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‘Need for Speed: Unbound’ is a fresh take on an aging game franchise

The latest entry in the series brings a distinct look and feel

'Need for Speed' was the game you played when you wanted to not take things too seriously. PHOTO FROM NEED FOR SPEED

Remember the Need for Speed franchise? This was the other go-to racing game apart from the likes of Gran Turismo and Forza. Early games like High Stakes, Porsche Unleashed, and Hot Pursuit introduced many players to exotics. Then, who could forget the “golden age” with Underground, Underground 2, and Most Wanted, which arguably shaped the series’ identity of customization, free-roaming, and cop chases that even the likes of Grand Theft Auto couldn’t top?

Around the time of Undercover, the series was starting to stagnate a bit with its tried-and-true formula. Sure, there were some gems, but most failed to capture the charm of the older games. There are many factors behind the decline, but one is due to publisher Electronic Arts pushing for a hectic yearly release schedule (which became a two-year schedule following the release of 2019’s Heat), and “axing” studios that didn’t meet its standards.

The latest entry into the franchise aims to give the brand a unique identity. PHOTO FROM NEED FOR SPEED

Then, in 2021, news came out that the release of the next game (to be developed by Criterion) would be delayed to 2022. This was understandable, because the rest of the world was still recovering from the effects of the pandemic, and the studio was assigned to work on the next Battlefield entry.

Ignoring the leaks that cropped up a few months ago, we were told that the next entry in the franchise would be implementing “anime-like effects.” Of course, this raised some eyebrows, because most would immediately think of something like Initial D, but alas, everyone’s questions were answered with the release of Need for Speed: Unbound’s reveal trailer.

All the hallmarks of a traditional 'Need for Speed' game are present, only with a little more flair this time around. PHOTO FROM NEED FOR SPEED

For starters, no, this is not the same “anime” look that you were expecting. This is more akin to the pop-art, cel-shaded look popularized by 2018’s Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.

Set in the fictional city of Lakeshore City, a robbery at a family auto shop tears two friends apart, and you must rise to the top to win the “ultimate street race” (called “The Grand”) to reclaim the “priceless car that was stolen.”

Cheesy premise aside, it has all the markings of a traditional NFS game: over-the-top customization, cop chases, rival racers, and arcade-style physics. Plus, rapper A$AP Rocky is prominently featured with his customized Mercedes-Benz 190E, and you’ll be able to win it from him in a pink-slip race, which is something the series hasn’t seen in a while.

One of the game's strengths has always been its car list. Also its extensive customization. PHOTO FROM NEED FOR SPEED

There is a total of 143 cars to choose from (you can view the list here), and it includes a whole host of European, Japanese, and American brands with choices ranging from hypercars, tuner cars, and even SUVs. Some iconic cars from the franchise are present, like the BMW M3 (E46), the Polestar 1, and the Skyline GT-R V-Spec (R34).

It also brings back cars like the BMW M1, the Mazda RX-8, and the second-generation Mitsubishi Eclipse GSX. It also introduces much-requested cars like the Mazda MX-5 and the Nissan Silvia Ks (S14, Kouki). Sadly, you won’t find anything from Toyota here, because of Toyota not wanting to be involved with anything that promotes street racing Toyota’s future plans. (It has been three years already, Toyota!)

You'll be able to extend your personal flair to your character and driving effects. PHOTO FROM NEED FOR SPEED

In keeping up with the times, your character can be customized with clothes from “the pioneering fashion innovators,” the “driving effects” that look more cartoony than realistic, and the soundtrack will be mostly comprised of hip-hop tracks.

Either way, no gameplay footage has been revealed yet, but it will be released on December 2 on PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X/S, and PC for $69.99 (P4,120). More details will be available post-launch, but as always, take your time to see how a game pans out (read: don’t impulsively preorder).

Sam Surla

Sam is the youngest member of our editorial team. And he is our managing editor (believe it or not). He specializes in photography and videography, but he also happens to like writing about cars a lot.