Why Need for Speed Is the Fast and Furious Game We Never Got

No Vin, no Rock, but all the schlock and heart of the FF franchise.

byJohn Sciarrino|
Triclicks Air Diesel Heater

Don’t let EA tell you otherwise, but Need for Speed is Fast and Furious in game form, plain and simple.

The Fast and Furious franchise dropped a branded game a while back via publisher Activision to the satisfaction of precisely no one. Need for Speed made a movie starring Aaron “Yeah, Bitch” Paul, and that too fell short of expectations...except for that cameo by the Koenigsegg Agera. After these attempts to make a jump across mediums came up short for both franchises, is it any wonder that the latest Need for Speed would just be a Fast and Furious game in disguise?

This year’s Need for Speed—full stop, no subtitle—isn’t branded with the FF series the way we’ve seen from Forza Horizons 2’s Fast and Furious pack, but it borrows the premise and fleshes it out in some excellent, gorgeous cut-scenes that bookend each of the 80 races. The narrative remains pre-school simple: There’s a new guy in town (you) who needs to break into a group of gear-minded friends and races to earn their trust and respect....and cash. The story is acted (not digitally animated) by a group of quirky misfits who are constantly smeared with motor oil and always eager to bump fists. It’s endearingly dumb and exists only as a means of propping up fun, lovable and ultimately lustworthy cars. See where this is going? If you don’t think too hard about the plot or its details, it’s a great ride. Need for Speed, as a series, has lasted this long because it keeps things light and fast and over-the-top. Sound familiar?

Even the mechanics of the gameplay take cues from the FF series. Need for Speed fully embraces its arcade stylings and short attention span. It’s a bonanza of drifting and e-braking. It won’t throw you into a wall because you’re constantly foot down on the gas pedal. Instead, it’ll reward you for your daring. Its physics are intentionally rubbery and much appreciated that way because that’s why we play Need for Speed games. We come back over and over again because we love drifting Supras around hairpins and know that, if we tried pulling that off in real life, it’s more likely to end with us needing a tow truck and a chiropractor.

Also like Fast and Furious, there’s curation to the cars in Need for Speed’s world. The game doesn’t claim the endless showrooms found in simulators like Gran Turismo or Forza, and it makes its peace with that early, immediately shuffling you into a three-card monty that ends with you behind the wheel of a tuned-up Civic, a 1990 Mustang or a ‘14 Subaru BRZ: cars that may be down on horsepower but high on heart. As the story progresses and your coffers fill up, higher-end cars logically become available, but it’s still a narrow scope and thoughtfully selected. We’re fine with that. We know that if we want to see the slight differences between a BMW M6 from 2013 and one from 2016, then this isn’t where it’s going to happen. We don’t expect detailed tuning from Need for Speed the same way we don’t expect an Oscar nod for Vin Diesel.

There you have it. If you’re looking for your Fast and Furious fix while the filmmakers decide how to proceed in the absence of Paul Walker, Need for Speed is here for you. If you’re missing out on gutsy girl mechanics peeking out from under hoods to tell you what’s what, Need for Speed has you covered. If you want a piece of some of the best arcade racing that 2015 has to offer, Need for Speed delivers. And if you want to take your wheeling skills online once you’re done with the story, come find us. We’ll be waiting to blow your doors off.