Still burned by 2017’s Need for Speed Payback, I wasn’t sure Need for Speed Heat was going to be the salve the series needed – but this open-world street racer has some surprising pep to it. Heat is a marked return to form, owing its success to ingredients plucked from a few of the franchise’s most fondly-remembered games. It took more attempts than would’ve been ideal, but developer Ghost has finally built a racer that feels fittingly faithful to the roots of Need for Speed. Heat is hardly revolutionary, but it is fast, fun, and streets ahead of 2017’s properly disappointing Need for Speed Payback.
Heat combines elements of fan-favourites like Underground and the original Most Wanted with some welcome tweaks inspired by its contemporaries. The result is deep vehicle customisation and hectic cop chases, but in a world featuring fewer hazards that’ll bring cars to a dead stop. Like in Forza Horizon, even stone walls crumble and trees splinter if you careen off course. Fewer encounters with momentum-killers helped to keep my pace high and my pulse higher. It’s a back-to-basics approach with some modern modifications, and it works. Best of all, it’s completely purged of the free-to-play style lottery-based performance upgrade system, the ill-conceived obstacles preventing access to body mods, and most of the other horrible dreck that plagued Payback. It’s all been ripped out and sent to the scrapyard.