It is immediately extremely pretty, though. There are dark and gritty instances where it feels a little like the whole thing has been shot on Michael Mann’s iPhone, but racing at speed through the soaked streets here (particularly in bumper cam) is really something else. The cars glisten with beaded water droplets and the streets gleam, a shiny tapestry of mirror-like asphalt reflecting artificial light from all angles. Need for Speed also sounds nearly as good as it looks; the throaty burble of performance-tuned engines is well-realised and the crackle of exhaust overrun and the ker-chunk of slamming gears is similarly respectable. However, the sudden, jarring transitions from the dead of night, to pre-dawn, and then back to night again are horribly ill-conceived. These transitions seem to be baked into parts of the environment so they can actually happen multiple times over the course of a single race.
The eclectic roster of cars is only a fraction of what’s on offer in, say, Forza Horizon 2, but it has a little something for most gearheads. Garage spots are limited to five but the focus here isn’t collecting; it’s perfecting. I completed most of Need for Speed in a single car, constantly cramming upgrades into it to keep it ahead of the competition.
Performance customisation is the basic kind (bolt in everything you’re eligible to purchase and your car will go faster) but there’s a little more to visual customisation. You can sweep around your car, swap external panels, add flair to fenders, install canards, adjust stance, and more. There’s also a freeform livery editor, which definitely beats having to make do with simple, pre-set designs and wraps. You can’t modify everything, though; after I completed the story mode I splurged on a classic Ferrari F40 but was disappointed to discover I could barely do anything to it. I couldn’t even change the rims. It seems at odds with the game’s philosophy.