Need For Speed: Payback (PS4)

nfsnxgThe latest addition to the Need For Speed franchise is all about revenge. Tyler and his crew of streetracers were betrayed by The House, a criminal organization with ties in streetracing, gambling, and just about everything shady. Tyler, Mac and jess thirst for payback, and team up with a wealthy casino owner to take down The House. In order to do that, they need to start out at the bottom…

Payback has about every feature I want in a racing game. There’s shiny supercars that are upgradeable. A gigantic open world littered with races and challenges. Worshops where cars can be repainted, refitted and get stickered. Collectibles strewn about. There’s just so much to do!

The controls are so straightforward, driving a supercar was never easier. In no-time I’m swooshing through the vast landscape. As always, pedal to the metal, drifting, handbraking and boosting with nitro blasts. Good old fun. Each of the three main characters has his own style, so there’s different types of races to compete in. Drag races, offroad, regular streetraces, police chases… Add all that to the many optional events to be found and there’s hours of fun to be had.

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I do have some gripes story-wise however. Take that flimsy plot for instance… I didn’t expect Shakespeare, but anything with a bit more depth and a little less clichés would’ve been nice. Same goes for the voiceacting. I don’t know if it’s the actors or the subpar dialogue, but there a so many cringeworthy moments. Onliners like “Nighttime. This is when I come to life.” Uttered in different variants by the main characters are so full of cringe, they made me burst out laughing nearly every time. The whole plot sinks to the level of a bad B-movie. Which would be fun, if it was meant that way. But unfortunately, Payback takes itself way too seriously.

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But let’s not forget the main reason for playing: racing! I can ignore the story, even though there’s so many cutscenes interrupting playtime. Not only plotadvancing scenes, but also action sequences. Nice, but I would’ve rather played through these action scenes myself. Now I’m getting the feeling I’m only allowed to drive from stunt to stunt, but not allowed to perform one.

Let’s stick to racing then. Which is great fun on its own. With each victory I come closer to taking down The House. I need to beat other crews first, and every race has a level assigned to it. If my car’s level is lower, my chances of winning are small to non-existant. I can level up by replaying earlier races. Again and again and again and again… If that’s too tedious, I can also whip some real cash out and buy my way up via microtransitions…

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Payback also found a new way of upgrading cars. Where I expected having to buy and fit parts to my car, there is now the speedcards system. After a victory, I’m allowed to draw a random card. That card is an upgrade for a random part, of a random level and a random brand. If I have no need for the card I’ve just won, I can sell it. It’s all great at first, but further in the game, getting that specific card I need depends too much on luck. It degrades the whole upgrading from an art to a base level of gambling.

What to do with Need For Speed Payback. On the one hand, I like nothing better than racing through the open world with its vast landscapes and detailed vistas. On the other hand, the story, the grinding and the wonky upgrading throw a spanner in the cogs.
One and a half thumbs up, one thumb down.

Jan

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