Developer: Ghost Games
Release Date: November 07, 2017 (Deluxe Edition)
ESRB: Teen / PEGI 12
MSRP: $59,99 / $79,99 Deluxe Edition
Available Platforms: PS4 [Reviewed], Xbox One, PC
Genre: Street Racing
Playing the first 60 minutes of NFS Payback was one of the coolest gaming experiences I had all year. The game started out fantastic with a mix of off-road, street racing, a police chase, and visually appealing cutscenes all underscored by some rock music playing in the car radio. Up until this point I would have given the game a 9/10. However, the initial euphoria fades quickly once you reach the open world and are confronted with the game’s “tuning” / upgrade system.
The further you progress, the more grindy it gets. This is because you can’t just go to a tuning shop and buy a performance upgrade. Oh no no no, you have to rely on RANDOM upgrade cards. The cards provide upgrades gradually through a leveling system.
You can draw one random card after every race win. They can also be bought from tune-up shops (which restock random stuff every few minutes) or trade 3 old cards to “roll” a new one. It takes away the realistic tuning aspect you’d expect in a street racing game. Worse than that, you often get “upgrades” that are a lower level than what you have equipped, so they are downgrades really.
Your car level ranges from 100-399. Every car in the game has 6 performance parts to level up: Head, Block, ECU, Turbo, Exhaust, Gearbox. So you’ll need to get lucky to draw a card for the right type of upgrade (and there’s no guarantee it will be a higher level than you already have).
Whatever happened to driving into a tuning shop and buying an upgrade with in-game money?
A distinct feature is that you have 5 car categories: Race, Drift, Drag, Offroad, Runner (= for police chases). In theory that’s a great idea, you get to drive in different disciplines for more variety. The problem is that it’s as poorly executed as can be. When you combine 5 different cars with the luck-based progression system you get not 1 but 5 grinds.
Each type of race requires a different car and you can’t swap upgrade parts between them. The cards you earn are only valid for the car you earned them with. Think about it, you have 5 cars that you MUST upgrade to play story events. Each car has 6 upgrade parts which depend on RANDOM drops. That’s a lot of grinding for upgrades before you can make any progress. Between story missions you need to play events of all types and they have huge level differences. Even from one race to the next the differences are so big that you’d have to repeat the last event a few times just to get better parts. Then between chapters you have 100 levels difference. That’s such a freaking grind, always replaying old events 20-30 times just to get your car to a suitable level. It feels to me as if EA is intentionally making the game tedious and grindy in hope of selling more microtransactions. These microtransactions will let you buy shipment crates that contain money and trade-in tokens used for upgrading cars, effectively reducing the grind and giving you a “fast-pass” to level up.
You can trick EA at their own game by lowering the difficulty to easy. Then at least you stand a chance against opponents with higher level cars. On normal or hard difficulty you’d have to grind a lot more to keep up with the competition.
It’s hands down the most grindy racing game I can imagine and when you have to replay the same event 20 times just to level up it loses its charm rather quickly.
There aren’t a lot of different races either (around 15 per race type). So your choice of events to grind is fairly limited and you can only play events that fit your car’s build (i.e. an offroad race can only be played with an offroad car, not a racing car).
In contrast stands the vast number of 145 side activities, 130 collectibles, and 20 roaming racers. Needless to say there’s a ton to do. The open world is huge and looks gorgeous. It only runs at 30fps but it does so smoothly with minimal texture pop-ins. Even driving the fastest car at 265 MPH didn’t cause any lag. The environment graphics are great in open areas like deserts and mountains. In the city they are so-so – buildings look primitive – but it has strong visuals for a racing game nonetheless.
What’s better than the in-chapter races are the Fast & Furious inspired story missions. Robbing a car from the back of a driving truck? – Check. The storyline, though, doesn’t exactly make sense. The Las Vegas clone “Fortune City” is being run by the “House” (the bad guys). They are holding a big race called the “Outlaws Rush” which they have rigged to make money off bets. Your goal is to enter and win the race. Somehow this is supposed to bring the entire “House” down. What happens to them in the end is left unexplained. Just why would winning one race bring down a crime syndicate that runs an entire town? The story missions and cutscenes are so fragmented anyway (due to hours of other races between them) that you won’t remember much by the end of it.
For a town dominated by street racers, it’s disappointing that there’s no police. They only show up during select events (runner races, story mission, and when picking up certain collectibles). There is no police in the open world. And the “chases” during runner races are the lamest. All you ever do is drive a checkpoint race with some cops following you around. You’ll lose them automatically at the end, no need to go out of your way to escape the police. At the end of the race the cops simply stop chasing after you. The game would’ve been so better if it had police chases like NFS Most Wanted.
Trophies & Achievements:
If you’re going for platinum be prepared for one long grind. After the story I was only REP level 15 (basically your XP). After having done the collectibles and bulk of side activities I got to level 25 after 40 hours of playtime. You need to reach level 50 for a trophy which is done by replaying the same race over and over again for hours on end. The hardest trophy is getting 3 stars in all activities, annoying but doable with fully upgraded cars. Expect the platinum to last 50 hours at a 5/10 – 6/10 difficulty rating.
*Overall Enjoyment Factor, Fascination with Game World, Level Design, Variety, Playability, User-Friendliness (Ease of Use / Readability / Controls / in-game Tutorials / Menus)
Gets old real fast & randomized progression system is no fun. No police in open world (only during events), visual tuning is so-so. Cool game world though.
*Quality of the Singleplayer Story, Cutscenes and/or Multiplayer Modes (whichever is available). If a game has no Story or no Multiplayer it won’t be rated (thus no negative effect on score).
Story: 4/10 – Starts out great, but turns into a grind quickly. Unsatisfying ending.
*Graphics, Texture Quality, Character Details, Lighting, Weather Effects, Animations, Loading Times, Number of Loading Screens, does it run smoothly
Good visuals, good performance, good looking cars.
*Amount of Content, Production Quality, Replay Value, is there enough content to justify a purchase
A lot to do for an open-world racing game. Can get a lot of hours out of this one.
*Rates how much fun the Platinum / 1000 Gamerscore is to achieve: Are trophies fun to do? Do trophies restrict freedom of gameplay? Missable trophies? Multiple playthroughs required? Luck-based trophies? Pointless farming/grinding? Glitched Trophies? Are stats/trophies tracked correctly?
|Extraordinary Score Increase or Deduction
*Reserved for extraordinarily good or bad features that the other categories don’t cover (such as game-breaking bugs). This score is directly added/subtracted from the final score.
For heavy push of microtransactions. While not mandatory, the whole progression system is clearly made so very tedious to push time savers.
What a grind! NFS Payback has its moments of joy but it’s being held back by a luck-based progression system built around microtransactions.
Reviewed on PS4 Pro. A free review copy was provided by EA. Finished the story, found all collectibles & activities, defeated all roaming racers.
While you’re here, check out the Need for Speed Payback Trophy Guide & Roadmap to learn more details about the game.
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