Need for Speed Heat tells the story of the racing underworld in Palm City. As a nameless protagonist, players are called upon to take part in a citywide racing exhibition which draws the attention of racers all across the country. The exhibition is a mix of sanctioned races throughout the day and illegal street races at night. The main objective of the game is to step your game up and make a name for yourself.
So Need for Speed Heat doesn’t reinvent the wheel as far as racing games go. You’ll come across a variety of races which helps you build up your REP and earn cash. One of the game’s interesting mechanics is a bit like the Forza Horizon series where in between races you can drive around Palm City and enjoy the view. You’ll come across gas stations (to quickly fix up your ride), safehouses (where you can upgrade your ride and switch between night and day), fast travel points, billboards to crash through and so on. What I believe makes Heat stand out is through its option to race during the day or at night. While on paper it doesn’t sound like much, in Heat, it’s a unique mechanic that gives the game a bit of variety. During the day time, you’ll roam around the city and find sanctioned races called Speedhunters showdown to participate in. While the cops do roam around during the day, they won’t chase you. Win day time races and you’ll be rewarded with money, or BANK, which can, in turn, be used to upgrade your ride.
Racing at night is where it gets interesting. If you get caught by the cops at night and you smash them off the road, it will increase your heat level which then increases your REP faster; more REP means access to more car parts and more events. The bigger the risk, the bigger the reward. Once the cops catch up to you during an illegal nighttime race, you need to either find a way to escape from them in the middle of a race or smash them to pieces. The more aggressive and difficult you are to catch, the more fuzz you’ll get on your tail. And trust me, the cops can be overly aggressive. It increases the races’ difficulty up a notch as you have to try to remain in first place while avoiding the cops. They can easily bump you off first place. Having two somewhat different game “modes” is an interesting mechanic that encourages players to switch in between in order to experience different types of racing.
While not really the focus of the game, adding a light character customization mechanics would’ve been a welcomed addition in order to feel any sort of immersion in the game’s déjà vu story. You’re delegated to selecting a character among a handful of designs; character models are pretty typical and far from any wow factor. As I said, it’s not the focus of the game, but it’s always a nice touch. I mean look at the Forza Horizon franchises; characters aren’t the focus of the game, but they still look more polished.
Once you’ve had your fun at night, simply return to a safe house, upgrade your ride if you feel like it and then when wanting to leave the garage, decide if you’d rather enjoy a few friendly races during the day or get mauled at night by cops. Now, please keep in mind that not all night races are interrupted by cops. You can see red icons on the mini-map so as long as you stay out of their line of sight, you’re good.
When first starting the game, you’re a bit limited in terms of content and the requirements to progress the story are a bit stiff (2nd main story mission requires you to be REP 7) so you’ll have to find juggle day and night in order to get the necessary REP to move forward. If you feel like living dangerously, feel free to hunt the cops at night to increase your heat and get more REP by bumping them off the road or escaping.
Racing games automatically brings up the aspect of car damage. As you fight your way through the pack and reach first place, you’ll ram into other vehicles (mostly cop cars) or into various obstacles. Damage is esthetic so you’ll see a few scratches here and there, but nothing that will hinder your driving. Want to get rid of your vehicle’s scratches? Find the closest gas station for a quick visual fix-up.
There are minor occurrences where the cops will somehow bust you even though you’re still driving or avoiding them. A few times I was almost in a complete stop, I had a warning indicating I was about to be arrested, but a few times I questionably got busted when I was driving full speed and they somehow bust me as I was driving through trees and minor obstacles. A bit frustrating as it lowers your rewards, but the penalty isn’t that severe.
Need for Speed Heat has a slightly different unique presentation under its hood. While for most gamers, this is just another Need for Speed; great car designs, very mediocre character models; the interesting difference is at night. During night time races, the checkpoints are 80’s bright-colored, a mix of blue, pink and purple. While it doesn’t mean much, it does make for a unique touch; kind of reminiscent of infamous Second Son. Additionally, the cars look great; nothing really outstanding as it feels like déjà vu, and as mentioned, the character models look basic, late 7th, early 8th console gen designs. There are a few odd visual glitches in menus and post-race cutscenes such as your vehicle not appearing or loading while a photograph is taking a picture after you’ve won a race. Audio-wise, the game is solid for the most part. NFS Heat features an upbeat, Miami, Cuban inspired soundtrack. The only oddity in this if you try to give your game an 80’s feel with the visuals, why not actually use songs from the ’80s? This game screams Synthwave soundtrack so using current popular sort of voids any 80’s feel and makes it feel like another Need for Speed. The voice-overs are fine; nothing really to write home about, but there’s worst. The lines feel delivered without emotion and it’s near impossible to care about the characters or the story.
With all this being said, is Need for Speed Heat worth your hard-earned dollar? It actually is. This game is familiar enough for long-time fans of the series while it does feel fresh for newcomers or for those who might’ve skipped the last few NFS games. Sure it doesn’t re-invent the racing wheel and the story falls flat, but it’s a fun game which a fun day/night mechanic that’ll tide you over until the next NFS.
*This Review Code was so generously provided by the publisher for review*
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