Need for Speed: Heat hits all the right spots for me, it’s got great cars, a stylish racing scene and you get to take out cops who try to shut it down.
Imagine Burnout Paradise, except you are driving in Palm City instead of Paradise City, by day it’s feels like any other city you have raced in, skyscrapers dominate the central area while more scenic views can be found on the outskirts. Travelling to the highest point of the city is well worth doing as the route there is an utter joy to drive round. When you get to the top you’ll be treated to some fantastic views.
During the day the races you compete on earn you cash or ‘bank’ as the kids say, you can use your cash on upgrading your current ride or to purchase new vehicles.
At night time however Palm City bursts into life, your rewards are different too, you’ll earn rep, which unlocks new events and upgrade for your car. However you’ll have to deal with the Palm City Police Department, who are out to shit any racers down.
They mean business too, at first patrol cars try to take you off the road, but as the chase goes on more powerful police cars join in and they bring stingers and air support too. The AI is pretty clever, the cars will try to spin you out or box you in, and once your car is damaged enough you’ll be arrested.
As you explore the city you’ll discover Petrol Stations, as you drive through them your car will be repaired, although this is limited to 3 repairs a night. The longer you survive the chase, the higher your heat level becomes, if you manage to escape and return to a safe house your rep for the night will be multiplied by your heat level but if you get caught, you’ll lose nearly everything. It’s a great gamble, and really adds to the intensity of being chased, especially if you have a lot of rep to gain in a night. As you begin the game it’s not worth engaging with the police too much until you manage to upgrade your cars.
Away from racing there is still plenty to do, there are drift races, speed traps, billboards and more to discover. Certain collectibles will reward you with some great rewards that range from decals for your vehicles, to limited edition cars.
Depending on how much you are into cars the customisation area in the garage will either be loved or hated. If you are into modifying the body of your car there is an option to change all parts of the car if there are parts available. If you are more into changing the performance (which you’ll need to do to qualify for certain races) you can do that too. All the stats have been simplified and you can easily switch your car to suit different race types. I have a hot hatchback street racer that grips to the tarmac, an American muscle car that drifts beautiful around corners and a sweet off-roader that lets go where the hell I want. Unfortunately it’s the upgrading of your cars which ruins the pace of the game, I often went to complete the next story mission to discover I needed to have a better performing car which meant grinding my way thorough other events to afford new parts, the grind was annoying.
The story and characters are also unenjoyable so I found myself zoning out during cut scenes, it essentially Police vs. Racers, the police are dodgy and you are the new kid on the block and the focus of a new movement since the old crew couldn’t handle the heat, blah blah blah.
Need for Speed: Heat allows you to play offline or join others in an online world, here you can race against each other and you can gamble your cash or rep, I rarely saw other cars around except for when leaving the garage for the first time, and the load times for races put me off spending too long online, however with a group of friends I imagine this would be quite a fun world to race in.
The game looks great, especially at night being dominated by neon making everything look very Miami Vice, even during the day the panoramic views of the city show you just how bug the city is. All of the cars look great, even when they are covered in liveries supplied by the community while the player models during cut scene all look great too, but that’s to be expected since they are being powered by the Frostbite engine. I kept getting vibes from Battlefield Hardline, which I feel like I should go and play again.
Need for Speed: Heat is a good racer with plenty to do, it’s let down by its story but the open world is interesting, the customisation is excellent and the day/night cycle keeps things fresh. If the grind early on in the game wasn’t so rough this would certainly score higher.