My Early Thoughts On… Need for Speed: Unbound

If there is one constant in the world of arcade racing, it is that EA Games will release a new Need For Speed game. This one was developed by Criterion Games, the team behind Hot Pursuit (2010) and Most Wanted (2012), as well as the Burnout series, and sees the series return, in part, to the Underground-style street racing scene, where body kits and neon lights reign supreme. Here are my early thoughts on… Need For Speed: Unbound.

  • Generally the voice acting is good, but I don’t much care for the Zoomer-speak. I’m comfortable admitting I’m not in that age group any more, but it just takes me out of the world when I spend my time trying to decypher the code language these characters are speaking. Frustratingly, the primary older character is much the same way, and he is treated as an out-of-touch old joke, so forgive me if I feel like that’s being projected onto me in some way. A’ight, bet. Say less fam. Drop me a pin. Yeet!
  • The graphics are are pretty, and the anime/cartoon/comic book style is great, but I do wish they had gone all-in with the cel shading style or not bothered at all. The city seems to be American, but considering the graphics and aforementioend underground street racing scene, they could have set this in some expy of Japan and just straight up emulated Fast and Furious: Tokyo Drift. Disappointingly, there is no cockpit view with visible steering wheel/interior of the car. The Forza series has spoiled me.
  • Overall, so far I would say the difficulty is fine (with the option of, essentially, easy/medium/hard split between races and chases). I find the the cop pursuits are incredibly simple, even when at maximum Heat Level 5 in a B Rank car. Even on the easiest race difficulty some races feel too unforgiving, where a single crash or poor turn will leave you 5th at best. This makes sense in a simulator or even semi-simulator like Forza Horizon, but in one of the top selling arcade racers, it feels jarring.
  • The story has a lot of issues, not least of all the above note about zoomer speak making it hard to relate to the characters. It is all very heavy handed in race/gender politics via the new ‘tough on racing’ mayor, with no real input from your custom character (which in my case was an Asian female, anyway – not that you are ever given the option to choose ‘female’, but that is neither here nor there). I also admit I find it difficult to sympathise with these street racers, as they are objectively doing the illegal thing by street racing, and the cops are only doing their jobs. Maybe I’m missing some nuance.
  • The soundtrack is unrelenting garbage. I think I knew one artist on the entire tracklist, and I can’t understand the horrendous mumble rap while racing anyway, to the point I have just turned off the songs altogether. At least the engine noises are good.
  • They have taken the frankly flabbergasting decision to separate single player and multiplayer, even so far as comestics earned from one not being available in the other. This being the case, I don’t think I’ll bother playing the online mode any time soon.

All these things being the case, I’m not yet ready to give up on Unbound just yet. Worst case scenario I can just zone out whenever anyone starts talking, and just do the races as separate and detached events. I can admit that there is most likely not much that will change from now until when I finish it, but that’s sort of what these posts are for. I’ll keep you posted. Until then, say less? Bet, fam. Drop me a pin and I’ll see you on the ‘Gram. Peace.

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