The last Need for Speed I properly played was 2010’s Criterion developed Hot Pursuit. I bloody loved that game. It was fast, it was fun and it was hectic. It gave you the option to play as a racer and a cop and both were equally worth playing. Since then, there have been heaps of Need for Speeds but none have really captured my attention.
Now, along comes Need for Speed Heat with its slick Floridian vibe, fictional version of Miami, great Day/Night system and super impressive visuals and I’ve been sucked in all over again.
Need for Speed Heat is great and it’s as simple as that. Fans of arcade racing will have an absolute ball with it and even casual gamers will find plenty to love.
Need for Speed Heat Review
There’s a flimsy story that sets the scene in Need for Speed Heat. The cops of Palm City are sick of illegal street races and are cracking down. New in town, you’re keen to join a crew, make a name for yourself and show the cops what’s what.
Flimsy, but good.
As a newbie to town, you’re taken under the wing of ex-racer Lucas who hooks you up with your first car and sets you up in Palm City. After you get the initial tutorials and introductions out of the way, Need for Speed Heat pretty much lets you loose.
Most of the game’s races, events and locations are locked until you either find or earn them but once you’re given free rein you’re able to go wherever you want. This is great because Palm City is one of the best, most interesting and well-designed cities in a racing game in recent memory.
Forza Horizon 3’s Australia is always going to hold a special place in my heart but Palm City makes a better first impression. Street Racing is tight, fast and rewarding while the further you explore outside the city limits the more variety you’ll find.
My personal favourites are the races that take place in the hills outside town. They’re full of hard turns, drifting and some insane speeds thanks to the downhill momentum. Compare this to the beachside, flat races and the inner city and you’ve got quite a bit of variety on your hands.
Variety doesn’t stop with the type of races either. In Need for Speed Heat, the action is separated into Day and Night. During the daytime, you’ll be racing for Bank (money) to upgrade your car and create the ultimate street machine.
At night, you’re racing for Rep. This is how you level up, unlock new gear and parts, new races and more. Need for Speed Heat needs you to play in both time periods in order to advance the story and unlock more content. Basically, gameplay boils down to racing during the day to earn cash and upgrade your car and then racing at night to earn Rep, level up and unlock faster and better events.
Aside from the amount of sunlight, one of the key differences between Day and Night is the behaviour of the police. During the Day, the police are pussycats. They follow the law, obey road rules and only chase you if you bump into them.
At Night, they’re a whole different beast. Talk about Jekyll and Hyde.
At Night, police will chase you if they spot you and they’ll chase you hard. They’ll ram you and try to force you off the road to bust you. They’ll team up to try and take you down and they won’t care who gets in their way. But that’s the point.
At Night, you earn Rep and can increase the amount by raising your Heat level. The more Heat, the bigger multiplier that’s applied to your Rep. There’s a caveat of course. That being that you only earn your multiplier if you manage to shake the cops and get back to a safe house. If you’re wrecked or Busted, you lose the multiplier and some cash, forcing you to try again.
I really enjoy the Day/Night system even though it can feel a bit binary and annoying at times. Before you head out from your safe house, you’re able to choose activities to complete for Day or Night to increase your rep so it makes sense to take on one period and then the other.
It also works well to really improve your car as much as possible for your level to make races easier for yourself.
When it comes to the racing, initially, I wasn’t impressed. It took me a long time to get a feel for the way Need for Speed Heat handles racing and drifting. With Forza Horizon becoming the default arcade racer, Need for Speed Heat suffers (at first) because it moves drifting from the brake to the accelerator.
Instead of breaking then accelerating to go into a drift/slide, you simply take your finger off the gas for a moment and then press it again. It doesn’t sound like much of a difference but believe me, I struggled for a while.
You can set it to the brake if you like, but after you get a feel for it, it’s much better.
Other than that, Need for Speed Heat is arcade racing as you know and love. Fast, frantic and over the top, in Need for Speed Heat, you have complete control of your vehicle and have plenty of options for how you’d like it to perform.
In the safe house, you have a multitude of options for parts (locked behind Rep levels) which gradually improve your car, make it faster and change the way it handles. While many of the upgrades are simply a better version of the part, some give you multiple options to change how the vehicle will behave. For instance, you can choose to set some parts to focus on Drift, Racing Line, Speed or Off-Road.
Best of all, you can rev the engine while it’s in the workshop and tune the sound of the engine.
Petrolheads will be in heaven.
Overall, Need for Speed Heat is like Forza Horizon Lite. There’s plenty to do, but not quite as much as in the latter game. Additional activities — Billboards, Speed Traps, Street Art — aren’t anywhere near as rewarding and there’s just not as much on offer or as much variety.
But that’s fine.
Need for Speed is something different and it’s hugely enjoyable.
Fans of Hot Pursuit will definitely have a good time with Need for Speed Heat and racing fans, in general, will love it. It’s fast, fun and hectic.
Just the way it should be.
Need for Speed Heat was reviewed on PS4 using a digital code provided by EA.
Game Title: Need For Speed Heat
- Palm City/Miami is a perfect racer's playground - 9.2/109.2/10
- Day/Night System offers some variety - 8.7/108.7/10
- Very fast, lots of fun, great arcade racing - 9.5/109.5/10
- AI Racers definitely have a rubber-band feeling - 6/106/10
- Side Activites are pretty inconsequential - 5.5/105.5/10
- Still the king of Arcade Racing - 10/1010/10