Gamers the world over since the inception of the 2nd wave of Fast and Furious films have wanted to experience what its like to be a part of an elaborate heist crew, which is robbing companies, mobsters, and low-lives alike, first hand. And the day EA showcased Need for Speed: Payback for the very first time, many rejoiced as the highway heist sequence – which the publisher showcased at the time – looked like it had been pulled straight out of a Michael Bay movie. And what came after it inspired all the fans of the franchise with even more confidence, as each and every new trailer and press release painted Need for Speed: Payback to be the true heir to the exceptional Need for Speed: Carbon, and a meaty adaptation of the Fast and Furious franchise.

All the way until launch, many have been holding out to finally play the second coming of the Need for Speed franchise. However, Need for Speed: Payback turned out to not just be the best Need for Speed title since Carbon – no, it is in-fact the worst addition to the series since its birth back in 1994. In-fact, it is so poor and underdeveloped, that it might just be the worst racing title of this generation. And that is a feat in itself, especially after one takes into consideration that PlayStation 4 and Xbox One are a home to shambles such as FlatOut 4, and a wide variety of other AA, low-budget racers.

The story of Need for Speed: Payback is most likely its biggest flaw, as it has more holes than your average apartment building in Aleppo. The story begins with the protagonist and his crew of rag-tag, happy go lucky hustlers, stealing a high-end military-grade vehicle for a third party. However, as it happens, not everything goes to plan. And when you arrive at the meeting point, you find one of your people knocked-out-cold, face-down on the ground. So logically, the protagonist leaves the vehicles as far away as it is humanly possible from his friend, and leaves it unlocked, because that’s what you do with a one of a kind car that you’ve just stolen. And while this is idiotic in itself, it is not as bad as the events which follow. And you better hold on to your seats, because ‘’what comes next, will shock you’’ – Buzzfeed.

While Tyler, the main frat-boy protagonist, is trying to nurse his friend, one of his crew members who appears out of thin air, makes a grand entrance, taunts Tyler about how he’s just been played, and takes at least a minute before she even attempts to make her escape. Meanwhile, Tyler, like the knuckle head that he is, is simply sitting on the ground watching the soon-to-be secondary antagonist of the title steal his livelihood and personal freedom. And this is simply unacceptable, because no rational human being, car thief or not, would allow for something like this to happen. If the writers behind the game have invested at least some effort into the story, they would have turned the car-stealing-switcharoo into a grand scene with helicopters, armed gangsters, and dozens of foot soldiers. Because in that instance, it would be literally impossible for Tyler to retrieve the above-mentioned car.

Throughout the entirety of the prologue I was just sitting there laughing at how catastrophically bad the title at hand truly is. And even if you were to forgive the antagonist for materialising out of thin air, you’ll still be sitting there in disbelieve thinking why the protagonist didn’t simply walk up to her, and why hasn’t he sold her a bunch of mean digs to the ribs and taken the car back. But then, most who purchase Payback will not have time to think about that, as the title in question is filled to the brim with idiotic plot points. But thinking about it now, most will not have time to be disappointed with the plot of the title, as most will lament how poorly designed and structured it factually is.

Not to prolong, all that has to be said is that Payback is simply the racing equivalent of Mafia III. It is a title which is centred around grinding, as it is devoid of any meaningful content. The high-impact Fast and Furious-like missions can be counted on the fingers of a single hand. And most, including myself, who believed that the crew-bosses, which have been a big selling point of Payback throughout its marketing campaign, were going to be the true essence of the title, then sadly are going to be disappointed. And that’s because all in-game crew bosses are nothing more than a handful of voice lines, which are there to simply justify the ridiculous design of Payback.

At its core, Need for Speed: Payback is all about grinding, as in order to challenge the district bosses you’ll need to achieve a pre-determined power level of your vehicle. And at the beginning, doing so is not that bad as power levels rise by a minuscule amount from one event to another, but as the game progresses onward, it turns into a relentless, never-ending grind. At times one will have to spend hours trying to get that one part, from the random card-based loot system, in order to get his/her car anywhere near the required power level. And what makes this even worse, is the fact that the player has to do so, not for just one vehicle, but for five different cars all at the same time.

I myself came to a point in Payback, where instead of grinding, I just decided to compete in the events with a severely under powered car, and while doing so was a daunting task, as challenging a 380-power level district boss with a 310-power level car was borderline impossible, once I got the hang of things, I realised why the grind is there. As without it, Payback could be finished within a couple of hours. And if I had referred to the same approach from the start, I could have been done with Payback within ten hours or so.

Payback, not even as a Need for Speed title, but as a racing game as a whole, has no redeeming qualities. It is a shambolic, cheap, and incoherent game which lacks even some of the most basic features, such as free-roam police chases. And considering that such were in-game since the days of Most Wanted, it has to be said that it is simply unacceptable. Even the ending, which is usually the strong point of the vast majority of the titles within the franchise, is simply underwhelming. And once one does some quick maths, by putting two and two together, and by taking away one, he/she will arrive at a conclusion that Ghost Games perhaps may not be the best fit for the franchise, as it is their second title in the series and it is even poorer than their previous outing.

In conclusion, all that has to be said about Need for Speed Payback, is that it probably never should have happened. It is simply boring at its best, and infuriatingly bad at its worst. And while it must have been in production for at least two years, it feels cheaper than an indie game which was haphazardly put together within a space of couple of months. And quite frankly, it doesn’t deserve to bear the name of the Need for Speed franchise, as it is simply putting it to shame, and is subsequently devaluing its worth in the eyes of investors, gaming press, and most importantly gamers.





My name is Kamil, and I'm the 'Feature Man'. I write news, and reviews just like everybody else, however, feature articles are my true forte. And this is not because I'm another self-centered, pseudo-intellectual games journalist, but because there are many discussion worthy matters which go unnoticed in the flurry of other video-game related articles. If you want to read more of my #HotTakes and #Opinions, or if you simply want to fight me over the internet, you can follow me on Twitter @Kama_Kamilia.