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    Need for Speed Unbound – High Risk, High Reward

    Developed By: Criterion Software

    Published By: Electronic Arts

    Platforms: PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X|S, PC

    Reviewed On: PlayStation 5

    Review Copy Provided by EA


    The latest Need for Speed Unbound is the latest current-gen racing game for consoles with it being only on the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X|S. With its new distinct art style and a new game engine, we buckle our seats and get ready to enter the underground racing of Unbound.

    A Story of a Naïve Person with Trust Issues

    Better have that checked out

    Understandably not much story can be written about cars. This round Need for Speed Unbound took the revenge route where your character and the owner of the garage you work at, Rydell, gets betrayed when the cars you worked on get stolen by Jasmine aka Yaz.

    Flash forward 2 years later, the underground racing scene has become quiet in recent years and the Rydell’s Garage is barely hanging on as customers lost trust since losing all the cars 2 years ago. Suddenly, there is news about the underground racing scene coming back and you found out that Yaz was behind the new racing scene.

    Yeah that thingy

    It is a very cliché story but there are some twists in between. Characters do have interesting conversations with some happening during the downtime, so it is not so boring driving. What I felt off was how your character acted feeling no anger whatsoever of being betrayed. If a person stole my car, I doubt I won’t do more than just “trying to win her in a race”.

    New Gen, New Engine

    Looking as good as it gets

    This is one of the few games which will be on the current gen only and I felt great that Need for Speed Unbound took full advantage of the new engine and console power. The mixed art style of realism and anime cell shading character models and effects is a work of art by itself. Mixing two art styles in a game might seem easy but having the right balance between looking real or too anime-like could have spoiled the visuals, but I am happy to report, Unbound hits it right on the mark.

    Car models look between than ever with gameplay mostly locked at 60 fps on all consoles. Load times are also kept to the minimum in the game so hopping in and out of the game is really quite fast. Draw distances are also good enough unless you are planning to look at the skyline far far away.

    Do I go Right or right?

    Most of the car engine sounds will end up sounding the same with the ability to modify the exhaust. Do not get me wrong, the sounds are not bad at all but if you are looking for some unique engine sounds in this game, you won’t find many.

    One thing that does bug me is the audio chatter from the police or the banter from other racers. For example, when a police heavy truck pits me, they then have the gall to say on the cop radio “Suspect just ramp me”, it just looks silly. Either they should modify the lines or change the audio cue in the game.

    A$AP Rocky Styling

    The soundtrack is a hit or miss depending on the player. I am personally okay with it but if you are not, you can also make your own playlist on Spotify and play it during the game. The game features a variety of licensed soundtracks from artists around the world like Japan, China, Germany and many more. There is a little more soundtrack from A$AP Rocky since he is the featured artist in this game with his own in-game cameo.

    Show Me The Money

    If you come from a previous Need for Speed like Heat, you will certainly feel familiar with the gameplay here. The developer did say that they adjusted the game’s physics but honestly, I could not feel its that much since the driving physics feels unreal with the drifting and grip driving styles. What is new in this game is how we use cash now with Buy-Ins and Side Bets.

    To give more risk, there is limited time you can retry a race. This is to up the ante if you enter races which require you to do buy-ins to join the race. So, get use to not winning every race because when you get hit by a random police car or get swiped by another racer, you are bound to lose. To make things even more interesting, the game also added side bets.

    What are the odds

    Side bets allow you to bet with another racer to see who will be in front. You can be in the 7th place in the race and the other person you bet with in 8th and still win the side bet even though you didn’t win the race. This is a cool little mechanic that can help you earn a little quicker as you play. Another way to make money is going around the open world of Lakeshore doing stuns or collecting items like art pieces which you can use as decals for your rides.

    Street art galore

    Branded Customization

    Dressing up will never be the same

    One of the highlights for me in this game is the customization not only for the cars but also your character. Brands like Puma, VERSACE, Vans and many more are available for you to dress up your avatar. Showing your drip before and after races feels good and added another level of customization to the game.

    Now let us begin with how you can modify the outlook of the car. There is a lot of things you can do from changing individual pieces of your car and also have the front and rear tires look different. There are a list of car part manufacturers that you can mix and match or even an option to remove the front and rear bumper. Making a car look like out from a render of Khyzyl Saleem work of art is quite possible in this game.

    Unlock as you go

    Besides working on the body, you can also add neon glow effects, changing how your exhaust sounds and even the sound of your car horn. How you personalize your ride is endless in this game and if you want to, you can share it with the world by just uploading your design to the server.

    Engine Swap and Tuning Gone Wild

    The engine swap engine begins

    Under the hood, tweaking your car is as simple as purchasing the parts. Engine swaps are also available, but this brings up some issues that we will talk about later in this article. You unlock more parts as you upgrade your garage and tuning your car to its maximum potential in its class limit will help you win the race.

    Almost everything you change will influence the car. Even the number of gears can change how the car drives and how long you can hold a drift. This is one aspect that I think Need for Speed has been good at. I love how simple the menu is showing how changing a car part can affect performance but at the same time, you have to figure out how you would mix and match parts together.

    Starting slow

    One thing is that because the game has quite a number of cars, the price of tuning one can burn the cash you earn quickly. The prices of the upgrades are quite steep, so it is best to find the most efficient way to get the most bang for your buck as you are choosing your performance parts.

    The Streets of Lakeshore

    In the open world of Unbound, players roam around the city of Lakeshore where you travel from garages and meetup points where racers or events are held. The city has quite a diverse track type from busy streets to tight mountain corners, Lakeshore will be testing your skill as you blast through the streets.

    The fastest way is always a straight line

    Taking parts of the city and turning them into racetracks during events gives you some familiarity. In the beginning, I felt that the circuits were repetitive but as go up on the car class, more circuits are unlocked that will slowly test your car’s top speed and hill climbing capabilities. Learning new tracks is always fun so I was enjoying it but I do feel that shortcuts in this game are poorly hidden since there are checkpoints you have to go through during the race.

    You jump, I jump

    Enjoying the open world of Lakeshore city can be quite relaxing but in single player at least, nobody escapes from the police……

    Police Out In Force

    The games do have a side story where podcasts are played on the radio that talk about how politicians are using law enforcement to shut down illegal racing and let me tell you they are not joking around. The Heat system is back where you will gain Heat up to 5 levels. Temporary Heat can be gained by doing random things in the open world like crashing into the police but winning races will increase your Heat permanently for the day.

    So kind of them to give me an escort

    The higher the Heat, the more cops are thrown at you and I mean they literally throw cars at you. The only way to remove the Heat is to either get caught and lose all your earnings. This adds a layer of risk of going around doing more events and getting paid or going back to the safe house to deposit the cash and end the day.

    Counting down the days

    I am all fine with this game’s mechanics but what makes it so irritating is how cops in this game felt like they have a tracking device in your vehicle. If you reach Heat level 5 and if a cop car even glances at you, get ready to run. I felt my whole playtime in this game is mostly running away from the cops. An event can last 3 to 5 minutes, but running away, some took me half an hour, especially during the early game where you have to rely on tricky driving to lose them.

    Turning off the engine

    If I am not running from the cop, I am wasting time avoiding them travelling to meet-up points and taking detours, hiding under bridges from the helicopters and turning every corner praying that I don’t meet an undercover cop. To be fair, there is a car mod which helps with these encounters, but you have to purchase it on every vehicle, and it does cost quite a lot of cash in the early game.

    Leaving Things in The Garage

    The biggest issue I have in this game is accessibility. In single player at least, you cannot modify your cars unless you end the half-day cycle by heading back into the garage. So, if you just want to test your car after a tuning, there is no way to do so. There is a way to tweak the handling slightly, but it does not matter if you screw up your car tuning once you hit the road.

    After the race, comes the chase

    You also cannot swap cars in the open world unless you enter a meetup point which I felt weird. This is because there are too few of these locations across the maps and travelling to do so could waste time. Swapping cars before a cop chase could help as driving a higher-class vehicle or a car with the undercover racer part would relieve some of the pressure.

    All Fine On The Flip Side

    On the bright side, the game multiplayer called Lakeshore Online, is a joy to play and you want to know why? Because there are no cops. Yes, the game’s online multiplayer mode is separated from the single players which means you have different cars, cash amounts and even if you want to, a different avatar. You cannot bring over the cars you have from the single player so the progression is separate totally.

    I was dropped into a lobby with up to 16 players and there, I are given the freedom to go to the meet-up points and set up a race. Joining the race does not require you to be at the meet-up but instead just as simple as a press of a button. This felt so fluid and well thought out.

    Even if you don’t own a certain class of car to join a race, the game will loan you one. Granted these cars are badly tuned but hey, at least you get to join in the fun. With cross-play available, I got no issue finding a full lobby of cars any time of the day. If you don’t mind losing (which you should be accustomed to by now) then playing online is a blast.

    It made me feel that the online experience felt like the main thing that the developer considered while making this game and then when it was for the single player, they added the cops and day/night cycle which totally ruined it. Having no cops around and travelling to garages to tweak your car anytime felt like freedom compared to the torturous gameplay of the single-player.

    Take note that at this time of writing, there is a glitch which will allow higher-class cars to join lower-class races which ruin the race but I personally have not met one player that did so yet.


    What I Liked

    • Customization – From your avatar and the car, there is plenty of options to make you stand out.
    • Visuals – Limited the game to only the new-gen console really helps with the visual. Its mix between real-life environments and cell-shaded graphics is magnificent.
    • Losing – Surprise by the feeling of really losing. Playing games which allowed you to keep retrying, you tend to lose your sense of competition. This game really brought it back for me.
    • Multiplayer – It is rare to enjoy a racing game but Unbound manages to capture the speed and thrill of street racing perfectly ONLINE.

    What Could Be Improved

    • Cops – Somebody needs to cut the budget of Lakeshore Cops. Spawning too many at one time just makes escaping tiresome.
    • Single Player – The gameplay in single-player with cops and the day-night cycle just felt clunky.

    After the Finish Line

    I see you

    Need for Speed Unbound is an excellent racing game and I enjoyed playing it as it has more fun elements compared to Gran Turismo’s seriousness in track driving. There is some frustration with how aggressive the police are in the game but taking what works from the previous entries and adding the betting system, Need for Speed Unbound feels like a solid entry to this 18-year-old franchise.

    Final Score – 8/10

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    DeadlyRush
    DeadlyRush
    An old school gamer who plays every genre of games. Prefers games which are unique and innovative instead of just pretty looking. All he wants is content, content, content..... The more the better.

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