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Need for Speed Heat Preview: A Return to the Series’ Former Glory?

Need for Speed Heat 2 (1)

Although EA hasn’t been making much of a fanfare about it, Need for Speed Heat releases on PS4, Xbox One and PC this Friday.

If you subscribe to EA Origin Premier on PC, however, you can play the full game right now. And those who have EA Access on console or EA Origin Basic on PC can get stuck into a 10 hour trial, though you’re likely to hit the level 10 Reputation limit way before those 10 hours are over.

We’ve spent a few hours with Need for Speed Heat on Xbox One X thanks to EA Access, and we have to say we’re pretty impressed with it. Sure, Forza Horizon 4 is the king of open world arcade racers on Xbox One, and Need for Speed Heat isn’t going to change that. But as Need for Speed games go, it might just be the best since the original Most Wanted.

It’s got a suitably silly storyline as usual, but it’s not shoved in your face too much. By day you can cruise around Palm City in your souped-up ride, completing legal street races in which you can earn plenty of money, called ‘Bank’. There are also speed traps to speed through, decals to find, jumps to… er, jump, and more. It’s all fairly relaxed. But you’re not going to get far in Need for Speed Heat if you only engage in daytime activities.

To be able to buy new cars and advanced upgrades in Need for Speed Heat, you need to earn Rep, and that is primarily earned by trawling the streets of Palm City at night. Taking part in illegal street races earns you a fair chunk, but if you want to maximise your Rep-building antics, you’re going to want to get into police chases. There’s a risk-versus-reward element, though, just like in Need for Speed Rivals. Escape the cops and make it back to a safe house and your rep will go through the roof. Get caught and you not only get fined, but most of the Rep you accumulated that night is forfeit too. We probably should mention that the cops appear to be rather ruthless at this point.

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Aside from the interesting day and night structure of Need for Speed Heat, what really sets it apart from other recent Need for Speed offerings is its car customisation and handling. Pretty much every one of its 120+ cars can be visually modified in some way, with some having a wealth of options available. You can create your own decals, too, to really make your car your own. And by increasing your Rep level and putting your Bank to good use, you can make nearly every car fly like the wind.

As usual, you can either strive to make your cars stick to the road for clean racing, or drift at the drop of a hat for some dirty fun. Need for Speed Heat adopts a Ridge Racer-style drifting system, too, where by releasing the accelerator while cornering then slamming on it again you get the back end out easily. Feather the steering carefully and you can perform some truly impressive drifts without breaking a sweat.

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We don’t know why EA isn’t making more noise about Need for Speed Heat, really. It’s seemingly letting it sneak out without much fanfare, which is a shame because it really does seem like a return to form for the series. In a post-Forza Horizon world, the Need for Speed series isn’t quite as compelling as it once was, sure, but there’s still a place for it. Not everyone can play Forza Horizon 4, and some have played so much of it that they’re looking for something new. And no other game does police chases like Need for Speed.

If you’re a fan of the Need for Speed series, be sure to check out Need for Speed Heat when it launches this Friday. Hopefully we’ll have a review for then, but we’ll see. If you want to give it a try right now, it’s definitely worth spending a few pounds or dollars for a month of EA Access/EA Origin Basic. You’ll get to play ten hours of Need for Speed Heat, and gain access to full versions of many other games, too.

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Editor in Chief // An avid gamer since discovering the wonders of the Acorn Electron in the '80s, Rich has nearly played more games than he's had hot dinners. Not one to put all his eggs in one basket, Rich is happy to play games of all genres, but he particularly enjoys racing games and anything that's full of non-stop action, especially if it includes a good dose of humour, horror or crudeness!