What’s next for Need for Speed Unbound?

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Need for Speed Unbound arrived late last year, but you would be forgiven for not knowing it existed. EA barely marketed Criterion’s arcade racer, leading to lacklustre sales.

It’s a shame because, while it’s by no means perfect, Unbound has put the grand old series back on track, with deep customisation, thrilling police chases, and a bold new art direction giving the series a fresh sense of identity.

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With several senior Criterion Games staff leaving the studio a few weeks after launch, Need for Speed could have a bumpy future ahead. Despite this, EA has confirmed Unbound will get free post-launch updates, but the contents are still being kept under wraps.

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Here’s what we know so far about Need for Speed Unbound’s post-launch updates as well as some new features we’re hoping to see.

New social play features

EA says the first NFS Unbound update will focus on “expanding social play features.” What this means isn't clear yet.

Need for Speed Unbound
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Multiplayer has its own progression, meaning you have to buy cars and upgrades for multiplayer and single-player separately. But there’s little incentive to do so right now when Unbound’s multiplayer feels half-baked.

Currently, online parties are limited to just four players, down from eight in NFS Heat. EA’s plans to expand social play features may imply that player parties will increase in a future update. We could also see Unbound’s Autolog social-tracking system expanded.

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Online cop chases and night-time cruising

As many players will have completed the campaign by now, expanding Unbound’s multiplayer with new modes should be a top priority. Adding cops, a staple of Need for Speed, would be a good start.

Need for Speed Unbound cop chases
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Without a police presence, Lakeshore City feels empty online. We’d also love to see a Hot Pursuit-style mode where players can drive cop cars and chase down friends in high-speed pursuits.

Multiplayer free roaming is also currently restricted to daytime, so we’re expecting an update to add the ability to cruise with friends at night. 

New cars

Unbound launched with the largest car roster in the franchise’s history with over 140 cars. Some of the standouts include A$AP Rocky’s custom Mercedes 190E and the iconic BMW M3 GTR from Most Wanted, which is sadly restricted to online multiplayer.

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A handful of new cars also made their NFS debut in Unbound such as the Lotus Emira and Chevrolet Corvette Stingray C8.

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These are welcome additions, but the problem is that most cars in Unbound are recycled from NFS Heat. This makes the car list feel outdated and familiar. EA says new cars are coming to NFS Unbound in future updates along with new customisation features, but it’s not clear if they will be free or sold as themed premium packs.

In terms of new cars we’d like to see, adding modern supercars like the Ferrari F8, Koenigsegg Jesko, and Rimac Nevera would bring the roster up to date. Performance cars from previous NFS games like Ferrari F40, Ford Escort RS Cosworth, and Porsche Carrera GT would also be welcome additions.

But the most glaring omission is the Toyota Supra. After appearing in The Fast and the Furious, the Supra became a prominent tuner car, also appearing in Need for Speed Underground. Its absence is felt in Unbound.

Hopefully, EA can resolve any licensing issues preventing Toyotas from featuring in Unbound.

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Map and story mode expansion

Inspired by Chicago, Lakeshore City features a variety of areas to explore from city streets to expansive highways and twisty mountain roads. But with no fast travel and a relatively small map, driving to events set in the same locations gets samey.

A map expansion with new areas would solve this.

Need for Speed Unbound Lakeshore City
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Historically, Need for Speed games haven't had map expansions, unlike Forza Horizon. That could change with Unbound, however.

Also developed by Criterion Games, Burnout Paradise was expanded with a new area called Big Surf Island, so it’s certainly possible that Unbound could also get a map expansion.

A map expansion could also bring new modes like dirt racing or drift battles for some much-needed gameplay variety.

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Potentially, we could also see the single-player story expanded with new characters, events, and game modes.

Too little too late?

Need for Speed games don’t have a great track record when it comes to post-release support.

2019’s Need for Speed Heat had a grand total of two new DLC cars with the McLaren F1 and Aston Martin DB11 Volante joining the car roster four months after launch in March 2020.

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These cars also came with new challenges and rewards including customisation parts and character outfits. EA was planning to continually update Heat with live-service content, but this never happened.

It’s reassuring that Unbound seemingly won’t suffer the same fate. But considering Unbound has been out for nearly two months and EA still hasn’t revealed DLC plans, it could be too little too late.

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Ivory Tower’s exemplary post-release support for The Crew 2 shows it’s possible to apply live service models to open-world racing games. But with player numbers rapidly declining, EA's post-launch support will be crucial to keep Unbound alive and prevent it from fading into obscurity.