It’s been quite some time since we’ve had occasion to enjoy a new Need For Speed title — three years, as a matter of fact. 2019's NFS Heat was the last. Electronic Arts and developer Criterion Games will try to make up for lost time with the next entry in the series, supposedly due out around the holiday season this year. Lots of fans are looking forward to it, though part of me wonders if that might change considering the latest news that’s come out about it. Because it sounds pretty weird!
Jeff Grubb of VentureBeat had the details and relayed them via his recent Giant Bomb show. Courtesy of Video Games Chronicle:
“It’s going to be photo-realistic, but it’s going to have on top of that, anime elements,” Grubb said.
He added: “You know when you see a car commercial or something like that and the car’s driving around, but then cartoons flames and stuff are flying off it? That’s the kind of the aesthetic that they seem to be going for.”
A “photorealistic” racing game with “anime elements” would certainly put the earlier gameplay leak of the upcoming title — which dates back nearly two years at this point — into perspective. That footage was clearly very early days, as YouTuber BlackPanthaa explained in his reaction to it embedded below. However, some of the graphical touches, like the cel-shaded tire smoke and speed lines, seemed pretty deliberate even for a work-in-progress.
If true, this harsh mix of styles will at least make the next NFS a very visually distinctive game. On the other hand, I imagine I’m not alone in wishing Criterion opted for an even more stylized look, and went full cel-shaded. Given NFS’ penchant for street racing culture and the obvious Initial D associations, that seems like a match made in heaven. Nobody’s really tried a triple-A racer with an anime aesthetic since Capcom’s Auto Modellista, which I’m just realizing turns 20 this year. Where has the time gone?
Also of note, Grubb mentioned that the game will be based in a fictionalized version of Chicago dubbed Lake Shore City and that NFS’ hallmark asynchronous multiplayer features will return. Car customization supposedly remains as well from Heat, though it’s unclear if it’s been expanded upon.
This franchise had has quite a few reboots over the years, and it seems we might be on the cusp of another with the 2022 entry and its unique visuals. The new game will also mark the first NFS developed under the Criterion Games label — a team made famous for its Burnout series — since 2012's Need For Speed Most Wanted. The upcoming entry had been pegged for an earlier release, but Criterion was temporarily pulled off of it to support Battlefield 2042, and we all know how that ended.
Meanwhile the studio that developed Heat, Ghost Games, was shuttered not long after its release. I found Heat to be a lot of fun personally, and appreciated its complete omission of micro-transactions after the backlash that Need For Speed Payback endured. But it didn’t exceed sales expectations, and EA didn’t seem too interested in marketing it nor funding any post-release content. No matter how good or bad Criterion’s next NFS is, if it doesn’t receive the push it deserves, it won’t stand much of a chance.