Sure, it was fun at first seeing other people randomly speed by in Need for Speed, pursued by a phalanx of police cars. But the realistic open-world feeling lost its luster fast when other players, seeking destruction points, cracked up the car I had just gone back to make pretty in the garage. This kind of realism I can do without.

Need for Speed strongly encourages taking screenshots and posting them publicly, because “likes” by other NFS players translate into in-game dollars for you to spend on parts. People with short friends lists better have mad photography skills or they’re out of luck.

The always-online nature also completely removes the ability to pause. Yes, you can plop yourself into your garage, which takes you out of the action. But it literally moves you to the garage, so any race you had in progress, any part of town you had laboriously driven to, are now miles away.

Need for Speed 2015

Above: Empty road with no missions in sight.

Image Credit: Electronic Arts

What to do, what to do

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That long distance to your nearest mission would be less frustrating if you had more to do between locations.

The game offers static location-based missions, but not many at any given level. Unless you spot a named NPC or another gamer to challenge to a race, a cop to buzz for a chase (which turned out to be surprisingly absent, especially early in the game), or you get lucky with stumbling across a static mission that matches your driver level, you’ve got a long drive ahead with no real rewards except the occasional drifting or destruction points.

This is the other downside to Ventura Bay’s huge size; it feels really empty, when it comes to playing. At any given time, a drive of many empty miles can separate you from the nearest challenge.

Need for Speed 2015

Above: The city tucks away some nice jumps.

Image Credit: Electronic Arts

Conclusion

The Need for Speed reboot improves upon several of the more recent installments in the game, which were plagued with problems more serious than these. But I was disappointed when my pure joy in the look and driving feel of NFS drained away over time, sucked out by boring treks across the city and one too many encounters with unfair A.I.

The high polish of the game was marred by these nagging issues, and the occasional framerate drops. The always-online requirement and fairly crass commercialism of how that policy was presented were also off-putting, and didn’t serve much purpose for most of the game.

Need for Speed offers meaningful customization, great arcade driving, a cool look, and a five-part advancement system that gives players different things to do. Unfortunately, after a while, doing those things — especially after missions become repetitive — just doesn’t provide that much fun.

Score: 70/100

Need for Speed is available November 3 for Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC. The publisher sent GamesBeat a digital code of the game for the purposes of this review. 

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