Need for Speed: Payback

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I heard that there’s a new NFS game coming out soon – you know EA; got keep milking the teets of all their cash cows squeezing every microtransactional drop of cash out of them before they wither and drop off – so I thought I better revisit a game that’s been languishing in drawer for almost a year.

I played Need for Speed: Payback for a few hours when I first bought it with some credit I had built up with the amazingly still open high street store Game. I have to say I was mostly disappointed by the game play after throughly enjoying the eternal night time of the very simply titled Need for Speed. But sometimes first impressions aren’t actually that accurate (ask me about Green Day’s American Idiot album some time), so I thought I’d give it another go.

Unfortunately, I think my first impression was right. It’s just not that great.

First of all the story – which runs along like some kind of reject script for a Fast & Furious film – is pretty lame and the voice acting is also pretty dreadful. I found all the main characters – there’s three of them Tyler Morgan (Jack Derges), Sean “Mac” McAlister (David Ajala), and Jess Miller (Jessica Madsen) – very difficult to like.

Some of the cut scenes, beside the poor voice acting, are quite lame – lots of shots of people’s feet getting out of cars, the front of cars (sometimes hovering mysteriously a few pixels off the tarmac) and conversations between people inside cars – almost like Disney Pixar’s Cars talking. It made me actually want some real life footage inserts like the last game (a bit of that game I actually didn’t like!).

Then there’s the actual gameplay which is arcade racing with slow difficult to steer lumbering collections of pixels or vastly customised supercars which fly off in squealing circles of burnt tyre rubber if you so much as hit the accelerate button. It seems like there’s no middle ground – I even tried the customisation as you drive option with little effect on my ride.

Like every ‘open world’ game these days there’s plenty of collectibles and variable pay-off loot box type stuff to keep you hooked, but when the fundamental racing gameplay just isn’t up to scratch it leaves you reminiscing of racing games gone by – for me it’s mostly iterations of the Burnout series.

Also it’s not just the racing, the collecting is a bit crap too – a lot of the time you know you’re close to a bit of a derelict car you’re trying to patch back together like some kind of OCD Mad Max but you can’t see enough ‘out of the window’ of the car to get a good idea how to get too it. Me, IRL, I’d just step out the car and take a look around.

Then there’s the difficulty. Admittedly, I’m getting on a bit now, my reactions ain’t what they used to be, but still. Some races are quite impossible even when the game gives you a helping hand by making all the AI cars go slower if you choose the ‘replay’ option (which is actually pretty patronising of the coders). Just to try and get my money’s worth I set the overall game difficulty when I was about three-quarters of the way through the game to ‘easy’. It helped some but then it didn’t and I put the disc back in the box and will be trading it in for something else at some point. Can’t be arsed with it anymore.

Oh and here’s a cute bug I encountered with Jess standing up in the driver’s seat of her Porsche with half her body merged with the car’s bodywork like some kind of freakish car-woman centaur:

Woo! indeed.

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