NFS Unbound Review


NFS Unbound came out on December 2nd, 2022, and was long anticipated by Need for Speed fans. The last game NFS Heat came out on November 8, 2019, a 3 year wait for the fans of the series. The game was delayed in 2021 because the developer Criterion was moved to work on Battlefield 2042, a glitchy failure. Luckily, NFS Unbound isn’t bad and is really fun, a step in the right direction for the series. They tried a new art style with this game, which I didn’t like at first, but over time it grew on me. The characters and car effects have a cartoony/anime art style which reminds me of NFS Nitro and the liveries of Pro Street.

The characters and effects pop out and give the series a new look. There is unfortunately no way to disable the cartoon characters and effects, but you can reduce the car effects when you go to the garage, go to style, driving effects and pick the effects that have the word cloaked in them. There are now pedestrians in the game which add more life to the map. The pedestrians are mostly around the city, but they can be found everywhere on the map. The characters pop out since they look like they are from an anime but then the cars are realistic which adds more uniqueness to the game.

The graphics have improved a lot and looks better than NFS Heat. The rain looks better and there are more puddles that look cool and give the map that underground feel. The reflections look better, and the cars look great. If you take a screenshot of the car and position it right, it could look like a car in person. The lighting in some places is messed up if you’re going over 240 mph, but the lighting looks great during the day and nighttime. Like in NFS Heat you can create and customize your character, which is ok, but I feel like there is less name-brand clothing for the customization compared to Heat, but It’s still cool to make a character that resembles myself. There are poses you can unlock for your character after you win a race, and they add some personality to your character as well.

 If you have the in-game money or are confident, you can place bets before you start a race, which gives you extra money if you beat the opponent you bet with, sadly there aren’t pink slip races, which would add more risk factors and giving you more cars to mess with in the early part of the game when you are low on money. Race and drift events are still here but a new event is introduced, the Takeover, these events are similar to drifting, but you have to jump, drift, use nos, and smash items to earn points and keep the multiplier up to earn more points.

There is a new activity called delivery missions which sounds simple, but you have to deliver the car in a certain amount of time or deliver the car with the least amount of damage during a cop chase. There are sadly no drag races, which would add more variety in races. The car selection is slightly bigger than Heat’s, Heat has around 127 vehicles and Unbound has 143 vehicles, hopefully, Unbound will have more cars to unlock later on in future updates.

There is a new feature for the nos system, which is known as Yellow Nos or Nos Bursts, similar to the burst nos in the Midnight Club series, where you draft cars and get a small boost of nos. But in NFS Unbound you can build the nos burst with drifting, jumping, grip turns, near misses, and of course drafting. The Nos has changed also, it doesn’t build up over time, you have to build it up by driving in the oncoming lane, drifting, jumping, drafting, or driving through a gas station to refill the whole tank. You can also refill nos and burst nos when you take down Cops or Rivals. The gas stations received a change also, gas stations are now unlimited when you need to repair or fill up your nos, but there is a catch, there is a cooldown whenever you can repair your car, so you can’t just keep going through the gas station in a certain amount of time. 

 The cops function differently too, in previous games if the cops see you or see you speeding, they will instantly start a chase. In NFS Unbound it takes cops some time to spot you, and a little detection icon will pop up if a cop spots your vehicle. This system is similar to stealth games where it takes some time for the person to spot you. You can increase the time for the cops to spot you if you buy the Undercover Racer upgrade for your cars. 

When the chase starts, a hud pops up below on your screen and looks similar to NFS Most Wanted 2005, where it tells you if the cops see you or how many are currently chasing you. The chase’s difficulty depends on your heat level, on heat 1 a Patrol Unit (Dodge Charger) will start chasing you, they are easy to outmaneuver and take down. On heat 2 an AWD Unit (Ford Explorer) will come in, you will want to outrun this unit because it has a lot of health and could do some damage to your car, and it can easily go offroad. On heat 3 an Interceptor Unit (Chevrolet Corvette) will join in, they are fast, call-in roadblocks, kind of easy to take down at high speeds, and going off-road will make it harder for them to chase you. At heat 4 an Undercover Unit (Chevrolet Camaro) will join, they are hidden from your cop scanner on your mini-map, and they can call in spike strips, you will want to outrun, outmaneuver, or take this unit down. On heat 5 the Heavy Unit (Ford Raptor) and Chopper join in, you will want to avoid the Heavy Unit at all costs and hide from the chopper, they can easily chase you on the road and offroad and can-do big damage to your vehicle. If the chase goes on too long, a countdown will begin, and the cops will call in reinforcements once the countdown reaches zero. The cop’s AI is slightly better but similar to Heat, however, the cops were more aggressive in Heat, and in Unbound they are still challenging, but they could be easy to escape or just annoying sometimes, and they don’t really work together like in the older games.    

The story for the game is average, there are some cringe voice lines but it’s way longer than NFS Heat’s story. The game takes place in a fictional city named Lakeshore, based in Chicago. The story is about two friends who are unable to stop a car robbery in their auto shop and lose their reputation until they are given an opportunity to rise from the bottom to enter the Grand, a big race to win a custom car that was stolen from the shop.

The game features the music artist A$AP Rocky, which made it look like he was a big part of the story, but he was only in the introduction to Takeover events, in one of the delivery missions, and in the S+ races. The soundtrack has numerous hip-hop songs from 25 countries featuring 70 artists. Some people liked the soundtrack, but I personally turned the music off and put it on Spotify while playing.

The day and night cycles are a bit different; you still have to go to the garage to change the time of day, but when you go to the garage it ends the current session and goes to night or starts a new day. Before you start the day or night, make sure to upgrade or customize your cars, because when you go into the garage you can’t go back out to attend other events and you will lose the chance to earn more money. If you get busted you automatically go to the next day, and if it’s a day before the Qualifier and you don’t have enough money to enter, you can restart the day to earn money for the entry fee. Before you leave the garage, you have a calendar to look at and see which events are available for daytime and nighttime. This is very similar to the Juiced games where they had a calendar for the events.

The online mode is separate from the story, so you have to make a new character and build up your garage for the online mode, which could be liked or hated depending on what you are into. You can earn cars online in the story when you win them from events but in the online mode, it’s harder to make money. There are no cops or nighttime on the online mode at the time of making this review, but they will be added later on in an update. You can make a profile with your character and car which looks cool, but the online mode seems basic for now and will hopefully be better. 

 Overall the game is fun and addictive to play and is more of an arcade racer, but there is some criticism for the game not having realistic physics, handling, and cartoon effects. And if you’re looking for a sim racer, go play Forza or Gran Turismo, but if you like arcade racers then this may be a game for you. I would recommend getting the game if it’s on sale, but you should play it when you get a chance.