NEWS - Friday, January 30, 2009

EA Revamps Need for Speed

Need for Speed Undercover, the last entry in a series that has taken several directions since it debuted on the 3DO in 1994, was a disappointing misfire that mustered a mediocre 5.0 when reviewed late last year. The series will now take a multi-pronged approach, headed up by Need for Speed Shift, a more simulation-minded take on street racing. Developed by Slightly Mad Studios – a team with proven racing pedigree having produced titles such as GT Legends and GTR 2 – it will offer a much more realistic experience than previous Need for Speed games.

"The urban underground was a manifestation of style in some past Need for Speed games for sure," said EA marketing man Keith Munro to Eurogamer, "but Shift focuses less on these style cues and more on mirroring the driver experience, that athleticism of being in a wickedly-intense race, and what it really feels like to be behind the wheel."

Wii and DS will be getting a more light-hearted take on the series with Need for Speed: Nitro, developed by EA Montreal. Munro told Eurogamer, "Need for Speed Nitro on the Wii and DS will not be a Mario Kart clone - Nintendo already does an excellent job with that. Instead, we are evolving the arcade racer with a fresh and unique visual style that is very Need for Speed. The game will be rich and deep and will appeal to experienced arcade racers as well as casual players."

Need for Speed: World Online is the most ambitious of the new games, a free-to-play massively multiplayer game that will launch in Asian markets before going West. "This Play 4 Free action racing game will give Need for Speed fans the most licensed cars, parts and game modes ever in Need for Speed’s history," said Munro, continuing, "Players will prove their racing supremacy through the sophisticated online matchmaking features and fully customise their profile and their ride."

Finally there’s to be a further Need for Speed game from Undercover developer Black Box – though details on this particular entry are sparse.

Munro said of the huge expansion to the Need for Speed franchise, "This isn’t about quantity, this is about crafting different games for different audiences and their unique tastes in the driving category. The motivation was purely driven by our understanding of racing gamers and their desire to experience different kinds of racing games. I would say that our strategy is the inverse of milking; it is an intentionally non-traditional approach."

EA is currently holding press events detailing the new directions for the Need for Speed franchise, so stay tuned to IGN for further details.



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