A teaser trailer on Need for Speed’s website promises more detail on June 15th; days before E3 2015.
The countdown has begun! E3 is little more than 2 weeks away and so far, most talk I have heard comes from the fact that Treyarch will be going into more detail about the upcoming Black Ops 3, Microsoft’s planned Halo 5, or the fact that Elder Scrolls and Fallout producer Bethesda is holding their own press announcement this year. (Please, please, PLEASE announce Fallout 4)
that has plagued big name game development companies lately: micro-transactions. They’ll sell you a game (for $60, mind you) and it wont even be a finished product; titles will have day one patches, which take forever to download, or they’ll market a game where you can only do a little of what the game was intended. Feeling disappointed? Well for the paltry sum of only $19.99, you can add 2 more exciting hours of gameplay with DLC packs! Fun!
This model works well for some titles, but definitely not all. Let’s use defunct developer Maxis’ life simulator The Sims as an example. Most expansion packs for The Sims added some kind of whole new game mechanic and genuinely made the game more fun, or at least fun in a whole new way. These expansion packs were well worth the cost (usually $10-$20) and added many new game mechanics and scenarios for your Sims, which enriched and enhanced your gameplay experience. In contrast, most of today’s paid DLC is pointless and serves only as a way for the developers to extort money from people who have already paid for the game. (Really, SimCity? You want me to cough up $3 so that the little cars in my city, which I can’t control, will occasionally be Nissan LEAFs? Screw that!)
It hasn’t always been like this. Back in the day (and not even that long ago!) EA put out some amazing games with little to no monetization options. While EA was responsible for the both critically and commercially panned SimCity 2013, they were also responsible for the fantastic SimCity 4, which released way back in 2004. The Sims 2 was excellent and even The Sims 3 wasn’t terrible, although this is where micro-transactions really started to take hold. Even more-so, two of my all-time favorite racing games: Need For Speed Underground and Underground 2.
These games were absolutely phenomenal. The level of customization was so deep; my friends and I never had similarly customized cars. In fact, sometimes we would just design cars for the fun of it. The open world exploration of Underground 2 was completely unheard of at the time, allowing for many hours wasted exploring the city, and the controls were easy to handle, including the more challenging drift challenges. Even today these games still hold their own against more modern street racing games, even if the graphics are a bit dated. (Come to think of it, there haven’t been too many as of late.) Unfortunately, the Need for Speed franchise moved on to bigger and better things, and the term “better” is wildly open for debate. Its been 11 long years since Underground 2, and I’ve been wondering if we would ever see anything else like it.
Well… It’s finally back.
Set to be fully revealed on June 15, just before E3, Need for Speed’s website has teased a few pictures showing a new Ford Mustang and a late-80’s looking Porsche, showcasing the pristine detail of the cars as well as some impressive looking water/rain effects. There is also a trailer which, while possibly a cut-scene, claims to use in game footage. According to the website, this game promises a “reboot that delivers on what Need for Speed stands for: rich customization, authentic urban car culture, a nocturnal open world, and an immersive narrative that drives your NFS game”.
This sounds awesome, but I’m mildly concerned for multiple reasons. First, the last time EA made a NFS game that was all about narrative, we got Need For Speed: The Run. Racing seemingly took a backseat role to elements not suited to racing titles: Quick-time events? Really? I’d rather not avoid being hit by a train by mashing the “X” button to break out a window because I’m flipped over on the tracks during a cut scene.
The Underground games had a bit of storyline to them, but it was sprinkled in here and there to make the racing feel more immersive, which is awesome! Gamers don’t want endless cut scenes interrupting the core gameplay element; 20 seconds of gameplay interrupted by a three minute cutscene, which segues into another 20 seconds of gameplay leading into ANOTHER cutscene? Ridiculous.
And EA’s recent and frequent over use of micro-transactions scares me. In a series like NFS, the possibilities for their use is nearly limitless. Want a different car than the one you started with? Better pay up. Oh, you actually wanted to customize your car? We’ll need your banking info for that. Get busted mid-race by the cops? Go to jail; go directly to jail. Do not pass Go, do not collect $200. But if you want to avoid jail, you can pay us $200; will that be credit, debit or PayPal?
Obviously, we can only hope that these are not the ways EA plans to make us pay more to play a game we’ve already purchased, but who knows? As long as there are those out there who will shell out money for things, its only good business to keep making them.
Only time will tell if EA will continue to make games that gamers will enjoy once and be done with. I’d personally love to see them go back to the style of games like Underground and Underground 2, where everything on the disk was unlocked and playable day 1 without having to pay to access it, and the focus wasn’t so much on making more and more money, but delivering gameplay gamers enjoyed without milking every last penny out of the franchise. I still have faith in you, EA, but you keep letting me down. Please, someday soon, prove to all of us that you can still be the gaming great you once were.