Need For Speed: Payback Impressions: Still Pretty Fast. Not Very Furious.

NFS Payback
Need For Speed: Payback Electronic Arts

More than 16 years after The Fast and the Furious made an entire generation fall in love with fast cars and family barbecues, it looked like Electronic Arts finally realized how much sense it would make to repackage that experience for PC and console owners. But if Need For Speed: Payback is really going to bring out our inner Dom Toretto, EA did a pretty bad job of making that clear at EA Play, the publisher’s now annual pre-E3 festival.

Need For Speed: Payback was one of eight games shown during this year’s event, held at the Hollywood Palladium, and seemed to be the most popular project not tied to a multi-billion dollar film franchise. Attendees were given a chance to play through the same section of the campaign shown during the Need For Speed: Payback portion of EA’s press conference. For reference, we’re talking about the demo that aired right after a teleprompter failed and Jesse Wellens got left looking like a deer in headlights. Fortunately, playing Need For Speed: Payback -- which only used four buttons and a thumbstick in the demo -- seemed much easier than presenting it.

The demo began with a voice that sounds an awful lot like Idris Elba -- though we haven’t been able to confirm the Dark Tower actor’s appearance -- rattles off instructions to the game’s main protagonist, Tyler Morgan, and his partner-in-crime, Jess. But before you know it, the pair is flying down a lightly trafficked desert road to catch an 18 wheeler carrying some highly-valuable cargo. Players must weave through traffic to complete the chase, only to be greeted by hostile escort vehicles when they finally manage to close the distance. And this is the point where Need For Speed: Payback started to lose me.

Ever since EA acquired Criterion, we’ve been getting watered-down versions of popular Burnout mechanics crammed into an assortment of Need For Speed titles. The ever-present crash cam has been particular popular with NFS developers. And I’ll freely admit to whooping and hollering over some of the brutal collisions you could force in Burnout 3 and/or Paradise .  But the system feels like a nuisance in Payback . It doesn’t make me feel like I’m part of the Toretto team or give Payback an edge that previous Need For Speed entries lacked. It’s more of the watered down, underwhelming crashes we’ve been watching since Most Wanted . And that’s just the start.

Once you finish collecting a few takedowns, the big rig becomes Tyler’s primary focus again. But Ghost Games doesn’t bother to do anything interesting from this point in the pursuit. You’re asked to drive very close to the truck for a few seconds, which triggers a brief cutscene and the next phase of the pursuit. And then you’re asked to drive very close to the truck again. At which point you’re treated to another brief cutscene. And the next phase of the chase.

That’s it.

No boxing in the driver and giving your team time to work. No stealing the big rig and trying to navigate a much larger vehicle through a maze of law enforcement and civilian traffic. There’s not even a real test of the player’s driving prowess. You drive to the back of the truck. You drive to the side of the truck. Then Jess rockets out of the trailer in a new supercar, drives a few hundred meters through the minefield of debris left behind the truck and then demo ends with a line of police on the horizon.

For a closer look at the slice of Need For Speed: Payback being shown at EA Play, take a few minutes to check out the gameplay footage that aired during the publisher’s E3 presser. Then head down to the comments and let us know whether or not you’re excited about the next game in the Need For Speed series.

Need For Speed: Payback is in development for PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC.

Be sure to check back with Player.One for more Need For Speed: Payback coverage in 2017 and as long as Electronic Arts continues to support Need For Speed: Payback after launch.

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