I hope you like the car you choose in Need For Speed Payback. You’ll be spending a good long while with it. Need for Speed Payback is the kind of arcade racer that never requires you to lift your foot off the accelerator.
Its brazen drifting is effortlessly achieved with aggressive cornering and feathering the brakes, and judicious bursts of nitrous are your best friend down any stretch of open road. There are few games of its ilk nowadays, but perhaps Payback points to a reason why. Despite its impressive visuals and contemporary trappings, Payback’s pick-up-and-play driving model harkens back to Need for Speed Underground and its Fast and the Furious-inspired street racing.
It’s a noticeable improvement over the previous model, this illegal street racing game is neither the best seen from the series, nor this year’s best driving game. In Need for Speed Payback, you play as a former street racer trying to rebuild your reputation — and your friendships with your former crew. Which is really just an excuse to do a ton of illegal street races, off-road contests, and cool movie-style stunts. Just be careful, as the whole “illegal” thing might draw the attention of the local police, who you’ll then have to knock out of the way or just outrun.
The game seems to be set on a holiday Sunday when everyone’s out of town, the roads are rather empty, thus eliminating the fun and challenge of having to weave in and out of traffic. Competing in races can also turn into a grind, as they quickly become a matter of completing a number of races just to get the right parts to advance the story. All of which makes this game feel like it’s trying to be Forza Horizon 3 but isn’t even up to the first one of those games. Still, if you’ve enjoyed previous installments of this racing series, you’ll have a thrilling ride with Need for Speed Payback.