Need For Speed: Heat needs to reinvigorate the underrated franchise

EA, Ghost
EA, Ghost /

The Need For Speed: Heat trailer has arrived and proven how the Need For Speed franchise deserves to rev its way back up the video game charts.

Need For Speed: Heat is here, and bringing the Need For Speed franchise into a Technicolor world on the streets of Miami. November 8 can’t get here soon enough—especially since this series deserves to be the king of the road.

2019 marks the 25th anniversary of the original game, and Heat will mark the two dozenth main title in the line. This is a big deal, and even moreso when one considers how the franchise hasn’t been itself for awhile now.

Since 2013’s Need For Speed: Rivals, there hasn’t been a NFS title that has really revved the engines. And that includes pretty much wasting the cross-promotional opportunity of a pretty great film that came out the next year, limited to just some weak DLC.

Past that, Ghost Games seems to be mostly lost on what they want to do with the franchise. No Limits was focused on the mobile game craze, in the same year that they released a self-titled and unnecessary reboot, starting over rather than trying to build on the existing mythology. And as for Payback, well, many fans probably wanted payback after the mess that was.

So it’s been six years and three busted titles since gamers have had a great Need For Speed. That amounts to more than half a decade, and NFS is in danger of becoming irrelevant. That shouldn’t happen for a series that could be better than Forza, and so Heat definitely has itself in the fire.

What’s always set the Need For Speed games apart are their stories. It’s not just driving fast in a bunch of great cars—there’s a storyline, or a theme, or characters (or all of the above) that make it feel like a complete experience.

Heat has certainly picked a colorful location in Miami, but will it take advantage of it? Will we get to see representation of the Miami car culture (or even vibrant culture in general) or will this end up as a generic backdrop of bright colors, loud music and stereotypical personalities, like the game equivalent of 2 Fast 2 Furious?

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Will we get more story than just “racers vs. cops”? That’s been the central conceit of the whole franchise, and Heat wants to put a spin on it by having good cops during the day and a bunch of rogue ones at night—a sort of schizophrenic police force.

That could work if the game actually differentiates between the two, instead of just making every cop bad news for the player. What about a story point where the main character has to work with the good cops to take down the bad ones? At least that would create an interesting mission.

And it goes without saying, game mechanics and all those microtransactions need to get a huge tune-up from the last go-around. As in, the former needs work and the latter ought to take a hike.

There are elements where Need For Speed: Heat could invest in its settings and story, and in turn reinvigorate the whole franchise that’s in desperate need of a strong brand identity. There’s not a single reason why this series can’t beat its rivals if EA and Ghost put the pedal to the metal, and it would be amazing to see NFS return to its former glory.

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Need For Speed: Heat releases Nov. 8 on PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC. For more on this and other upcoming titles, follow App Trigger.