Platform: PlayStation 4
Reviewed on Xbox One
Need for Speed Payback Preview - E3 2017
We go hands-on with a brief heist mission
After a few years of annual releases, the reigns of the long running Need for Speed racing series ended up with Ghost Games for 2015’s reboot of the series. However, despite a promising premise, the game ended up being a disappointment and didn’t really live up to the stature of re-using the name of the original game. But EA and Ghost Games say they are determined to learn from their mistakes, and with the newly announced Need for Speed Payback, the series goes into a new direction yet again. We had a chance to play a demo of the racing title at E3 2017.
The hands-on demo session, taking place at EA Play event, was largely the same as the footage that was shown during the EA E3 Press Conference a few days earlier. In Payback, players assume the role of a crew of drivers. We don’t know yet what brought them together, but they are united in their dislike for The House cartel. They want to show the cartel that the crew is “back in town”, and to do so we pick up the action during a mission to steal something that The House has taken. It’s an early segment of the game, seemingly Chapter 2.
We assume the role of Tyler, who is driving a nice Ford Mustang GT, and the goal is to make it to the rendezvous point. Driving to the meeting point is a linear trek, as the game guides the player with UI elements to stay on course and not take any wrong turns, though there are rather few roads to begin with. It’s a rural desert setting, so there are just a few highways that cut through the region. Making it to the gas station, a cutscene plays as Tyler meets with Jess and they wait for the target to drive by. As it does, it turns out that the target truck is actually a convoy and has backup. But, the plan must go on, so we begin the chase.
The steering of the Ford is rather easy and straightforward, as expected from the arcade-focused Need for Speed experience. You can drift or use NOS, but otherwise it is a fairly simple chase as the highway has very few twists and bends. A few cartel enforcer cars enter the scene, but we smash into them and cause them to crash in slow motion. After a few more bumps, and dispatching of the chasing cartel members, we finally catch up to the truck and crash into it. However, it responds wildly and begins to swing across the road, causing chaos and wrecking any civilian vehicles in its way.
Tyler and Jess are not ones to give up however. Over the radio, another member of the crew suggests a wild plan, for Jess to jump onto the truck. Tyler agrees, and after dispatching more cartel cars in slow-motion wrecks, we once again catch up to the reckless truck. By now, it has left a trail of destruction all across the highway, and we had to dodge a variety of debris during the chase. Pulling up to the truck, another cutscene plays, and we see Jess make the leap, and climb inside. Moments later, she emerges by driving the Koenigsegg Regera right out of the back. At this point, the gameplay changes to Jess’ perspective, and we drive the supercar down the highway in the opposite direction. It’s a rather brief drive, but the car instantly feels quicker and more powerful than the modest Ford. Soon enough, Jess comes face to face with a large police force that has been trying to catch up to the chase. At this point, the demo concludes.
After the rather rocky Need for Speed 2015, Ghost Games are clearly trying something different, and perhaps something a bit more safer. Need for Speed Payback feels very much like the more story-oriented entries in the series, such as The Run and Undercover. The game also promises more customization options, presumably building on the previous game, but this wasn’t shown at E3. The Ghost Games developers we spoke to say there is more to see, and that they are eager to show that they can do better. As was revealed earlier, Payback will not use the online-required design, or the constant night-time in its open world. The game is also seemingly taking some inspiration from the adventurous Fast & Furious movies, at least for this demo mission. Perhaps we’ll see more of that in the full game.
Need for Speed Payback is coming to PC, Xbox One, and PS4 this November.