overpass. There are signature burnout animations, wheel results, and a post-race victory pose for your driver (I primarily appreciated looking at them, in their personalized outfits, by the windshield in a near-up at the conclusion of an occasion). I assumed all this things would interfere with the visual data that racing games have to existing to push both rapid and cool — but it does not.

That is not to say that the managing is any a lot more intuitive than in previous Need for Velocity video games. There’s continue to a ton of oversteer, a actually significant transform-in that would make drifting, in most cars, glance like a kart racer alternatively than a thing slick. Also: Hit the nitrous anywhere other than a straight, and all that steering disappears.

The managing is a good deal twitchier than Forza Horizon 4, for instance, and with a large emphasis on pedal-to-the-metal velocity and nitro boosts, you are going to be smashing up a great deal of house. It’s jarring as hell to see pedestrians diving out of the way, but they usually make it, and I confess that seeing men and women on sidewalks in daytime helps make a metropolis like Lakeshore a ton far more lifelike.

A yellow Lotus Exige is pursued by two police cars, with blue lights flashing, in Need for Speed Unbound

Graphic: Criterion Game titles/Digital Arts

For such a venerable title in racing video clip video games (Aaron Paul starred in a 2014 movie about this franchise, don’t forget?), Need for Speed definitely hit the skids about the past fifty percent-decade. Unbound is a reduction as significantly as a delight — it exhibits there even now is a great deal of exciting to be had in the open-environment racer format, if a studio is ready to think about some of the smaller items otherwise, somewhat than check out to revolutionize the complete shebang.

Warmth, a sound sport that developed up a dedicated audience, likely did not get the fairest shake in general public impression following it released three years in the past. Digital Arts reorganized its motion-racing enhancement in response. Unbound arrives with the identical deficiency of glamour, the similar diminished cachet, but it is so a lot far more entertaining, and so a lot more value my time racing and running from the legislation, that the match feels like racing’s comeback player of the calendar year.

Want for Pace Unbound released on Nov. 29 on PlayStation 5, Home windows Computer system, and Xbox Collection X. The game was reviewed on PlayStation 5 using a pre-launch obtain code presented by Digital Arts. Vox Media has affiliate partnerships. These do not influence editorial articles, while Vox Media could generate commissions for products ordered by means of affiliate backlinks. You can obtain supplemental details about Polygon’s ethics coverage below.