The need for Speed Unbound doesn’t stray very far from the fundamentals of 2019’s Heat when the rubber hits the road. It was shocking to see the series move to Criterion – a studio historically known for its distinctive style – but it wasn’t a bad thing considering Heat was a welcome breath of fresh air for a franchise on the verge of exhaustion. Despite its bold new characters and special effects, Unbound is likely to turn heads. The juxtaposition of its traditional graphics with cartoon-inspired flourishes makes for an instantly recognizable installment of this 28-year-old series. Although the car customization tools are as expressive as ever, older players may not connect with the preening cast of entitled chuckleheads in the single-player mode, and it doesn’t have core features such as cops in the online mode.
In spite of its nonsensical plot, this game still manages to make you obsess about your next car for the entire game. Beyond that, there’s an online multiplayer mode, but it’s already ghostly quiet despite the 10-hour free trial offered by EA Access. Featuring single-player playlists, eight-player PvP races and generous cash rewards – there’s nothing wrong with it.
NFS Unbound is still a loose and colourful racer capable of luring you into its likeably illogical plot and making you obsess over your next car for the duration. There is an online multiplayer mode after that, but it’s already ghostly quiet despite the EA Access programme offering 10-hour free trials. There’s nothing wrong with it—playlists of singleplayer events, PvP races of up to eight players, generous cash rewards—just it’s that nobody is playing. NFS has always struggled in this area, and Unbound is sadly not the turning point.
It’s also not the same as Need For Speed’s return to glory and prominence. It has more features and is more mechanically complex than all of its predecessors—just it’s that its competitors are more expensive.