The latest Need for Speed leaves me searching for a need for next-gen.
OK, I want to preface this article with one simple fact; I love Need for Speed. I’ve never had more fun than tricking out a ’69 Dodge Charger in bright orange paint, slapping a 01 on the side, and racing down the highway singing “Just a good ol’ boy…” from the Dukes of Hazard. Yeah, that’s how I role in Need for Speed. The franchise has really blossomed in the current-gen, as we’ve seen the series really hit its peaked on systems like the Xbox 360 and the PlayStation 3. Now, as we move away from those tried and true consoles and step into the next-gen, so will Need for Speed. The upcoming Need for Speed Rivals will test the waters of the next-gen technology, as seen in the recent gameplay trailers we brought you, which you can find below.
Visually impressive for sure, but is that enough?
First, let’s breakdown the trailer a bit and examine what we can expect from a next-gen Need for Speed. The video starts with an aspect that many fans will recognize from previous installments of the game: the hot pursuit. Now, right off the bat, we see that the action is fast and furious (no pun intended). You’re thrown into a race where you’ll not only have to catch your rivals, but avoid (if not completely take out) the cops who are chasing you as well. Pretty standard fair for Need for Speed; however, there is one glaring difference. As the light reflects off the cars’ surfaces, and the trees and roadways whip by you at lighting fast speed, I can honestly say that this is by far the most photo-realistic entry in the series you’ll find anywhere. Hell, it’s already one of the most photo-realistic racers ever compared to the current-gen. The visuals are stunning, and the sound effects are screaming. With each crash into the pavement, you hear the tires squeal, and the car’s chassis crumples when it impacts the road. You can almost feel the weight of the door slamming into your opponent when you check them into the guardrail. It’s intoxicating--not to mention, the new weapon systems and Mario Kart-esque tricks you can deploy in order to gain the upper hand during the race (like EMP-looking charges) that look amazing.
That was impression of the first trailer. The second trailer, not so much.
Don’t get me wrong; it’s not that the first trailer is any less spectacular than the second. The problem is, as impressed as I am with the visual presentation of Need for Speed we’ll find in the next-gen, the new wore off a bit quickly for me. By the time I was halfway through the second clip of gameplay, I had a bit of “what have you done for me lately” attitude. Thus, this brought me back to my biggest critique of the next-gen: Need for Speed is a solid franchise, but what are we really getting from it in the next-gen that can be considered a true evolution? Yes, things will look great on the PS4 and Xbox One, but frankly, the 360 and PS3 are no slouches either. The last few entries from Need for Speed for the current-gen looked pretty damn good on my HDTV. So what is the franchise bringing to the table in the next-gen that sets itself apart from its current-gen predecessor? Frankly, I can’t point to any one thing that it really does. If enhanced visuals are the only thing that a developer can tout as its big next-gen achievement, then they are just putting bullets in the gun of those purists who say “graphics don’t make the game,” whom love to shoot us with that phrase so often.
Now, I believe it’s unfair to criticize someone else’s approach to something without having some kind of reasonable alternative to offer up of your own. So here it is. Are you taking notes game developers? You’re on the right track (with your stellar improvements in visuals and audio), but there’s an angle of the presentation you’re missing. I truly believe that the real next step in gaming evolution doesn’t lie in the fidelity of HD graphics, but the immersion of the player into the world. We’ve finally gotten to a point that games can simulate photo-realistic worlds, now take the controller out of my hand and put me inside them. Developers should start integrating technology such as the Oculus Rift or the PS4 VR headset now, and not wait. The sooner you actually put me in the cockpit, the sooner I’ll throw my money at you.
And trust me, I’ll make it rain…