Like our “great” president this game promises a lot and delivers on very little. Another parallel that I can draw between the two is after experiencing either you will be formerly requesting that they Payback the money, heh heh see what I did there? Ok, right, my jokes are pretty lame. That being said so is NFS Payback.
As a NFS franchise devotee I always let much more slide when reviewing the newest title. However, this time there are far too many problems to just simply overlook and live in blissful ignorance. The best way to highlight these issues is to tell the story of first time play.
I insert the disc, watch as a large update starts, nothing new all games seem to do it these days. After a few minutes I hit the main menu and start the campaign. The first event is fantastic, immersed in different driving styles right off the bat. I feel my smile begin to grow, I lean forward in excitement and as we all do in street racing games I get my angles wrong and prepare for a massive accident with ongoing traffic. I am confused, my car passed right through the NPC. I try it a second time and low and behold I ghost straight through. Thinking I am invincible I attempt this with oncoming traffic, roll, roll and roll some more, 8th place now. Alright, avoid all cars ongoing or oncoming.
Now the police are chasing me, 2, 3 and all of sudden 7 and the game framerate drops to maybe 15fps. It is a console so I assume it cannot take the load, I let it slide. The smile is starting to fade a bit. I wreck one of the police cars and wow, the crash cam is amazing. The cam returns to driver perspective and low and behold I am completely surrounded by every police vehicle in the game and subsequently busted. So, the cam completely neglects you to display some cool crash scene but then it forgets that you have not lifted your finger from the throttle trigger and your original direction of travel was not towards a wall. Luckily, it can be turned off but I think to myself that Most Wanted, the first one, made sure that after the cool crash cam you were left in a position to continue the escape. A game that was released in 2005, 12 years this titles senior and it gets all those small details correct.
Ok, now I am starting to lose the whimsical optimism. “Hard” game difficulty presents a great challenge, yay, no more dominating races. The race difficulty and suggested car level grows exponentially but earnings and mods cards grow linearly. So, if you continue playing on hard difficulty your cars become irrelevant very quickly and you have to grind quite a bit to make sure you can keep up with the AI. I don’t mind the grind but replaying races over and over grows very tiresome very quickly.
Furthermore, the performance modding is completely backwards and boils down to luck of the draw which really takes the point out of grinding for cash and instead you end up grinding for mod cards or trading them in so you can gamble a bit for better cards. I truly cannot believe that the developers thought this may be appealing to the average NFS fan but what is done is done.
All problems aside the game is supremely fun and is huge leap in the right direction. The storyline is quite enjoyable but was way too short and I am hoping there will be some FREE downloadable content in the future, but understanding the current business model of EA this may not be possible.
I had huge hopes for this game and it delivered spectacularly on one expectation, fun reckless driving but that only cannot make up for the terrible console resource management, endless list of glitches, atrocious modding system, lack of manufacturer and model choice, short storyline and grinding earning system.
Update: The game has received a few updates and a lot of the glitches are fixed but unfortunately the above list is only reduced by one.
NFS Payback Rating: 5/10
Check out the NFS website: NFS Payback