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Need for Speed 2015: Way better than you think it is

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Preface

Just for a little bit of background, it was this random comment below in a previous story on this website that somehow made the review copy of Need for Speed 2015 land on my busy desk:

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Also worth noting is that we were not cool enough to receive a pre-release copy under embargo, so I have only had hands on with the game since its global release. If you were looking for a review to decide on whether to spend money on the game or not, you have probably made that decision already. So this won’t be my usual stab at a review taking through all the features in much detail. If that is why you have read this far – words won’t show you the cool stuff as much as the videos do below.

Online Only! How badly does that suck?

Knowing that I was going to scribble a write-up, I tried very hard to avoid online reviews and the opinion of my friends as I wanted to look at the title without preconceived expectations. Sounds easy enough but I assure you that it was not. 

What was unavoidable was the leaked news that that NFS 2015 would require a constant internet connection. That bit of news already had a fair share of users up in arms professing that the title will be plagued by the same problems faced by another title in the EA franchise: Sim City. Even before the game hit the shelves, I could already picture the masses protesting outside the studios offices about this online component. So, how badly does it suck? Well. In my not-always-very-humble opinion. It doesn’t suck at all.

In fact, it works brilliantly.

The reason NFS needs to be online is because, unlike almost all the previous installments of the series, it's online only with multiplayer at its heart. Think of it as an MMO racing title, almost like Need for Speed World wanted to be, just, well.. MUCH better. In short, having the game online really does work for me. However, I completely understand why it will turn some folks away from the game. Having your driving skills questioned is slightly akin to threatening your manhood and in Need for Speed 2015 there is NO place to hide. You will be forced to stare at the times set by friends like a carrot on a stick as you inevitably want to try and top them for bragging rights.

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Like so many things in life, Need for Speed is better with friends

The title makes a point of showing you the times set by you friends on specific races and what you have to beat not to incur the scorn of your mates. Being online in a persistent world also adds the “random factor” into the game that I love. You could be racing a whole bunch of AI cars down a mountain pass only to have a fellow player racing up the same mountain with another whole bunch of AI cars in hot pursuit. (Pun intended).

It adds a massive dose of randomness to almost every race. To be sure, winning is awesome, but it is when things go slightly pear shaped that I tend to have the most fun. There will always be other players in your game. If you are inside a race or just cruising around the open world, you WILL bump into fellow players. It is inevitable. However, they manage the numbers in each world very well, and it is far from overcrowded. I think they have the balance down pretty well. 

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A deeper look at the online traffic requirements

Online works for NFS 2015 because of the combination of the brilliant net code and the very clever way they appear to be handling the servers / listen to servers. I was very worried that being online in South Africa; the game would only work with dedicated servers offshore or use local servers with data being carried via peer to peer technology that often ends up with a poor, laggy in-game experience. I am thrilled to say that this is not the case. I have seen a few reports from international users complaining about lag and “rubber-banding” but I am very happy to report that I had absolutely none of this. Neither have any of my friends who are currently playing the game so not sure how to replicate or investigate that.

WARNING: Shameless plug incoming. Let us have a look at the bandwidth consumption and traffic signatures. With some stellar work from our GameZone team, we were quick to map out the game's net code and signatures on our network so that we could ensure that it always gets the highest level of priority and assurance on our network. Check out the graph below. That was taken of an hour of gameplay on a standard 4MB MWEB Uncapped account. It hardly consumes much bandwidth at all averaging just under 200kbps. So as long as your last mile is good with no local exchange congestion or the like, you could practically play this game on dial-up. It will consume approximately 100MB of traffic in an hour. Note: This was played and taken using the PS4.

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Simulation vs. Arcade

Look. If you are a motor racing enthusiast or a competitive driver (Virtual or IRL) who loves to sit in a racing seat with a high-end racing wheel trying to shave a few seconds off of your best time in Nurburgring under race conditions, this may not be the racing game for you. You would probably be better off playing a Gran Turismo or Forza to satisfy your simulation racing desires.

However, if you like to race in a fast-paced, unpredictable format with bold, bright flashing lights as you whizz past traffic in an open world while scoring points with drift and style while gaining big air on jumps and impromptu ramps and the like… then Need for Speed 2015 is the racing game of the year for you. I was tempted to say a slightly more arcade style of racing than its thoroughbred simulation counter-parts but am very hesitant to do so (even though I just did) because I don’t want you to think that the physics, aerodynamics and handling of the cars in Need for Speed is arcade like. It simply isn’t. 

Setup, tuning & modifications. It is all about the stance!

The customization options and modification you can do your cars is phenomenal. Instead of having an overall settings tab that works across the game, you have to spend a little time setting up and tweaking your car for the courses you intend to attack. Each car will have its unique set-up, but switching between setups is easy and half the fun. You can do a bit of an “easy mode” and sit smack bang half-way between grip and drift and probably manage to get through the bulk of the challenges. However, if you are going to be challenging your mates as the game intrinsically urges you to do, I highly suggest spending the time tuning the horses for particular courses.

The fluid setup married with highly customization options gives you an ability to truly make your car unique. Give your ride that stance you always wanted but know you can’t get away with on our crappy roads and pedantic traffic departments. Remember, style counts almost as much as speed does so you want the auto-uploaded snapshots of your car looking sleek. Stock was so last generation right?

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Image courtesy of NFS Facebook

There has to be something you dislike right?

Well, no not always, but, in this case there is. I am not a fan of the story. I understand how they are trying to pull the different styles of racing together and piece it all together through a narrative while showcasing the icons. I must also admit that they manage to pull it off pretty fluidly, in general, I just really struggle to buy into it as a whole. It feels very contrived and artificial which detracts from the main reason you are playing the game in the first place.. TO RACE! Tell where to be and what the requirements and parameters are. I really don’t need or want to know the motivations and meaningless story behind it. Still a better story than Twilight though ;-)

Another slightly annoying factor is that you are alerted to the mini events and storyline races mostly via your telephone. Which rings… and ring… and rings... Constantly! You can ignore them and check the voicemails later but it the frequency of it so high, pressuring you to move onto the next races. Yes, it is all part of being popular I guess but damn it is aggravating.

Recap & overall feeling

Alright. I think that is enough. Let me just quickly recap by urging you not to be put off by the negativity garnered by its online requirements. The game overall is old school racing madness and delivers grip clenching exciting entertainment. It encompasses many of the aspects that I love and want to see in a racing game, and I will be enjoying many more hours playing it even with a completed storyline. GG NFS 2015. Looking very forward to upcoming FREE DLC’s.

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An alternative opinion

So those are my thoughts on Need for Speed 2015. I asked our local tech genius and GameZone administrator, “SonZ” to give it a whirl and share his thoughts – this is what he had to say:

SonZ liked:

You aren’t forced to do any specific races in any specific order thus you could go and do just the speed races and leave all the others alone until you were done with speed or you can just go randomly do races to build up your completion and collectibles. 

I was able to finish most of the game with one car and only the races where either I was forced to drive a specific car or a car under my cars minimum horsepower, and I liked it as I was accustomed to how the car handled.

SonZ disliked:

I enjoyed most of the race modes except Drift train that I found highly annoying. If you got out front of the train, then the AI would mysteriously slow down, and you would fall out of scoring range. If you decided to bring up the rear, the AI would drive so fast that you fell off and again get no score, thus leaving you with having to sit in the middle of the pack, drift, get smashed into, which causes a knock on effect thus nullifying your score. 

Another major annoyance was the random AI cars that seem to appear mid races; I can’t even remember the number of times I had time trial races destroyed by AI cars showing up at the most inopportune locations or racers coming from the opposite direction of my race on the same side of the road.

Overall enjoyed the game even though it almost cost me a PS4 controller.

Videos

I said I wasn’t going to waffle about features; so here they are in all their glory – worth taking a look!

Need for Speed Gameplay Innovations Cars & Customization

Need for Speed Gameplay Innovations Five Ways To Play

Need for Speed Icons Trailer

 

Brad: Twitter / MWEB GameZone: Twitter | Facebook

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