Need for Speed Payback barrows a lot from The Crew and at close glance is a carbon copy of The Crew. There are 5 Race types or Specs, the story is centered around revenge plot, the main character is require to build a crew to takedown the establishment, performance upgrading comes in the form of a stat chart, and like the Calling All Units DLC, there are “crates” of unknown value scattering across the map that when picked up instantly start a pursuit with cops.
The game’s biggest copy however is the in-game economy although recently, NFS has bumped up the money earnings after an event thus, less grinding is needed to fully upgrade your cars. This was due in response to the massive backlash EA received from Battlefront 2 community as well as Disney since they own the Star Wars property now. The boost does help lessen the grind however it’s still a grind because there’s no quick performance upgrade option like there was in The Crew or like there has been in every Forza title since Motorsport 3 in 2009. So, while the time needed to upgrade your Beetle has been reduce from 4 hours to 2 it’s still a grind nonetheless.
Similarly Payback’s pricing for cars will cost you an arm and leg. To be fair, the new boosted in event earnings make this less of a problem overall however $30k for a STOCK 1996 Mazda MX-5 or Miata is too much. $560,000 for STOCK Lamborghini Aventador? $300,000 for a STOCK Lamborghini Huracan? Forza has these cars priced two or in the Miata case 5 times cheaper. These prices like The Crew, are never even numbers so the cost will always take more money than you think. Some may argue that these prices due to the car being a Spec type or Race type but when the car still has the same top speed and looks exactly the same as the stock version, that argument falls apart really quick. Not only a Forza’s cars cheaper but upgrading them to maximum performance can be done in minutes and even if you don’t have million spend right away, earning money is easy and will build up quick with Credits entering 100,000 within 30mins or so
Gone are the traditional performance parts like engine, turbo, ECU, and brakes and in their place, is a stat screen. Speed Cards are what NFS is calls them and the whole thing is a gimlet that no one asked for. It reduces performance upgrading to a matter of stats much like The Crew’s gold, sliver and platinum upgrading system. These cards could have 90’s cartoon characters on them and it still wouldn’t matter as the only thing to be concerned with is the stats they provide. I could have a Johnny Bravo engine with Scooby Doo brakes, and a Ed, Edd, & Eddy transmission but as long as they make the stats on the left side of the screen green, it doesn’t matter what they are. You can try the whole match three of the same brand and I’m sure it will give you a boost in performance but REALLY none of it matters.
Then there’s the matter of the loot crates although NFS is calling them shipments. Basically, these shipments contain everything you need to upgrade and customize quickly. There are two options a base shipment and a premium shipments. Base shipment are earned in-game while premium shipment can only be brought using REAL money. The items within them come in combination of tokens, Speed Cards, special visual upgrades like neon glow and colored exhaust, and occasionally some cash.
If you prefer the old fashion way of upgrading then be prepare to spend some hours grinding and brute forcing the AI racers into a crash to keep them from pulling a mech 5 turbo boost to the finish line with just 500yrds to go.
I really don’t mine the grind it’s what every racing game is base on even Mario Kart. The issue comes when I’m force to grind because of corporate meddling. If both Payback and The Crew had a more traditional upgrading system and a more reasonable economy I dare say would actually be able to compete with Forza. But because they don’t they’re always going to be one lap behind.
This is what KILLS THE GAME for me. You can try to ignore the shipments and slot machine performance upgrading and grind to the maximum level the old fashion way but sooner or later you’re going to have to break down and buy these shipments just to upgrade quickly. Some may argue that this is done to extend the life of a game or to make the game more challenging but it actually makes you not want to play at all.
All this said there is an actual good arcade racer here which is a shame. The graphics are good featuring a mix of realism and a rich color pallet. The driving mechanic lean more toward the arcade style similar to the Burnout series with mad jumps, insane drifts, and refillable boost bars. Customization as far as the visuals are concerned is suburb with every car from low to high featuring various body panels, rims, exhaust, etc to change up. The car engines sound real and loud while the sound effects of scrapes, crunches, slams, and crashes sound satisfying. The music in the game is okay. I haven’t really found a track that stick out amongst the crowd but I’m not exactly skipping songs when they come on. The racing, drifting, cop chasing, and various other events feel alive, exciting, and are definitely worth multiple playthroughs.
The one thing holding this game back for once is not the handling or a glitches interface but a cooperate mandate. EA and every other AAA publisher continues to put these loot crates into their games and it’s KILLING the overall experience. Publishers may say game development is more expensive now, that these crates are merely cosmetic and optional, and that they don’t really affect the overall player experience.
But harsh true is, that they do and it makes the game not even worth playing for an hour or two. No one asked Need for Speed to reinvent the wheel for performance upgrading. No one asked The Crew to make cars three to four times more expense than their real-world counterparts. these developer and publishers made these decisions on their own and now we the gamers are being made to pay up front in the false hope of playing a good games.