Welcome to Ventura Bay; a land of street racers, outlaws, and no daylight cycle between dawn and dusk. As a mysterious unknown racer, you work your way through the ranks to earn the best reputation and become king of the streets. Returning to the import and modification scene of car racing not seen since Need for Speed: Underground two generations ago, EA and Ghost Games have attempted to recapture what made the franchise a massive hit. But does this latest instalment/reboot fire on all cylinders, or does it lose traction and slam into the wall?After going toe-to-toe with Spike, the player (who you play as, and whose face is never seen) is invited to meet and join a rag-tag group of underground racers headed by Travis. On the crew is Spike whose specialty is speed, Amy who is the mechanic and builder, Robyn who is all about crew, Manu who loves to drive with style, and Travis himself. Each racer sets out to challenge the player and build up their skills in the hopes that their idols and icons will notice them and their efforts. As the player unlocks more races and upgrades their car, the idols begin to take note, and eventually return to Ventura Bay to challenge the player to see who the better driver is.
The story starts out feeling very dry and uninspired; characters feel like imitations or stereotypes from the Fast and the Furious movies and the plot feels bland, but as the game progresses it begins to flesh itself out and become more open and likeable. For the most part, Need for Speed is a great looking game. Cruising the dark and illuminated streets often capture brief moments of near-photorealism that had me double checking to make sure I wasn’t watching a video instead of playing a game. Weather effects and paintjobs add reflections that feel right and proper, and the level of detail in the environments provide a great sense of realism as your car flies through the streets.
Speaking of realism and cars, each car model is also highly detailed and able to be customized, allowing players to make their vehicle look exactly how they want it. Paintjobs and decals add the extra touch to cars that already have highly detailed panels and parts, making everything look just right as you take on some of the best that Ventura Bay has to offer.The cutscenes within the game are not in-game, but rather FMV clips that progress the narrative and are seen through the player’s eyes. While this might seem like a bit of a cop-out, it makes the game just that little bit more fun by not focusing on the fact that the character models are fake.