The Future Of Need For Speed

By Jim Rossignol on July 13th, 2009 at 2:26 pm.


It’s been interesting to watch EA’s ongoing approach with the Need For Speed series over the past few years, and it now seems to be getting rather more complex. The past couple of generations of the series (it’s up to around a dozen games now) had each game delivered with a new “angle”, beyond simply being the next generation in the franchise, with ideas such as career structures, silly plots, realistic damage modeling, or open-world play. The last NFS game I played, Need For Speed Undercover, didn’t really seem to deliver any of these notions convincingly, so it’ll be interesting to see if the two-pronged reboot of Need For Speed: Shift and free racing MMO, Need For Speed: World Online, create something worth paying attention to, and breath new fumes into the series. Continued below…

First on the grid is Shift, which is being talked up as the fresh, hardcore, simulatory racer. Presumably the threat from Burnout games, and forthcoming games like Split/Second, means that the arcadey approach for retail, single player Need For Speed games no longer seems valid. Instead they’re going for a more serious, competitive theme, with a more sober presentation. There’s some talent from GTR 2 and GT Legends teams involved in the development of this one, and EA are claiming that their approach will make the game even more realistic than the GTR sequel. Expect lots of drift, lots of cars, and some realistic handling. There’s a cockpit view, to buff that realism, and the big physics issue is g-forces, which will apparently effect the driver (somehow). Realism indeed. From the footage we’ve seen so far – the game is due in September, so it must be relatively complete – it’s definitely looking like a strong showing. Whether the traditional Need For Speed audience will digest the changes, however, is something we can only guess at.

Or perhaps they won’t have to care for too long, because they are also due to get Need For Speed: World Online, which is going to be a free-to-play racer – so probably employing a money model along the lines of Battlefield Heroes. EA have already proven that a paid-for racing MMO doesn’t seem to cut it – with the now-defunct Motor City Online – but they’re nevertheless willing to try again with the free model, and I like that prospect. Not many solid details yet, but the announcement promises lots of cars, which seemed like a given to me, but hey, the game is also going to feature environments from a bunch of the previous games, such as Most Wanted, and there’s going to be opportunity for plenty of online cops ‘n’ racers game modes. The date for this is a vague “Q4 2009″, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see it shrinking back to 2010 in the West, even if it does make it into Asia this year. The first image also seems to show it being played in a browser.

Here’s the trailer for NFS Shift:

Here’s the teaser for NFS World Online:

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52 Comments »

  1. asdf says:

    I had always like the NFS games until Carbon. Absolutely hated the drifting crap and the canyon races.
    Most Wanted was the last one I liked/beat.
    Tried all the new ones at least once, but never could get into them again.

  2. Howard says:

    NFS has done us proud over the years I guess. There have been a few stinkers (looking at you, Carbon) but on the whole, quite good (hell, I even really enjoyed Pro Street, though apparently I was alone).
    As long as Shift *actually* goes sim and is as far away as humanly possible from detritus like GRiD I’ll be a happy man.

  3. Duckmeister says:

    I’ve always liked the Need For Speed series since Hot Pursuit 2, I think Most Wanted was the best one so far, and I didn’t think Carbon was all that bad as it was just the same as Underground but with canyons.

    I thought Pro Street was great, until I actually started racing and my car crashed into the canyon because I pressed the left key for one millisecond. I then watched in awe at the great crash modeling and car physics, and then realized that I couldn’t hit the escape key to exit out of the “you crashed” screen and then had to wait 5 hours so that my car would fully stop and then it would tell me that I had to go to the main menu before I could race again, so I uninstalled the game immediately afterward.

  4. AndrewC says:

    I hope Shift can actually be a decent NFS for a change, but it has no chance of being as good as GRID.

  5. The Hammer says:

    I remember playing the demo for Need for Speed Hot Pursuit 2. Fast, expensive supercars, multiple shortcuts, and the police element. I always liked that feel the best.

  6. Duckmeister says:

    And plus, Hot Pursuit 2 had the best music of any of the NFS games. Except for two songs or so, they were pretty good.

  7. Pavel says:

    No mention about Criterion making new NFS in the style of original NFS on 3DO/PC, which is like the best news ever?

    Anyway, I am looking forward to Shift, probably will buy it once it costs 15 pounds.

  8. Hudson says:

    I will go out on a limb here and say people could really care less about this series anymore

  9. mrmud says:

    I was under the impression that the real NFS “reboot” is supposed to be the game that the burnout devs (Criterion) are developing. Everything leading up to that is more or less filler.

  10. Schmung says:

    NFS peaked with Hor Pursuit I think. Pro Street is hateful and Carbon wasn’t great either. Shift looks interesting. Certainly it sounds very good (assuming that’s ingame audio) which is a rarity. I think GRID nailed arcade racing for me, but I am a bit of an upgrade fetishist and enjoy that whole side of things. It’s odd that the NFS games have been the only series to bring any sort of element of that to PC, with yer Forza and yer GT’s making it a console only experience. I’m not sure about this shift (ho ho) to a more realistic angle though – sim types are very exacting and Joe Public has limited tolerance for correctly gauging braking points and harsh damage modelling.

  11. mrmud says:

    @Howard

    NFS has never been about simulation, I doubt that is likely to change.
    Its not like there arent Simmy games out there (everything made by Simbin or the Forza series on 360)

  12. Wirbelwind says:

    Last NFS I enjoyed was Hot Pursuit 2, loved the cop/chase thing with traps.

    Haven’t really placed racers anymore since.

  13. Howard says:

    @mrmud
    True enough, well except for Forza being a sim ‘cos, sorry, but no.

    @duckmeister
    Criticizing a game is fair enough but criticizing it because you were playing a semi-sim racer with keys? That’s just silly. This obsession of PC games that you should be able to play driving games with a keyboard is just pig-headed and utterly unproductive.

  14. LewieP says:

    @Pavel

    Not the best news ever. Best news ever would involve details of the Black sequel we all no is coming, but have heard basically nothing about.

  15. itsallcrap says:

    I think the best one in terms of driving experience was NFS:Underground.

    The problem with that was that it was so unashamedly trying to be the unofficial videogame of The Fast and the Furious that I actually felt embarassed watching the macho, posturing cutscences.

  16. AtomicB says:

    Black was terrible though? I’d rather they stay away from that and have Alex Ward shut his mouth and never open it again.

    Oh, right sorry, NFS games is the topic right? They haven’t been good since Porsche challenge.

  17. D says:

    @Trailer1: It seemed to me that every car on the track was doing fine, until the intervention of the Player One. I’m not sure I understand the premise. Are we really meant to jump back and fro between cars? It seems like a gimmick with some severe drawbacks.

    So far I’ve never owned a NFS game and I didn’t plan to start now, but after the trailer I’m hoping to be surprised.

  18. D says:

    @Trailer2: Well it seems like you have some nice lobby graphics there. I wonder how the rest of the game is?.. Trailers :|

  19. MrMud says:

    @howard

    “Simmy”
    Its clearly a spectrum. For some people Forza is a sim for others its not.

  20. Nalano says:

    I’ve been with NFS since, well, NFS. My favorites in the series would be NFS2, NFS Hot Pursuit 2 and NFS Porsche Unleashed.

    I hated NFS Underground, 2, and Carbon with a passion. It’s not about angsty methhead wiggers and their bling, it’s about driving, damnit. I don’t want crappy backstories about why the MAN wants to keep them whitebois down. If we’re gonna be like that, I want no backstory other than,

    well,

    the need for speed.

  21. pilouuuu says:

    It’s a shame that after the brilliant Most Wanted the series went downhill. If I were EA I would play safe and simply do Most wanted 2 instead of doing all the other stuff they made to the franchise.

  22. RogB says:

    considering Shift is by the GTR lot, it doesnt look like theres anything like that level of sim handling. Looks like the rest of the bumper car arcade games.
    i thought for a second the trailer was trying to mock games where you dont brake by showing the flash white bastard going off on the first corner, but I think i was mistaken.

  23. Rob says:

    Hah, i remember when EA came out with Motor City Online, which was somewhat like a need for speed MMO, but it shut down about a year after it was launched.

  24. Duckmeister says:

    mrmud says:

    NFS has never been about simulation, I doubt that is likely to change.

    Whaaaat the heck? The first two NFS were 3/4th sim racers, which ended with hot pursuit. Pro Street was a tribute to the original NFS.

  25. lumpi says:

    lol, NFS Online? No wonder the MMO bubble is already starting to burst…

  26. Backov says:

    MCO didn’t die because it was bad, it died because EA was bad – they suck at MMOs. How many potentially successful MMOs have they launched and then canned now? There’s Earth and Beyond, etc..

    MCO was actually quite good. At the end it was getting absolutely no marketing and had one, count em ONE guy working on patches/content.

    EA had/has this attitude that if it’s not a blockbuster, they’re not interested. That’s what they did to MCO.

  27. triple_a says:

    The first NFS was brilliant: nice cars, corgeous graphics and cool environments. Never tried NFS2 but NFS3 was already screwed up. Hot Pursuit and Porsche Unleashed were ok.

    The gangsta games (NFSU and NFSU2) are total crap, never tried Carbon and Most Wanted though. I liked Pro Street. When it came out, I actually wished that the series would continue to develop in that direction (racing on circuits, focus on racing) and seems that I will get my wish with Shift. I don’t doubt for a second that the game will be WAY easier and less realistic than the GTR games for example. But if they achieve a fair balance between fun and challenge, you can count me in!

  28. PJ says:

    I played MCO for a year and a half and really enjoyed it. It had realistic enough handling. It had a ton of parts you could swap out and use and it wasn’t always the most expensive part = win, you actually had to balance things like weight/power ratios if you wanted to compete in some of the D, C, and B class races.

    Also you weren’t restricted as to what motor could be dropped into what car. I can imagine now that Ford and GM would get pissed about seing their competitors motors in their vehicles.

  29. Trite says:

    I loved both of the Underground NFS’s. Hated every single one released after them.

  30. Sam C. says:

    I always wanted to give Motor City Online a try, being able to customize more than the cosmetics of the car always seemed appealing, but I never got a chance, and I probably won’t judging by that one screenshot. That and I don’t really care for micropayments.

    I also didn’t think Carbon was all that bad, the story was trite and cliched and the atmosphere was very much Fast and the Furious, but the racing seemed about the same as Underground. Although, scratching up the paint was supposed to be “realistic damage modeling”? I’ll take Flatout over that any day of the week, thanks.

  31. Axess Denyd says:

    I have been waiting for one to go back more to their roots: The last one I really liked was Porsche Unleashed, and I have played all but Underground (I actually liked ProStreet, though).

    Actually I think I have OWNED all of them but Underground and the first one, back when they had the Road and Track partnership.

    I do love Grid, though–maybe it’s not te most simmish, but it just feels right, and that’s what’s important to me.

  32. Duckmeister says:

    triple_a says:

    The first NFS was brilliant: nice cars, corgeous graphics and cool environments. Never tried NFS2 but NFS3 was already screwed up. Hot Pursuit and Porsche Unleashed were ok.

    NFS 3 IS Hot Pursuit. You might be thinking of Hot Pursuit 2.

  33. Scandalon says:

    and the big physics issue is g-forces, which will apparently effect the driver

    That’s affect, shirley surely?

  34. Gravey says:

    @Nalano, Axess Denyd: Thank you. Why does every article about NFS in the gaming press, when describing the series, seem to start with Underground? Why are we the only ones who remember Hot Pursuit, High Stakes (my fave), Porsche Unleashed (but probably the best) and of course Road & Track presents? *Those* games were NFS, as Nalano points out: exotic cars (no “urban exotics”, wtf?), beautiful scenery, and a passion for driving them very fast. NFS is dead–long live NFS?

  35. Feintlocke says:

    The first need for speed game I ever played properly was NFS: Underground and as an arcade racer it was fantastic.

    I don’t really buy into driving game sequels as they are rarely much of an upgrade on what came before them. They tried to change things up by opening up the world bu the game somehow lost it’s sense of speed completely.

    I will say one thing tho, if this game turns out to be a sim and it forces drivers to use the in-cockpit camera when online then I’ll buy it. Note: I always move the camera behind the car because it’s easier, being forced into the car and knowing everyone else is on an even keel will be a brand new experience for me.

  36. Vinraith says:

    I’ve enjoyed most iterations of the NFS series, but I really feel it peaked at NFS: Hot Pursuit 2. After that they went down the “OMG FAST AND FURIOUS 4 LIFE!!!” street racing route and a lot of the charm (as well as fun short cuts and exotic cars) disappeared from the series. It’s not that Underground 2 and Most Wanted are bad games, I’ve enjoyed both, but I miss what the series was originally about. I read such bad (and believable) things about Pro Street that I just never bought it, so I can’t speak to the newest iterations.

  37. Prospero424 says:

    Need For Speed needs to get back to its real roots.

    NFS: Porsche Unleashed was their only truly great game. It focused on one series of cars, followed the history of the manufacturer and its lineup, and let you customize the performance parts specific to each model. You got to start out with Porsche’s first successes (both commercially and in competition) and were able to purchase their greatest hits as you moved forward, chronologically.

    Also, you could replay each of your races and control the camera angle/position. This, for me, was one of the most enjoyable features, and I ditched the Need For Speed series when they ditched it.

    Bring back the replay, bring back the historical bent (Need For Speed: Ferrari, maybe?), bring back the focus on real-life detail rather than extending YET AGAIN this sophomoric “extreme” street racing bender they’ve been on for the past decade, and I’ll come back to the series.

    Until then, they’ll just forever be playing catch-up with the likes of GT and Forza (among others) and/or relying upon annoying but “youth-oriented” gimmicks to sucker unwary fans into buying a sub-par product.

  38. DerangedStoat says:

    Since it was NFS:Porsche Unleashed that paved the way for my love of Sim Racers, the NFS series does hold a special place in my heart.
    But that Shift trailer is really disillusioning, from the last -> first shotgun start, to the constant use of other cars as ‘barriers’ through corners. Not much visible head turn through corners (critical feature for any racing game IMO), but there was quite a bit of camera movement, so it could possibly support TrackIR or the like.
    For now, this sits alongside ‘The New Shit’ as trailers I refuse to believe…

  39. Prospero424 says:

    Need For Speed needs to get back to its real roots.

    NFS: Porsche Unleashed was their only truly great game, even if some of the later ones were fun. It focused on one series of cars, followed the history of the manufacturer and its lineup, and let you customize the performance parts specific to each model. You got to start out with Porsche’s first successes (both commercially and in competition) and were able to purchase their greatest hits as you moved forward, chronologically.

    Also, you could replay each of your races and control the camera angle/position. This, for me, was one of THE most enjoyable features, and I ditched the Need For Speed series when they ditched it.

    Bring back the replay, bring back the historical bent (Need For Speed: Ferrari, maybe?), bring back the focus on real-life detail rather than extending YET AGAIN this sophomoric “extreme” street racing bender they’ve been on for the past decade, and I’ll come back to the series.

    Until then, they’ll just forever be playing catch-up with the likes of GT and Forza (among others) and/or relying upon annoying but “youth-oriented” gimmicks to sucker unwary fans into buying a sub-par product.

  40. mejobloggs says:

    WTB:
    NFS High Stakes Remake
    NFS Porche Remake

    :D

  41. mejobloggs says:

    WTB:
    NFS High Stakes Remake
    NFS Porsche Remake

    :D

  42. mejobloggs says:

    ( gah i got an error first time, but I see I’ve just double posted…. Wait, make that triple :p )

  43. Ziv says:

    People say that Most Wanted was the best. I say go now and replay it, I did the physics SUCKED ASS and there is such a small amount of cars (in any of the games) I see the new Forza and envy at X360 owners because they get fucking 400 cars and we barely scrape 60 w/ most of them being Ford Focus ST or a ’75 Challenger.
    I do think that ProStreet was good, it just didn’t get game progression right. and if you were using a keyboard it would get really hard at the end which didn’t happen in any game.

  44. Borat says:

    i look forward to nfs:shift. (but i hope the mmog fails, badly!!)

    God willing (allah akbar) there will be no copy protection, or only normal disc based one. go ea, go!!

  45. Nero says:

    Ever since NFS went “underground” I’ve had no interested in the series. Loved the series up to NFS Underground.
    NFS: Hot Pursuit is my favorite. You against the cops, that’s all I need. Love the Italdesign Scighera in that game.

  46. Shadowcat says:

    The level of simulation they have been talking up for “Shift” (even if not showing) is definitely interesting. All of the previous NFS games had a decidedly arcade bent to them (some more than others, but still).

    I really haven’t seen this sort of (apparent) change in focus in a driving series since “Screamer 4×4″ came out of left field (then into a ditch, across a stream, and up over a hill). A damned good game too, as it turned out.

  47. Bremze says:

    NFS and NFS 2: Special Edition were the first two games videogames I played, so the series hold a special place in my heart. Some time ago went back to replay the second one and loved it even though the catch-up made me want to kick puppies, but it has bothered me in every game in the series.
    The last games I realy liked were Hot Pursuit 2 and Underground, Most Wanted was fine I guess.

  48. Axess Denyd says:

    Ziv: Don’t use the frickin’ keyboard! Get a nice cheap gamepad and it will make all the difference.

    I would like to get a nice racing wheel because I LOVE sitting down in front of a good racing sim for hours upon hours, but money and desk space are not on my side with this one.

  49. KatBozejZiemi says:

    NFS is dead. it NFS is dead. It died when they decided to replace the scenic routes with city streets and closed racing circuits and make it as arcadey as possible (HP2 was just… ugh).

    It’s just downhill from Porsche.

  50. minipixel says:

    Shift is sim-likely, but not hardcore at all, even if it’s based on a hardcore sim engine

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