FYIG recently took a trip to the Vegas-inspired Fortune City kicking up dust in the desert and blazing through the bright lights of the city. Find out what we thought in our Need For Speed Payback Review!

Release Date November 10, 2017
Genre Racing
Platforms PS4/XBO/PC
Developer Ghost Games
Price $59.99 US
ESRB Rating Teen
Players 1-8 Players


The Need for Speed series is 23 years old and in that time the series has reinvented itself more times than I can even count. The most recent reboot of the series happened in 2015 where we saw the spirit of the Underground games from the early 2000s return. While that effort was a good one, it was a relatively short game with a beautiful, but lifeless game world. Payback fixes those issues and gives players a lot more to do in an activity-filled map reminiscent of B Fortune Valley.

The first thing I have to address about Need for Speed Payback is that the entire focus is not on the “action-driving” sequences that you’ve heard about. Those driving sequences represent only a small fraction of the story. The bulk of the driving in the game is still racing. I was initially pretty excited to play out these sequences as I thought they’d be something completely new and fresh. That wasn’t exactly the case. The game takes over all the cool bits and you’re left to race cutscene to cutscene. They serve the story well and help cut between characters quickly, but there’s definitely no replay value. Once you’ve seen these once, there’s never a point to playing one again.

Need for Speed Payback Review
Take that, chopper.

Police chases take a different form in Payback and have become much more linear. Instead of trying to get away from the police like you would normally, you’re racing through checkpoints to beat a time limit with police on your tail. There are no police cars in free-roam, you’ll only find them in story missions or at certain points on the map that also trigger pre-set chases. On one hand, these cop chases are pretty fun and you can perform cop takedowns in very similar fashion to the Burnout series. That part is great, but all the strategy of a chase has been taken out. It’s not like you can hide out to get rid of the police or take shortcuts to get them off your back. You’re limited to racing to a pre-set spot on the map without getting stopped by the cops. These chases are pretty easy and I never had much issue getting to my destination. The police cars themselves are incredibly fast and they will try to box you in, but your car is powerful enough to smash them out of your way most times. I will add that Payback mixes things up by adding cops in the middle of the race later in the game, but the bulk of these chases are time trials.

The rest of the events in Payback center on drifting and racing. There’s your typical street racing, drag racing, drifting, and offroad events. These events are linked to different crews spread across the map. Each crew has a different boss and they’re all introduced in a very over the top way. The characters aren’t memorable at all and even the main characters can get quite annoying after listening to their banter for a little while. The story and the emotional connection to the characters always feel like a tacked on experience rather than a reason for actually playing the game.

Need for Speed Payback Review
The dirt and dust effects on the cars are really detailed.

The characters aren’t any different from each other, they’re simply tied to one or more of the five car classes. Cars purchased for one class can’t be used for events in another class. It’s restrictive, but it creates a different feel for the five different types of events which broke up some of the monotony that I sometimes feel in racing games. There are times where you’re thrown into a race with a drag car or a cop chase with a race vehicle instead of the “Runner” type which is supposed to be reinforced for impact. It didn’t make a lot of sense to me why the game would throw out its own rules on a whim like that, but there were a handful of times where it did without any real reasoning behind it.

There’s a nice mix of cars in Payback. You won’t be finding any Toyota or Ferrari cars in the game, but you will find a great selection of muscle, exotic, and tuner cars. There’s definitely something for everyone. There are even “derelict” cars scattered across the map. I would compare those to Forza Horizon’s barn finds except for the fact that you have to find multiple pieces to construct the car. There are other activities around the map with things like billboards to smash, jumps to hit, and speed and drift zones. There’s definitely no shortage of things to do and it’s fun to just take in the scenery as you make your way to your destination. The day/night cycle also helps to make this one pop, especially when driving through the strip at night.

Need for Speed Payback Review
The cops try their best to take you out.

The upgrade system in Need for Speed Payback is simply awful. Visual customization options are now unlocked by completing tasks in the open-world like hitting 3 jumps for an example. If you just want to play through the story without doing any extra tasks, you’re going to have to do it with stock visual parts. I just can’t understand why they would make it such a task to change the way your car looks. It’s one of the first things everyone looks to do in a racing game and now it’s much more difficult to do. Performance upgrades are even worse using collectibles cards to upgrade certain aspects of the vehicle like exhaust or turbo. These cards are called “Speed Cards” and they instantly soured me on the entire Payback experience.

Each car has six “Speed Card” slots and you can earn one from every race you complete. It’s more of an incremental upgrade than anything. You can also buy more cards for in-game cash from the auto parts stores scattered across the map, but the parts only refresh every 30 minutes and can be quite pricey. You can also turn “Speed Cards” into “Part Tokens” with 3 tokens being equal to one roll at the “Speed Card” slot machine. You generally receive better cards doing this, but it takes a lot to get tokens. You can also earn “Part Tokens” from “Base Shipments” which you earn by gaining in-game reputation points. There are even “Premium Shipments” that can be purchased with real-world money. As you can see, this system is utterly ridiculous and should have been dialed back immensely or removed completely. This is not the future I’m looking forward to with racing games. Oh, and don’t try to cheap out and race without way under the recommended level because the AI will beat you every time.

Need for Speed Payback Review
Good ol’ billboards, just like Burnout.
Pros Cons
Big setpieces Terrible upgrade system
Good mix of races Forgettable story


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