PS4 Review: Need for Speed Payback

Can this year’s NFS make an impact?

Set in the underworld of Fortune Valley, players drive as three distinct characters reunited by a quest for vengeance against The House, a nefarious cartel that rules the city’s casinos, criminals and cops. They take on a variety of challenges and events as Tyler, the Racer; Mac, the Showman; and Jess, the Wheelman to earn the respect of the underground. Featuring the deepest customization from the series, players can truly craft a personalized and unique ride, or spend hours finding and tuning an abandoned derelict into a supercar. They can then push their cars to the limit and raise the stakes by betting on their own performance, where they can either multiply their winnings or risk losing it all.

The past few Need for Speed titles have been quite hit and miss, the focus on making it more of a Fast and Furious type of story and being less focused than the likes of gameplay from Most Wanted and Hot Pursuit, which in my opinion were the best in the series. Can Payback make it back to the game’s best formula?

Sadly, no. Need for Speed Payback once again dives into Fast and Furious territory with a story that misses the mark. It’s cutscenes are full of terrible acting and cheap CGI, I honestly don’t know why they keep doing it as it never works and only ends up dividing the fanbase more with each entry. The racing itself is an improvement over the likes of the Rivals and the NFS reboot before it. It was teased at E3 as having Burnout-like crashes and while it’s true, it’s not as much as was hinted at. The cop chases are the main highlight of the game, but overall it’s business as usual.

That’s not to say that Payback is terrible, although it does fall into the loot boxes controversy that seem to be surrounding EA’s game as of late. The game is receiving balancing for said loot and will hopefully be more beneficial for gamers, but the jury is out for now. You’d almost be forgiven for thinking there was no multiplayer to speak of in the game as it’s not really hinted at and there’s no quick menu for it to begin with, but it is there…albeit with very basic modes and a standard XP levelling system.

Visually, Payback is a stunning game and runs at a steady framerate. It looks superb in 4K, the cars are nicely detailed and the roaming world of Fortune Valley is beautiful to look at. The same can’t be said for the FMV style cutscenes, which look cheap in comparison. The soundtrack is pretty good, while the voice-acting is pretty awful as you can imagine.

The Verdict

Need for Speed Payback feels like a case of one step forward and two steps back. The gameplay is a vast improvement over Rivals and 2015’s Need for Speed, but the story and microtransactions are a mess that hold it back from receiving higher praise. Let’s hope the loot crate situation balances out more for fans, but we’ll have to wait and see…

Score: 7.5