Need for Speed Unbound review: compelling hook elevates stylish racer

Need for Speed Unbound

MSRP $70.00

“Need for Speed Unbound proves that having a definite style and funky premise does lots to raise a game.”


  • Plenty of style
  • Strong narrative hook
  • Exhilarating arcade-type driving
  • Tough but rewarding


  • Unfunny writing
  • Lacks variety
  • Constant cop chases

Pondering I used to be being funny when customizing my first automotive in Need for Speed Unbound, I gave the refurbished Lamborghini Countach twenty fifth Anniversary (1988) automotive a license plate that said “DTrends.” That joke quickly changed into embarrassment when that automotive was stolen from me at the tip of the sport’s prologue.

This surprisingly strong narrative hook kicked off Need for Speed Unbound, which seems to be a nice surprise despite its series’ recent struggles and a muted marketing campaign. The racer eventually hits its limits on account of sometimes cringe-inducing writing and repetitive objects, however the ride there packs in a number of fun.

Need for Speed Unbound is surprisingly difficult, making each race vital and interesting, and it has a number of style. During this gap between Gran Turismo 7 and next spring’s Forza Motorsport, this open-world racer refuels a series that has been running on fumes.

Dude, where’s my automotive

The foremost motivation of Need for Speed Unbound is getting your first automotive back after your foster care sibling, Jasmine, surprisingly betrays you. After a two-year time jump, Need for Speed Unbound follows the player as they earn money and construct up credibility in Lakeshore City’s underground racing scene so that they can eventually challenge Jasmine in a series of races called The Grand to take the automotive back.

The will to earn back a automotive I made and felt an attachment to within the prologue made me stick around to the tip.

It’s a clever narrative hook that builds upon the numerous systems that make up Need for Speed Unbound. Like its predecessors, this installment features an incredibly detailed customization system that enables players to regulate minor details and add small, personal touches to each vehicle they own. Even the player character is customizable with poses and unique branded clothing this time around. These personal customizations make it all of the more frustrating (in an excellent way) when the automotive is taken away.

Players are motivated throughout the four-week day and night cycle as they race to make enough money to take part in each Qualifier and The Grand. I discovered myself actively wanting to do a number of racing and automotive deliveries to earn money while avoiding cops after I had high Heat so I didn’t lose all of it. The will to earn back a automotive I made and felt an attachment to within the prologue made me stick around to the tip. Introducing a powerful reason to race helps Need for Speed Unbound succeed where most racing game stories often fail.

Three racers pose before a race in Need for Speed Unbound.

Unfortunately, Need for Speed Unbound drops the ball relating to writing. While the story has a powerful start and desires to take care of heavy subjects like over-policing, Unbound’s script is more concerned with making its character spout modern meme-based humor or generic lines than thematic or emotional depth. Typically, capping off or easing tension from a dramatic moment with a joke doesn’t trouble me, but almost none of Need for Speed Unbound’s jokes landed with me, and just about every line of dialogue is a joke. Fortunately, the strong premise works so well conceptually that I could take care of groan-inducing writing.

Lakeshore drive

The story is just a small a part of the racing game experience; presentation, world design, and gameplay all take precedence. Need for Speed Unbound excels within the presentation department since it isn’t afraid to be stylish. Considered one of its most immediately noticeable elements is its use of cel shading. Characters are vibrantly illustrated and vehicles spout cartoonish effects once they pull off a drift or nitro boost. Racing games can all mix together within the genre’s push for realism, so Need for Speed Unbound stands out by going for a Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse aesthetic approach that reflects the irreverence and in-your-face nature of street racing culture.

The sport’s creators also selected a superb setting for that in Lakeshore City, which is heavily inspired by Chicago — a city with a history of street racing and bureaucracy that individuals wish to rebel against. Being from Chicago, I appreciated the references to my hometown and was not frustrated by any inaccuracies for the sake of map design since it’s an original city. As a substitute, I used to be entertained seeing how Need for Speed Unbound interpreted iconic locations like Navy Pier and transportation infrastructure like The L into compelling track design.

Need for Speed Unbound racers leave cartoonish effects behind their cars.

Although its open world doesn’t feature as much variation as something like Mexico in Forza Horizon 5, notable landmarks and well-thought-out road placements make sure that players will eventually memorize the map layout. Lakeshore City captures the essence of Chicago while still being a fun place to drive around in one in all the numerous cars included in Need for Speed Unbound’s lineup. Whilst you don’t must accrue greater than 4 cars for the foremost story, there are over 140 vehicles to buy, so everyone should give you the option to seek out something they like within the lineup. Thankfully, racing those cars can also be as satisfying as and customizing them.

Every race matters

Racing games are likely to play pretty similarly to one another, and Need for Speed Unbound doesn’t rethink the fundamentals. Its handling model is a little more weighty than the likes of something like Forza Horizon 5, but it surely features arcade elements like drifting and boosting, encouraging players to go off-road once they can, smash things, and take out the cops that can notice them during street races. Need for Speed Unbound will be unforgiving when it desires to be.

nce you’ve explored the entire map and done many of the races at the least once, repeating them five or 10 times isn’t nearly as fun.

There’s no rewind button, only two to 10 restarts a day, depending on the issue. Mess up a drift or run into one other vehicle when within the lane of oncoming traffic, and you almost certainly won’t be getting first in a race. Racers do often earn a little bit of money irrespective of what place they are available in, so it isn’t all the time about winning every race in Need for Speed Unbound. Sometimes the issue frustrated me, but I could all the time upgrade my automotive’s parts or try one other event if one race gave me a number of trouble.

Outside of ordinary races, Need for Speed Unbound features Drift Events, which ask players to rack up probably the most points by drifting, and Takedown, a mode hosted by Rapper A$AP Rocky. Takedown acts as an evolved version of Drift Events, sprinkling in a number of destructible objects and accounting for jumps to assist players accrue much more points. These initially add some variety to the experience, but Need for Speed Unbound gets repetitive toward the tip of its runtime even with those added objectives.

Most races are linear and don’t go off-road, so it lacks the race number of a game like Forza Horizon 5. When you’ve explored the entire map and done many of the races at the least once, repeating them five or 10 times isn’t nearly as fun. Alert the cops throughout the race, and also you’ll must outrun them after the race too. While that’s initially exciting, when a cop chase initiates and prevents you from immediately going to the following money-earning objective for the fiftieth time, this method feels more like an unavoidable post-race chore.

Fun offline and online

Need for Speed Unbound not at all reinvents the steering wheel or defies the repetitious nature of the genre. Still, it’ll offer you an excellent time alone or online.

Three cars race in Need for Speed Unbound.

While its single-player campaign will keep you occupied for some time, as much as 16 players can populate the map in Lakeshore Online. This multiplayer mode permits you to interact and race with players within the open world. The controls and physics that make for a satisfying single-player racer also work in multiplayer. Nonetheless, this mode lacks features like a day-night cycle, cops, and Takedown events, so it’s mainly for individuals who wish to race other people.

Need for Speed Unbound isn’t attempting to be an ultrarealistic simulator and even an excellent comprehensive open-world online racing game experience. It desires to be a classy, tough, and rewarding ode to street racing culture. While it’s not the perfect in its genre on account of some weak writing and eventual repetition, Need for Speed Unbound is a surprisingly entertaining racer in a yr that hasn’t seen much racing game excitement since Gran Turismo 7.

Now, I want to clarify to my boss why our Digital Trends automotive was stolen.

Need for Speed Unbound was reviewed on an Xbox Series X.

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