Need For Speed Payback Review

NFS Payback promised an awful lot at E3, but with a hum-drum story and annoying loot-box based car customization, it only delivers a pretty middle-of-the-road Need for Speed experience.


Fast & Spurious?

Need for Speed is back after two years, and Ghost Games gave NFS a really good showing at E3, with trailers promising a Fast & Furious style plot and explosive action. Does the end product deliver?


Unfortunately, Payback’s story starts weakly, and never manages to recover. At the end of the day, it all boils down to a simple revenge storyline against a shadowy organization called ‘The House’, who are running a racket by fixing the winners on illegal street races to make a steady pile of cash.

After all, the house always wins, right? Your crew of Tyler, Mac & Jess vary from dislikable bro-talker to arrogant and aloof. None of them have any personal interest, and there’s also zero relationship value between the three of them (in fact, they start out after the prologue with a significant amount of distrust between them).

The story has some explosive moments, but almost all of them take place in cut-scenes, which is really frustrating that they couldn’t be converted to gameplay. Forza Horizon has made a name out of ludicrously silly challenges and massive jumps, whilst the series already has history when it comes to cop chases. It’s a real shame.


As a result, playing the game (in terms of the actual racing), feels very much like the last few Need for Speeds. There’s circuit, point-to-point and drift events set on roads across a large open world. Drifting is pretty easy, and there’s significant rubber-banding to make the races feel quite tight.

Where the game really succeeds in in the open world. It’s much, much bigger and more ambitious than previous games have aimed for, and more than rivals Forza Horizon in terms of the sheer amount of road that’s available to drive down. The bigger open world also sometimes brings with it the kind of jank that you’d expect from an open-world RPG. Sometimes NPC cars were glued to the road, or jerked back and forwards, or suddenly accelerated away at unrealistic speeds. Sometimes I had problems with textures or events loading in properly.

There’s also more variety in terms of the events and car types that you have to buy. Police chases are now normally in the ‘runner’ category, which gives you a stronger car with more might to bash the cops away (as weapons have once again been dropped). On top of that, there are ‘world’ events, like speed traps, speed zones and drift zones. In principle, this is fine, but they almost all need a specialized car, which means coming back to them later. There’s not the freedom that Forza Horizon offers.

You also have to upgrade your car using grades of parts, which are unlocked either at the end of events, or by grinding, or by buying loot crates. The progression (now patched) is mostly fine, but the parts are all unbranded, the customization options are locked behind in-game achievements, and it feels like the tuner heart of the series has been ripped out to accommodate a money-making machine. It’s not a killer blow but it isn’t cool.


  • Huge open world
  • Loads to do
  • Good car selection


  • Storyline
  • Dislikable characters
  • Glitches


Story - 6.5
Graphics - 8
Sound - 7
Gameplay - 7.5
Multiplayer - 7
Value - 9
Ian - GK
Editor - Reviewer GamerKnights

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