The Need for Speed franchise has been around for a while, but things are changing for their latest video game. Here’s a look at Need for Speed Unbound.

Need for Speed’s Next Chapter

Nissan Z - ea.com
Nissan Z - ea.com

The Need for Speed franchise is coming up on 30 years in the video game industry and their 25th entry is introducing some stylistic changes alongside the street racing experiences we’ve come to enjoy. Need for Speed Unbound introduces character designs in a similar style to the animated Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse movie along with new animated graffiti visuals that you can customize to your car’s style. There are also additional real-world influences added to the game like takeover events, actual clothing brands to showcase your character’s style, and even musical artist A$AP Rocky makes an appearance in game behind the wheel of his very own custom Mercedes-Benz 190E.

A$AP Rocky's Mercedes-Benz 190E - ea.com
A$AP Rocky's Mercedes-Benz 190E - ea.com

Need for Speed Unbound is a new direction for the racing series, but it still carries with it the same key components that make it fun. There are still intense police chases, racing gets the adrenaline pumping just like I remember, and there are over 140 different cars to choose from to completely modify. It sounds like this should be one of the best Need for Speed games since Underground 2 at first glance. Although, it could just be some flashy new additions to a half-baked racing game at the end of the day (let’s hope not). Read more to see what we think!

Need for Speed Unbound Gameplay

Dodge Charger racing Nissan Silvia - ea.com
Dodge Charger racing Nissan Silvia - ea.com

EA Games has kept Need for Speed Unbound to themselves in terms of revealing gameplay and mechanics. There have been a couple of gameplay videos along with some leaks here and there, but reviewers aren’t getting their hands on this game until the players do. Gamers who love the franchise and don’t care to wait for review can gain early access on November 29th if they’ve purchased the Palace Editon of the game. While there aren’t many official first-hand experiences quite yet, the Need for Speed Unbound gameplay we have seen looks promising.

Need for Speed Unbound Racing

Criterion Games is taking the lead on development of this Need for Speed game, but this time around they have some added experience from a number of Codemasters developers. EA merged Codemasters’ Cheshire branch, known for developing the Dirt rally racing franchise, into Criterion. Hopefully this merge adds to the vehicle controls and lends to a more involved racing experience, but it seems that this installment of Need for Speed is leaning into the arcade style racing.

Need for Speed Unbound racing - ea.com
Need for Speed Unbound racing - ea.com

With franchises like iRacing, F1, Forza, and Gran Turismo taking on the lion’s share of the sim racing market, Need for Speed is looking to be more of a fun experience that suspends belief. The street races feature shortcuts, jumps, and any damage to your vehicle is negligible unless you collide with an object and flip. Even then though, you get a quick cinematic of the car crashing and its straight back to racing with little impact to your position in the race or your cars performance.

Need for Speed Unbound police chase - ea.com
Need for Speed Unbound police chase - ea.com

Police chases are still a big gameplay mechanic that occur during races, after races, and while out driving around in the open world. You can show off and gain more police notoriety for more experience, that is if you can navigate through alleys and tight corners to get away. It’s a staple of the franchise that fans should be happy to see is still there.

Added graffiti visuals - ea.com
Added graffiti visuals - ea.com

As for the cars’ handling mechanics, it looks to be similar to previous installments with some minor adjustments and a lot more visuals. Nitrous boosts are still heavily involved, drafting still gives you a slipstream to pass and build boost, plus drifting is still the preferred method of getting around corners. All of these elements now get a visual element added when they’re performed. For instance, Hitting the boost makes animated flames shoot out the tailpipe, adds movement lines around the vehicle, and adds a unique graffiti addition like wings for a bit.

Need for Speed Unbound Cars

Porsche 911 GT3 RS - ea.com
Porsche 911 GT3 RS - ea.com

Need for Speed Unbound has a good number of cars to pick from and customize. They’ve included everything from a 1955 Chevrolet Bel Air to a 2022 Nissan Z Prototype, leading to a good mix of new versus old while speeding around the city. Players can experience 143 different rides from 32 manufacturers. The largest number of cars come from the likes of BMW, Chevy, Ford, Ferrari, Lamborghini, Mercedes, Nissan, and Porsche, but there are plenty of other notable brands in attendance too.

Chevrolet Corvette Stingray - ea.com
Chevrolet Corvette Stingray - ea.com

Sadly, there won’t be any Supras or Corollas racing around this game as Toyota has taken a stance against promoting street racing involvement. I can appreciate the idea as the practice in real life is dangerous, but their cars are still available in games like Forza Horizon 5 which features a street racing element. Plus, The Fast & the Furious franchise that’s built on the back of the street racing scene is still heavily promoting their brand too with the all-new Supra making an appearance in the latest F9 film. Hopefully they loosen up and come around to the idea for a future DLC, but fans will have to enjoy the other available JDM brands for now.

Need for Speed Unbound Customization

Fully customized Nissan Skyline - ea.com
Fully customized Nissan Skyline - ea.com

This game makes sure all those available cars will be far from stock. Need for Speed Unbound features a ton of performance upgrades on every vehicle. Sadly, there aren’t any brand names attached to any of the performance parts in the game and they are all instead listed as Basic, Sport, Pro, Super, or Elite to explain what kind of upgrade you’re dealing with.

This performance upgrading system allows players to take an entry level car and craft a street beast. Take something like the ‘63 Volkswagen Beetle, drop in a bigger engine, install all the best performance parts, adjust some of the handling sliders, and you’ll end up with a sleeper that’ll put up a good fight against even the Koenigsegg Regera (at least for a little bit).

Bosozoku Nissan 240Z - ea.com
Bosozoku Nissan 240Z - ea.com

Not only does Need for Speed Unbound give you performance customization, there is plenty of exterior styling too. Each vehicle benefits from a number of available body kits that each provide a unique look. Some vehicles gain widebody kits with racing aero, others might take on the eccentric bosozoku styling. Once the body kit is picked, you can go on to add or remove parts from the vehicle to truly create a custom ride. Everything from the hood to the side mirrors can be swapped with a different aftermarket option.

A custom build is nothing without a good paint job, that’s why Need for Speed Unbound allows for players to access a multitude of available paint schemes and a great list of decals. Designers can run wild with their imagination thanks to the new wrap editor that helps in adding a number of eye-catching decals to really craft a style all its own. Unlike some other editors from other games, Need for Speed Unbound allows for decals on the windows; which is a pretty big deal if you’re a big livery builder like myself.

Customized BMW M3 Evolution II - ea.com
Customized BMW M3 Evolution II - ea.com

Customization doesn’t stop there though. You’ve got a lot of finishing touches to look through. There are customizable wheels from real-world brands, customizable brake calipers, pick a license plate design, added neon under glow, unique horns, throw on an air suspension, customized lighting, tune your exhaust notes, and you can pick your newly driving effects. Needless to say, the customization in this game looks terrific and will hopefully push other car games to do better.

Should You Get Need for Speed Unbound?

Mercedes-Benz 190E - ea.com
Mercedes-Benz 190E - ea.com

Can I say for sure that Need for Speed Unbound will be one of the best racing games of the year? Not really. Am I still excited to get my hands on it? For sure. There’s just not enough out there yet to really draw a conclusion on how this game is in its entirety, but it has shown some positives so far. The biggest thing for me is how detailed and customizable the cars are. I could lose myself in that style builder for an hour or two. The main area of concern is the story, how the racing actually feels, and what kind of microtransactions may be there at launch. All I can really say is that if you’re a fan of the Need for Speed franchise, then Need for Speed Unbound is looking to be a refreshing new chapter that you’ll want to get your hands on. For everyone else, check out that Metacritic score in a couple days before you jump head first into this one.

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Jesse McGraw

Jesse McGraw brings his life-long car obsession into his writing. A fun childhood that involved growing up around race tracks, working on a rusty ‘99 Dodge Dakota held together by zip ties, and collecting Hot Wheels developed into a strong appreciation for automotive history. If there is an old, obscure, or rare car, he wants to know about it. With a bachelor's degree in Web Development & Design from Dakota State University, Jesse can talk shop about car or computer specs, focusing on classic cars, imports, and car culture.

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