The title of this post goes some way in explaining why there’s been a bit of a gap since I last blogged. I succumbed to the voices in my head and no small measure of peer pressure from my gaming friends and bought a Sony PlayStation 4 a few weeks ago. Given that my first console was a PlayStation (1) it felt a bit like returning to my roots.

I have fond memories of thumb cramps and blistered fingertips from too many hours playing SoulBlade 2, Micro Machines, Command and Conquer, WipEout and V Rally. The PS4 controller felt odd in my hand after so long using an Xbox controller, but I got used to it after a few days. I bought Star Wars: Battlefront with the console and downloaded Need For Speed from the Sony Store during their Easter sale. Battlefront is lots of fun and I’ll share some thoughts about that in a future post.

I’ll also talk about all the other games I bought with the trade-in credit from my Xbox and all the peripherals I had – including no less than four controllers;  a side effect of all the red circles of death over the years. But first it seems appropriate to talk about the latest iteration of NFS – given my run of NFS on the Xbox and my obsession with V Rally on the PS1.

As I usually do with games in the NFS franchise, I tried to make do with the cars I was given to complete the easy and medium level races and events, and avoided spending any money on upgrades until I really needed them. This strategy worked very well. I found I had two cars to begin with a Subaru BRZ Premium and a BMW M3 E46 Deluxe – perhaps by virtue of buying the premium version of the game (I also had 10% of everything in store).

Without any modification or configuration the Subaru BRZ Premium was pretty crummy at drift. Drift was a massive bugbear for me – up to this point I had not enjoyed it is a gameplay option, much preferring timed events or first across the finish line sprints. However, I found the BMW much easier for drifting and actually found myself enjoying it once I had mastered the technique.

My enjoyment continued when I spent all the money I had built up on a Porsche 911 GT3 RS (991) which drifted even more deliciously around the winding mountain roads. Some of the road layouts seemed vaguely familiar… Well what I could see of them. My main whinge about this game is that it all happens at night. The sun never comes up. It’s quite bizarre. Sometimes it feels like dawn is just beginning and then it just gets dark again. It must be like living in Greenland.

Eventually I bought a Lamborghini Aventador LP 700-4 and drove it around for a bit getting used to it before then modifying it and tuning it. I splashed out on a nitrous kit for it and finally experienced what I would consider to be the ‘true’ NFS experience. I know I have said it before but I am sure that this is the fastest iteration of NFS I have ever played. I actually went so fast at one point that even the excellent PS4 graphics engine couldn’t keep up and the graphics went a bit PS1 for a while (until I crashed into a lamppost and the problem was replaced by another one – how to catch up with everyone else).

I did not enjoy the drag races at all but I think that’s just because I was not used to this new form of gameplay and I just needed to practice. That said I didn’t feel a burning need to revisit them. All the event types are great, but the timed runs remain my favourite. There’s no ‘ghost car’ option to compare to your friend’s runs but that’s a minor point.

The cops don’t seem to play a particularly important role in this version of the game and are very easy to out run. They can sometimes get involved at the most inconvenient of times – like when you are trying to complete a rather intricate drift level. The last remaining set of missions (if they can be called that) are the Outlaw missions. It takes about ten minutes for the police to get so angry with you that they set up road blocks and it took a lot of slow crawling cat and mouse to piss them off. I have not experienced stinger strips or the police helicopter (I’m assuming there is one) as I just don’t have the patience.

My other gripe is that the characters ring you up in the middle of races. Ah… the characters…

Apart from the constant night time, the other thing that is pretty rubbish about this game is the real video footage. It’s not the first time NFS has featured real actors but this time they all seem to be trying way too hard to be hip and cool. At least one of the characters is an English girl, who I have seen in Channel 4’s Glue, putting on an American accent and the actor who plays Spike is channelling Brad Pitt’s crazy from 12 Monkeys. It’s all a bit embarrassing really.

The ‘story’ is also pretty pointless and the gaming equivalent of an ‘I have come to fix your radiator’ scene in a porn film. I don’t really know why they bothered, or having bothered why they didn’t try and get a decent script together with some kind of plot. It’s not like they haven’t managed it before for NFS. A nice touch with the scenes in the garage was to try an integrate your current car with the real footage but I think the money they spent doing it might have been better spent on a decent script.

There’s some cool cameos – on screen and voiced by the likes of Magnus Walker and Ken Block – which add some authenticity but I felt a little embarrassed for them being among these crappy actors. Magnus’ Porsche 911 Carrera RSR 2.8 is also doing my nut in – no matter how hard I try at the moment I can’t get it around the time challenge quick enough. The game won’t let me tune it the way I want so I’m a bit stuck. More practice required I guess.

Currently, after roughly 26 hours play, I find myself at level 54 with 83% of the game completed and $550k in the bank. I have been mostly driving the now completely modified Lamborghini Aventador LP 700-4 which drives like a go-kart on steroids and drifts around corners like an Olympic speed skater (when I get it right). I don’t like drift, I love it!

For the record my cars included:

  • BMW M3 E46 Deluxe
  • Subaru BRZ Premium
  • Nakai’s Porsche 911 Carrera RSR 2.8 (won)
  • Magnus’ Porsche 911 Carrera RSR 2.8 (won)
  • Eddie’s Nissan Skyline GT-R-V-Spec (won by completing a special set of 15 races)
  • Ken’s Hoonicorn Ford Mustang (won)
  • Beck Kustoms F132 (bought but never raced)
  • And a shitty Volvo estate I bought just for a laugh.

I love this game. I just wish the sun would come up and I could enjoy the scenery some more. Given that I bought this online with no possibility of trading it in I’m going to continue to play this on and off for the rest of the year.