NEED FOR SPEED : PAYBACK
EA tries to tell a tale of heist and men, as its racer takes inspiration from GTA
Publisher Electronic Arts Developer Ghost Games Format xbox One ETA 10 November 2017
Brace yourself for a statement we never expected to write: EA’s latest, brazenly dangerous racer is kinda like
GTA V. No, really. Alright, so you won’t be curbstomping bikers, hunting down UFO parts, or taking a poop machine Rottweiler out for walkies around the Sin City-inspired streets of Fortune Valley. But you will be taking part in open-world heists as you switch between three criminal leads.
With its cinematic cutscene transitions and multilayered, storycentric Blockbuster Action missions,
Need For Speed: Payback may be the closest the series ever gets to mimicking Trevor, Franklin and Michael’s crooked carjacking exploits. Thanks to Rockstar’s movie-obsessed Houser brothers, GTA has always leaned heavily on movies for its visual inspiration, and that looks to be the case with Ghost Games’ sandbox speedster, too.
“We’re trying to learn from that visual language of cinema,” game director William Ho tells us. “Some things are timeless and enduring… car movies are more popular than ever. It made sense to move Need For Speed in that direction, without sacrificing its core of racing and driving.” As long as said visual language isn’t taking cues from Fate Of The Furious and its ‘cars outracing nuclear subs’ nonsense, we approve of the cinematic influence.
The series may not have enjoyed much luck with plot-driven ( sorry) adventures in the past – we’re looking at you, Need For Speed: The Run – but at least Payback has solid sandbox foundations to fall back upon should the heist-focused story missions fall flat. There are three distinct driving disciplines to partake in outside of the story threads (Mac’s drifting events, street races with Tyler, and Jess’ getaway missions), not to mention a huge chunk of sun-baked, Las Vegasaping desert to bomb around.
Wisely, Payback also seems to be taking cues from a legitimate Xbox racing legend. Keep your eyes peeled as you roam around Fortune Valley’s vast virtual real estate, and you may stumble upon derelict cars you can repair and spruce up, a cute feature that owes more than a little to Forza
Horizon 3 and its cannily hidden Car Barns, which all stored rundown dream machines nestled away in those acres of glorious Aussie Outback.
Tune with a view
Ghost Games is keen to stress
Payback isn’t merely a glossy, movieaping thrillride, either. Ho assures us there’s real depth under this racer’s hood. Enter Live Tuning: a set of sliders that let you tweak your car’s handling on-the-fly with the hit of a button as you roam the open-world. “Once you start playing with them and driving the car, you immediately see and feel the difference,” says Ho. “There’s quite a bit to our physics system that isn’t exposed right away, but once you dive into it, there’s tons of options for personalising your ride.”
Fiddling around with streamlined settings is great and all, but you’re here for thrilling action movie spectacle, right? In that regard, a recent trailer sets a stylish tone for the car-mangling main event to come, as Mac’s BMW M5 outruns the fuzz courtesy of a series of ridiculous reversing manoeuvres. Mr Diesel and pals would be proud.
Can Payback deliver a more satisfying story than NFS: The Run? It looks promising. Still, we need to see more of its criminal sandbox before we let this racer pass its test.
“EA’s latest, brazenly dangerous racer is kinda like GTA V. No, really”