Need For Speed Heat: Review & Developer Interview (Video)

Yeah, I know I’m late with this. Sorry! The point is, I have finally put together my thoughts on Need For Speed Heat. Though that’s not all! I was also lucky enough to interview the Riley Cooper, the Creative Director for NFS Heat and pick is brain about some of the things the team did differently this time around.

First, I’ll start with my review, which you can watch in the video below. If you don’t have the approximately 9 and a half minutes of time to watch, just keep scrolling to see my pros, cons, and quick final thoughts.

Need For Speed Heat review video:

Need For Speed Heat Pros & Cons:

Amazing visuals Too much grinding required
Excellent car selection Cops get too aggressive too fast
Best car customization system in the series  

Final thought:

Need For Speed Heat is a solid driving game with a lot to offer; but the constant grinding required at the beginning of the game drags it down. It is worth buying but wait until Black Friday when Target and Best Buy will have the game on sale for $35 & $39 respectively.

Alright. Now that you know what I think about NFS Heat, learn even more about it in my interview with Creative Director Riley Cooper below.

Developer interview:

Andrew Beckford: I would like to start with some of the technical elements that I think people are going to want to know about. First, are there any major changes to the physics and handling systems versus the previous game?

Riley Cooper: In ‘Need for Speed Heat’ we give players much more control over their driving experience. We do this via parts which change the handling in realistic ways. Need for Speed Heat features full simulations of clutches, gear boxes and differentials, to name a few, and the variant of what you equip will change how your car drives. So rather than buying a drift car, as you did in Payback, you buy a stock car and through equipping parts that are optimized for drifting you make it better and better at drifting. This creates more depth through throttle control, allowing you to change the angle of your drift by how far you push it, as it does in a real drift car setup. This also demands more skill though. It’s only necessary if you want to set the highest drift scores or prefer the additional challenge.

We’ve done the same for grip handling. By equipping parts with higher traction you can make any car have a grip setup that will allow you to set the fastest drive times by keeping a smart line through corners. So, no more drift to win, something our players have been asking for quite a bit. Also our sense of speed is greatly improved over Payback. Even our starter cars feel fast and are a thrill to drive. Last we’ve added engine swaps and exhaust tuning. Together you can take lower powered cars to higher levels and you can make them sound exactly how you want.

AB: Your team has definitely taken a different approach to things this time around. I think one of the biggest shockers for me was the decision to not debut Need for Speed Heat at the EA Play event in June. If I’m being honest, there were not many sizable racing-game-related announcements during E3 this year. If Heat was announced at EA Play it could have really owned the racing game conversation during that time. Now that the announcement has been made and we’re close to launch, can you elaborate on why the team made the decision to hold off on an EA Play reveal for Need for Speed Heat?

RC: Our goal here was to have a high impact in a short window of time. It also allowed the team to stay focused on building the best game we could before creating playable demos. We had a blast revealing the game at Gamescom in Cologne both in the fan responses to our trailers and to players who queued for hours to play it there.

AB: Need for Speed Payback is a game I really enjoyed. A lot of people are still enjoying the game now. Are there any elements be they gameplay mechanics or thematics that your team felt that they needed to carry over into Need for Speed Heat?

RC: The main things that carryover between our releases are technology and learnings. As our tech infrastructure develops we’re able to go further each iteration. We also look very closely at how players respond to each game and take on the challenge of evolving what we do with that feedback in mind. From a scale point of view, ‘Payback’ was much bigger than ‘Need for Speed 2015’ and had more content as well as complexity in its systems.

In particular, we made huge strides in Payback with the ability for cops to keep up with racers in an open world. This development was key in delivering cops in ‘Need for Speed Heat’. It allowed us to focus more on the overall experience of engaging with cops in Heat’s high intensity night experience. We were also able to bring cops back to free-roam with more confidence, which is something our players really wanted us to do.

AB: While we’re on the subject, while having really enjoyed Payback, one of my main criticisms was the “speed card” system. In a more general sense players are more wary of how monetization is executed in “Triple A” games. It has already been stated that Need For Speed Heat will not have any “loot box” mechanics. However, can you elaborate on how upgrades and microtransactions (if there are any) will work in Need For Speed Heat?

RC: The progression system in Need for Speed Heat can be completely unlocked only by playing the game. While most items can be bought with in-game currency, the best items must be won in high Heat events that are unlocked by earning Heat within a single night. Performance parts are much more grounded in Need for Speed Heat as well. Parts that affect handling or power, respectively, on real cars only affect those characteristics in this game.

Parts are scarce in Palm City due to the presence of the Showdown: a sanctioned day-time competition for street cars. Vendors will only sell parts to you if you’ve proved yourself by earning Rep through night racing. The higher your Rep, the better the cars and parts that become available. To buy those parts you must compete in Speedhunter Showdowns during the day where you earn Bank. You can earn Bank at night and Rep at day but the fastest earn rate is Bank by day and Rep at night.

AB: The Need for Speed Studio app is really cool. Nothing like it has ever been done before as far as I can tell. Furthermore, I think the way you rolled it out with the emphasis on how the app connects with Need for Speed Heat is genius. What was the nexus of this app? What is it about Need for Speed Heat that lead your team to decide that this was the time to create a companion experience?

RC: ‘NFS Heat Studio’ was the brainchild of some of our partners in our Cologne office and has been a great success with our players. They had a vision for doing car customization from your pocket and having personalized launch trailers using those customized cars. We loved the idea and we were determined to support it. In September, we announced that over 2M cars have been created within the app.

AB: The “Palm City” locale of Need for Speed Heat draws a lot of inspiration from Miami. Can you talk about how the art direction produced the “look” of Palm City without being a direct copy of Miami? Did any of the inspirations go beyond looks? By that I mean where there any cultural elements that may have inspired parts of Heat’s narrative or characters?

RC: In creating Palm City we took inspiration from many cities across the southeastern United States; primarily Georgia and Florida. ‘Need for Speed’ games demand a compelling city locale so for ‘Need for Speed Heat’ we took a reference gathering trip to Miami. While there we explored Miami’s Wynwood Walls, Little Havana and we got to meet some great people who were into Miami’s car scene.

We never aspire to duplicate real world locations because we want any ‘Need for Speed’ world to be an amazing driving experience first and foremost. We used elements from Miami and Georgia we felt would most contribute to a compelling experience at high speeds as well as to inform our narrative. For example, two of our characters Ana and Lucas are Cuban. They’re your primary companions as you build your credentials as a street racer in Palm City.

AB: As in real life, it appears that cops are main antagonists to street racers in Need for Speed Heat. Although, players will not be able to play as police in the game. Can you talk about the decision behind not having cops playable? Also, can you explain a bit about just how aggressive law enforcement will be in Need for Speed Heat? Will it be possible to cruise around at night without attracting attention? Or will the cops be constantly on the hunt at the first sight of street racers?

RC: With ‘Need for Speed Heat’ we really wanted to focus on what it means to be a street racer in Palm City. Being able to focus on that allowed us to increase the quality and depth of that experience. Participating in street racing in Need for Speed Heat will increase the Heat on you.

Starter cars can survive Heat one and two but that’s about as far as you’re going to want to push it. If you keep pushing your luck at night your Heat will climb which means you will have more attention from cops trying to take you down. At Heat level five, you better know what you’re doing, if you want to get back to a safehouse with your Rep intact. If you don’t street race at night or are just cruising around during the day, cops will not target you. It’s a way to give players a choice on how to play.

AB: Finally, what do you want the main takeaway to be from the Need for Speed Heat experience? Is there one area or element of this game that you really hope resonates with the fans of the series?

RC: We want players to enjoy the overall experience of ‘Need for Speed Heat’. What excites us is how our new handling mechanics, world, day-night loop, cops, and narrative come together to immerse players into the world of Palm City. We want players to want to be there, to feel it, for hours. That’s our goal.

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