Assuming the story or crates don’t put you off, there’s a huge amount to see and do in the game, making it excellent value for money. There’s loads of racing leagues, and blasting your way to the top and taking down The House will probably take 20 hours, whilst collecting everything will take even longer than that.
The previous NFS was always online, which didn’t go down so well with either fans or critics. This time around, you can play offline, but it comes at the cost of having multiplayer completely split out from the main game, requiring several additional loads.
There is a free-roam available, but most of your time will be spent in ‘speedlists’, which are just the NFS way of saying lobbies/ hoppers. You can earn serious amounts of cash and rep online (good), but don’t bother trying to go online until you’re most of the way through the campaign. You’ll use the cars you’ve built up during the single player, so unless they’re sufficiently levelled, you’ll find yourself pootling along at the back (bad).
Payback looks pretty good in either 1080p or 4K on an Xbox One X, but it’s a shame not to see HDR or Dolby Atmos added to the game. It’s a crisp and clear presentation, that runs at a smooth 30fps with no slowdown, but it’s hardly as good looking as Forza 7, which also manages twice the number of frames and has significantly better quality lighting and weather effects.
Unusually for EA, the soundtrack is mainly from newer artists and indies, and doesn’t have the big-name draws of past games. The voice actors aren’t great either, and are also let down by the pretty dreadful script writing. Many of the ambient lines also start to repeat over and over after just a few hours of play in a large open-world game; some of it really starts to grate.
“Need for Speed Payback” isn’t really a letdown, but perhaps more of a sign of the times or a missed opportunity. The series hasn’t felt that relevant for about 5-6 years now, and Forza Horizon is really filling the arcade racing space. The plot is a real let-down, and the disappointment is doubled by the unlikable cast (is it that hard to capture the ‘family’ atmosphere of the Fast & Furious franchise?) and the fact that almost all of the best moments are in cut-scenes only. Payback is certainly ambitious, looking to blend a Fast & Furious plot with elements of The Crew and Forza Horizon. But somehow Ghost Games have managed to combine elements which weren’t particularly critically acclaimed before then adding a loot box upgrade system which takes away some of the real-world authenticity that the series has seemingly wanted to move towards. None of this is a critical flaw, but at the end of the day, one of my most anticipated games of the year feels like a bit of a damp squib in the flesh.
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