Need for Speed Payback preview: Off-road driving makes NFS exciting again


The beloved driving series is back with Need for Speed Payback, the latest entry that looks to bring a little bit of Hollywood to the game. It’s open world, as was the case for others in the NFS series, but this one introduces something never done before: Off-road driving.

We spent some time behind the wheel at Gamescom 2017, and here’s what we think.

Need for Speed Payback UK release date and pre-orders

Need for Speed Payback is due to be released in the UK on 10 November 2017, and will be available not only for PS4 and Xbox One but PC, too.

In terms of pre-orders, you’ve got multiple options available. First of all, you can pre-order the game directly from EA. You can choose from the standard or deluxe edition, with the latter offering bonuses like access to the game three days before release, along with a story mission pack and 10 percent discount on in-game purchases.

If you wanted to buy the game from somewhere else, you can pick up the standard (£59.99) and deluxe (£79.99) PC variants from the Microsoft Store. Console users should head to GAME, as it’s selling the standard edition cheaper than EA itself, at £54.99.

If you do pre-order the game, you’ll be rewarded with a free Platinum Car Pack which includes the Nissan 350Z, Chevrolet Camaro SS, Ford F-150 Raptor, Dodge Charger R/T and the Volkswagen Golf GTI Clubsport – all with ‘Platinum Blue tyre smoke’.

Need for Speed Payback preview

The first thing we noticed when jumping into the driving seat in the upcoming Need for Speed Payback was the level of detail not only on the car, but the environment too. Many modern driving games plough a lot of time into the car models, making sure they’re as accurate and life-like as possible, and neglect the environment. That’s not something present in Payback, as the views around the car are almost as attractive as the variety of high-end cars available.

And it’s those gorgeous vistas (that may vary visually depending on time of day and weather) that drives you to explore the open world present in Need for Speed Payback.

As many will already know, Payback is set in the fictional Fortune Valley and offers an expansive open world, with a range of races, missions, challenges and other events to participate in. Discovery is key in Payback, and with an open world that feels alive, it’s more enjoyable than in previous Need for Speed entries.

Of course, true exploration means that you’ll want to venture off the beaten track, and that’s something that the team behind Need for Speed Payback has spent a long time developing. Unlike in previous games, Payback offers off-road driving. As you’d expect, driving on dirt tracks and grass is much harder than on tarmac, but it’s also much more rewarding when you drift around corners perfectly, leaving your opponents in the dust (literally).

The off-road capabilities aren’t limited to exploration though, as there will also be a range of off-road races to take part in. As, by definition, these are off-road tracks, you may find little shortcuts sprinkled throughout the open world that provide you with a bit of a shortcut, although your skill will determine whether the risk of taking a sharp corner on a dirt track is worth the 2 or 3 seconds it’ll shave off your time.

Alongside off-road races, Blockbuster missions are an exciting addition to Need for Speed Payback, and offer something akin to what you see in Hollywood films like Need for Speed. Essentially, Blockbuster missions are that – high profile, adrenaline-inducing missions undertaken by multiple members of your in-game team.

Switch between characters in different cars to take on different challenges, like switching from a $2m supercar you’ve just stolen to your team-mate’s weighty BMW to take out the pursuing cops.

You’ll be able to play the Blockbuster mission mentioned above fairly early on in the campaign, although there are several Blockbuster missions available throughout Need for Speed Payback. It gives players a taste of the end-game content like super cars and high-speed chases early on without ‘breaking’ the story. 

Another interesting game mechanic is the way that you upgrade your car. Rather than pimping it out at your garage (although that is also available!) you’re presented with three random cards upon winning a race. Each card represents a random car upgrade, and it’s down to you to choose which you’d like.

Once the upgrade has been revealed, you can see what effect it’ll have on your car (both good and bad) and apply the upgrade instantly, ready for your next race.

It’s a more intuitive way of upgrading, and rewards users for performing well in races beyond the standard XP/monetary rewards.

When it comes down to it, Need for Speed Payback is a lot of fun to play, it’s as simple as that. The handling isn’t as realistic as the likes of Forza 7 or Project CARS 2, but we argue that that’s a good thing. It means that you can play seriously when you want to win races, but if you want to be silly – driving off-road, smashing into police cars – you can, and it’s pretty forgiving.

Even off-road driving is a breeze (if you know how to handle a car) and opens up a new world of opportunities rarely seen in driving games. Most recommend you stay on the road, while Payback doesn’t care how you drive, as long as you get to your location.

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