The dude in the passenger seat is giving racing me an earful about anime as I try to outrun the cops. He recommends an anime about auto racing, praising the way the medium presents the action as both stylish and intense. Try it out, he says. I believe I now understand what he means after spending many hours racing around the very gorgeous streets of Need for Speed Unbound.
Need for Speed Unbound, the next installment in Electronic Arts’ street-racing game, employs a striking visual style that takes inspiration from anime as well as graffiti artists in an effort to revive the series’ flagging popularity. Even if Unbound falls short of the absolute finest racing games, it is the best Need for Speed game in years and a good indicator for the future of the brand.
A good indicator for the future of the brand
The visual style of Need for Speed Unbound is immediately noticeable. It was once referred to as “Need for Speed, the Anime.” In all honesty, this is correct, but it’s not the drift hunters complete picture. The metropolis of Need for Speed Unbound is beautifully drawn and is based on Chicago.
However, it is the characters themselves that stand out. The protagonist and the rest of Lakeshore City’s citizens are drawn in a cel-shaded manner that nods toward anime aesthetics. The realistic setting and the characters’ cartoonish appearance may seem at odds with one another, yet they work well together in execution.
The first stages of Unbound’s character creation seemed very much like those of role-playing games. The combo of Fast and Furious and Speed Racer vibes I was striving for took me much longer than I like to confess to spend fiddling with her model.
What Final Fantasy character’s Cloud or Zack would you rather date?
In Unbound’s narrative campaign, your main character will have several opportunities to shine. Although the story of “revenge via street-racing” isn’t very novel, it serves its purpose well enough that I can enjoy playing the game and progressing through the globe.
The game’s visual flair extends beyond the playable characters. There’s a certain style to driving that’s missing from every other racing simulation. When drifting or boosting, graffiti effects rendered in a cel shaded art style fly out of the vehicle’s exhaust pipes and tires. Cars, with a few tweaks, may appear just as outlandish as your character. My preferred vehicle was a gold one with a body that changed from purple to green, which went well with the protagonist’s fluorescent tresses.
I really wanted the game to take it to the next level and turn it a cel-shaded arcade racing. Perhaps the next time!
As the first Need for Speed game created by Criterion Games since 2012’s Most Wanted, Unbound represents a major step forward for the series. Criterion’s open-world racing games, such Burnout Paradise and Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit, are among the best in the industry.
Need for Speed Heat 2019 was developed by Ghost Games, and a large portion of the game’s content will be passed on to Criterion. Like in Grand Theft Auto, Unbound features a “heat” system whereby players attract the attention of law enforcement and run the chance of being “busted.” Similarly, the day/night cycle that divides the game into two distinct halves adds a new dimension. The daytime is a good time to get some exercise and body heat, which will serve you well in the evening’s higher-stakes contests. The real money is made during the evenings, when the stakes are higher and the races are longer.
In contrast to Heat, which only featured night racing, every aspect of Unbound is unlawful. The main challenge in Unbound isn’t gaining an illegal reputation by racing at night; rather, it’s avoiding the law enforcement while trying to make off with your winnings. It’s not always simple to do this.
It’s avoiding the law enforcement
These law enforcement officials have a vendetta against one another. When you reach higher levels, the opposing AI might become very hostile and tough to defeat. While the “don’t quit” mentality of the Lakeshore police may be frustrating later on, the game’s focus is on fleeing, so this shouldn’t be an issue.
Time progresses as cars race day and night. The campaign lasts for four weeks, and each week ends with a high-stakes, crowd-pleasing race. You’ll need to save up ahead of time to pay the entrance fee and invest in performance upgrades for your vehicle.
In Unbound, you have to work for your ambition of being a street racer with unlimited power. You receive a vehicle that is, to put it mildly, garbage, and upgrading won’t be an option for a very long time. In Unbound, you have to put in some effort to advance, but the rewards are well worth the effort. For the most part of the campaign, I used the same vehicle, which initially had poor handling and acceleration but eventually turned into a formidable drifting machine. The ability to improve your race performance via personalization sets this arcade racing game apart from the others.
It was a winding road that led nowhere fast
Since it takes place in the midst of the spectrum of current racing games, Unbound’s street-racing style and feel place it there. Extremely realistic simulations like Gran Turismo 7 sit next to large open-world arcade races like Forza Horizon 5. But Unbound’s main problem is that it can’t match the quality of any of these series when it comes to how responsive and excellent driving feels.
Unbound’s position inside a series that has often forced to reimagine itself is largely responsible for this. However, the careful adjustments made by Criterion Games make this seem like more than simply the newest iteration in the franchise’s history. The distinct visual flair of Unbound sets it apart from other racing games.
In spite of its drawbacks, I couldn’t help but want to play just one more race; I’d become faster, more creative with my vehicle customizations, and a master of the art of drifting. Need for Speed Unbound may not be flawless, but it is a significant improvement over previous entries in the series and an encouraging harbinger of things to come.