Need for Speed Unbound is proving to be divisive. The bold comic-book-style visuals are a breath of fresh air, but the core gameplay is overly familiar.
From the intense cop chases to the aforementioned art style, there’s a lot to like about NFS Unbound. Unfortunately, a few setbacks prevent it from being the true return to form it deserves to be. Worryingly slow sales also indicate NFS Unbound isn’t generating the buzz a new NFS game should.
With that in mind, here are five changes that would drastically improve Need for Speed Unbound.
NFS Unbound’s open world is set in the fictional Lakeshore City inspired by Chicago. There’s a lot of variety from twisty country roads to highways and a quarry.
Escaping the cops in narrow alleys, hunting down collectibles, and smashing billboards is brilliant fun, evoking memories of Criterion’s Burnout Paradise.
But what lets the open world down is the lack of fast travel letting you teleport to map locations.
We take this for granted in other open-world games, but NFS Unbound doesn't let you fast-travel to Garages, Safe Houses, or Meetups. While this encourages you to explore every inch of Lakeshore City and adds tension when avoiding cops, driving to the same Meetup locations over and over to start events gets laborious quickly.
An option to skip straight to events when you aren't being chased by police or have a heat level would save time and improve the game’s pace - particularly in the early stages when money is tight and you’re stuck with your underpowered starter car.
Charging a small fee of in-game credits would also discourage players from overusing fast travel – but only if EA doesn’t exploit this with microtransactions.
Increase the sense of speed
When we first saw the gameplay reveal, the feeling of speed when racing through Lakeshore City was noticeably lacking. Thankfully, the final game lets you apply motion blur and camera shake effects. But even with these effects turned all the way up, NFS Unbound still lacks speed.
Admittedly, the sense of speed improves when activating nitrous boosts thanks to field-of-view changes. But when you aren't boosting, tearing up the streets at 150 mph feels like you’re cruising at 50 mph on a leisurely Sunday drive.
NFS Unbound needs more speed to make exploring the city more enthralling.
Flesh out the multiplayer
Unlike NFS Heat, single-player and multiplayer is separate in NFS Unbound. Garage cars you've bought in the single-player campaign aren't transferred to the multiplayer, meaning you essentially have to start your game progress from scratch online.
Unfortunately, the current state of NFS Unbound’s online multiplayer doesn’t give you any incentive to do this.
Although crossplay is supported, several key multiplayer modes are currently missing at launch. At the time of writing, there are no online cop chases, Takeover events, or even night-time cruising in online multiplayer.
And while up to eight players can enter Race Playlist events, multiplayer parties are downgraded from eight players in NFS Heat to just four in NFS Unbound.
There is hope, however, as EA says these missing features aren’t available “at launch.” Hopefully, this means they will be added in future updates because NFS Unbound’s barebones online multiplayer desperately needs fleshing out to keep players coming back after completing the single-player campaign.
Update the car list
NFS Unbound boasts the largest car roster of any NFS game. At launch, there are over 140 cars from A$AP Rocky’s heavily modified Mercedes 190E to the legendary BMW M3 GTR from Most Wanted.
However, most cars in NFS Unbound are borrowed from NFS Heat. There are a few welcome new additions to the roster such as the electric Lotus Emira sports car and the 2020 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray, but the car list otherwise feels outdated.
Audi and Toyota are also conspicuously absent. Toyota is notoriously reluctant to license cars in racing games other than Gran Turismo and Forza. Unfortunately, this means the Toyota Supra has been missing in NFS for years, despite it being one of the most iconic tuner cars of all time.
Audi, on the other hand, was in NFS Heat, so the German brand’s absence in NFS Unbound is strange.
It's not clear if NFS Unbound will get any DLC to expand the car list either. The Aston Martin DB11 Volante and McLaren F1 were the only DLC cars added to NFS Heat after launch and EA hasn’t revealed any update plans or season passes for NFS Unbound.
Option to turn off driving effects
Driving effects are easily the most divisive feature in NFS Unbound.
Taking the series in a bold new direction, NFS Unbound’s visuals blend photorealistic car models and environments with eye-popping cartoon effects and cel-shaded characters that look like they came out of Spider-Man: Enter the Spider-Verse.
NFS Unbound’s dazzling driving effects are integrated surprisingly well, ranging from wings superimposed onto your car when performing jumps to colourful tyre smoke when doing burnouts.
While this helps NFS Unbound stand out, the driving effects are an acquired taste. You can tone them down, but there’s no option to turn off the driving effects completely at the time of writing, much to the dismay of some players.