gamescom 2017

Need for Speed Payback

We Take Payback For A Test Drive, On And Off The Road
by Jeff Cork on Aug 23, 2017 at 04:31 PM
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Developer: Ghost Games
Rating: Rating Pending
Platform: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC

The Need for Speed series has long been about hot pursuits and narrow escapes, but Need for Speed Payback chases those thrills in some new ways. I got some hands-on time with the game during Gamescom, where I poked a hornet's nest and tested out some of the game's new off-road action.

One of Paybacks new activities comes in the form of bait crates. These are mini-sting operations set up by Fortune Valley's police department to catch thieves. When you hop into a bait-crate mission, your objective is simple: Evade the cops until they lose interest in your speedy butt. The prize – loot contained inside the crate – is sent to your garage. Don't worry; the police in Fortune Valley are in the pocket of a criminal organization known as The House, so you needn't feel guilty about breaking the law.

The police showed up almost immediately after I activated the mission. We were on the outskirts of the Las Vegas-like city, and my tires kicked up clouds of sand whenever I veered too far off the road. The A.I. is aggressive and pretty clever, and they'll try to box you in. I did my best to prevent that from happening by weaving in and out of traffic and ramming them before the police had a chance to get into position. The difficulty was balanced to be challenging but fair, which I appreciated. There wasn't a whole lot of rubber-banding that I could detect, and I was able to get away thanks to judicious use of nitro and a little bit of luck.

I also participated in an off-road event. Before it started, I accepted a side bet. If I was able to get first place while maintaining a particularly long drift, I'd get an additional payout. I figured I didn't have much to lose, so why not? Off-road isn't something I typically associate with Need for Speed's normal street racing, but trading paint with other cars on sandy trails was a lot of fun. A few well-placed ramps added some additional thrills, too, and I nearly landed on one poor sap's roof. The driving felt looser than on the proper asphalt roads, but I was able to negotiate hairpin turns and last-second shortcuts fairly well. I didn't manage to hit that drift requirement, however, which was a bit of a bummer. Maybe next time.

Ghost Games is playing up the game's high-octane story mode, but I'm happy that the comparatively mundane activities that I accessed while just driving around were still a lot of fun. Look for Need for Speed Payback on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC on November 10.