Need For Speed: Unbound
I'm starting to feel just how irrelevant the Need For Speed franchise is becoming now. There hasn't been a stellar entry in this premier racing game franchise in over a decade, and this latest entry Need For Speed: Unbound, does little to assuage this feeling, as it continues to let the franchise tumble around in the microwave of mediocrity.
The main problem with Unbound is the name is misleading. Unbound means there are no shackles or restrictions, yet in this effort invisible walls, a refusal to let you experiment with course routes, and a confinement to largely tame urban street races, makes this year's NFS entry a tumbleweed that's sweeping wearisomely by.
The only distinguishing feature of the latest NFS, is a sloppy and garish artistic presentation that looks ugly as it tries to be hip with the cool teenagers of today. The art style is flat and revolting, coming across like vomiting colourful goop that'd easily fail in a 5 year-olds painting competition. This aesthetic is dragged into the gameplay, represented as visual flecks of "coolness", as your car will spout colourful drawn-on wings as your car vaults into the air, and adds an extra plume to the gas your ride will give off when you drift.
Certain aspects of the gameplay are irritating. Cornering feels like an elephant has just plonked its oversized buttocks on your car, and crashing can be a controller-crushing frustration as traffic litters the streets, putting pay to your speed-freakiness if you aren't particularly careful. Suffices to say, Unbound falls in the face of its grander contemporaries in the genre such as FORZA Horizon 5 and EA's own GRID: Legends.
The cops still hang around to cause more headaches in Unbound and they add next to nothing of substance to the racing experience. Sometimes they'll appear right after you completed a race, forcing you to evade them, but thankfully they are easy to outrun on low-heat levels-but they're unwanted attention to say the least.
The story is all about rising up to prove yourself as a racer-pretty much the same old setup as other NFS games. Characters are idiotic and unfortunately, they'll be sitting with you in the car you are racing, so if you want a free blight of badgering headaches to accompany your intense racing you'll get it here. Also expect talk of food and possums too because y'know Need For Speed has to be seen as hip and cool, even though calling this outing cool is like calling a pig between two wooden planks a bacon sandwich.
Online, it's pretty nice to jump into playlists-a series of races between you and up to 7 other drivers, but there are no concessions made for inexperienced racing gamers, who will be thrown in at the deep end and swim or sink with the sharks. Finding sessions is easy enough, but there are times where you will be left hanging in lobbies too.
There remains the feeling that NFS: Unbound is sticking to tried and true formulae to get by. The story is weightless, the characters are a bunch of brain-dead morons, the racing is passable but without vigor, the sense of speed is good if you can avoid the traffic and dodge the dregs of questionable handling, and the artistic choices made make the game stand out but for mostly the wrong reasons. There's not much in Unbound to complement, it's just another Need For Speed game for better and worse, showing few fundamental improvements-but hey if you like your racing game's vacuous and dumb then it might be what you're looking for.