STAFF REVIEW of Need for Speed Heat (Xbox One)

Saturday, November 23, 2019.
by John Elliott

Need for Speed Heat Box art The Need for Speed series are usually in the top of my favourite arcade racers across the past few generations of consoles. There have been some hits, misses and mediocre editions throughout the years, and we’re here to find out how Need for Speed Heat matches up against its sibling titles.

Need for Speed Heat opens up with some local racers trying to outrun the Palm City Police Department (PCPD) where most of the crew gets away, except for one, which the PCPD runs off the road, nearly launching them off a bridge. This sets the stage for how corrupt and what lengths the PCPD are willing to go to stop street racers at any costs. The driver lives to tell the tale, but his ride has an unfortunate accident and falls into the water below. This essentially breaks up the crew and enters you as the new driver arriving to Palm City: host city to the Speedhunter Showdown.

The Showdown is a legit way for racers to earn cash and compete in racer without the PCPD running you off the road for illegal street racing. This sets up the game for Day Racing (Showdown) and Night (Street Racing) which you have to compete in both equally, as one earns you cash to buy car parts while the other earns you reputation to unlock new parts to upgrade your ride. As you know, the police will do what they can to stop street racing, so you have to weigh the pros and cons of what type of races you will participate in. Each type of race has objectives that can earn you a little bit of cash or rep, so you could rack up a bunch of cash in Showdown while slowly gain rep, or street race and get the opposite in return. Personally, I like having the objectives because it gives you something to achieve every time you are racing and as it tosses a new set of goals periodically it does mix it up a bit.

The story does build up around this gameplay premise as you learn the ropes from Ana, the leader of the crew that you just saw dismantled, who seems desperate to form a new crew as she starts putting you through the ropes to determine what kind of driver you are and if you could be trusted. What spurns this obsession seems on the front someone just being nice, but you can tell that there is more to the story than what is initially revealed. Sounds pretty stereotypical doesn’t it? Well, the story doesn’t waver too far from the kind of material that you would see in cheesy racing movie, which is a lot of good fun but doesn’t compel you to get involved with the characters in the game.

The gameplay is pretty typical fare for racers with natural controls to accelerate, brake, nitro boost, etc. However, I did find it odd that instead of using the brake button in combination with acceleration to drift, that it simply worked by tapping right trigger twice while on a turn to get you drifting smooth. Even after playing for a few hours I still found myself falling into more traditional control schemes, however, over time I did adjust. As I said before, there is Day and Night races which are circuit or point to point races with random story missions mixed into the game as you gain more reputation. As you can see, you can’t really progress through the game without doing equal parts Day/Night races, but there are some collectibles and other objective based tasks to complete throughout Palm City.

These objectives include jumping through billboards, speed traps, long jumps and spotting graffiti, which all give you some kind of bonus, be it new car parts or cash. What this all really means is some additional gameplay, so if you’re in the mood for racing or for exploration, then you have a lot to accomplish to keep you busy no matter how you choose to play.

As mentioned, you do unlock new parts through gaining reputation and performing objectives, which leads into a very basic tuner where you can upgrade your car and spec it out for specific track types. Basically, when you change around your parts, you’re just looking for whichever part gives you the most increase to your overall car score. Beyond that, you have some selection to spec it out for off-road, racing and drifting, which I honestly didn’t notice too much difference when it comes to drifting, but a definite difference when you’re in the mud.

After you get your ride under the hood all set then you can customize the look which adds a lot more options. If you want to take the time to go through them all you can change pretty much every aspect of the car from fenders, tires, grille, windows and mirrors. Along with those changes you can change up your paint job, add decals and wraps. If you’re a bit lazy though you can just go online and search for designs that other players have made and just apply it to your car. Then you get into some flare like nitrous & exhaust colours, tire smoke and the under glow of the car for some added options. A lot of these extra cosmetics will cost you some extra cash, but if you want the best-looking ride in Palm City, you’re going to have to spend that hard-earned cash.

The soundtrack is pretty decent and meshes well with the racing scene of Palm City, but at the same time, the game would play just as well without the music in the background. The sounds of the streets have its own element with exhaust popping, tires screeching and metal crushing under the weight of the wall you just ran into. Mixed throughout all of that is the voice acting and the occasional cutscene which, like the soundtrack, is quality work, but nothing to brag about, and in some cases, the voice acting sounds phoned in. However, the main characters like Ana, Lucas and Officer Frank Mercer keep the core of the story well acted, believable and consistent.

At the end of the day, Need for Speed Heat is a decent arcade racer that racing fans will enjoy, but shouldn’t be expecting a top tier title like others in the series or in comparison to premier arcade racers like the Forza Horizon. At the end of the day, if you’re looking for a new Need for Speed game, this brings police chases and big crashes to an average at best title.

Overall: 7.5 / 10
Gameplay: 7.0 / 10
Visuals: 8.0 / 10
Sound: 7.0 / 10


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