I think my affair with Need for Speed World is running out of steam.
I have been playing the game pretty regularly for a couple of month now, logging in for a bit almost every evening. I have played enough to make it up to level 25, which is about 20 more levels than anybody else on my very short friends list in-game.
But lately I have started skipping a night or two or three.
That is generally the sure sign that interest is waning. I can kid myself about whether I like a game or not, but I simply won’t go play games I do not like or feel I am done with.
But while the game is still somewhat fresh in my mind, I thought I would list out what I liked about the game and what… well… irked me.
What I Liked
1 – Free to Play
Honestly, if this game were not free, or if it required me to buy a box or otherwise lay down money up front, I would mostly likely not be playing. But it is free and sans velvet ropes as far as I can tell. You can drive around, race, get in police chases, and all that just like somebody who spent money on the game.
2 – Driving Fast
For the simple goal of driving fast around a city/country road network, this game is all I need. I spend some of my time doing the daily gem hunt, enraging the local law enforcement, and racing. But I spent a good chunk of my time just driving fast.
3 – Lack of Realism
As I drive around fast, I often hit things. Some times on purpose… it is tough to race past a row of parking meters without mowing them down… and some times on accident. Some times I find out that 150 MPH is too fast for the corner in question and I smash into the landscape.
But the smash up isn’t the end of my fun. There is no need for a tow truck or a return to the garage. You just point the front end of the car in the right direction and carry on.
You have the option to show some visual damage, but I turned that off. My car is always as shiny and new as when I started. Eventually damage takes its toll and performance begins to degrade, but that is nothing a quick return to your safe house and a bit of cash for repairs cannot cure.
The game seems intent on keeping you driving as much as possible.
4 – Destructible Terrain
As noted above, and mentioned before, it is hard for me to really pass along the sheer joy of knocking over parking meters, stop signs, lamp posts, fire hydrants, garbage cans, and other bits of scenery. And then there are the big items, the billboards, water towers, giant signs, and other things that will actually fall in the road and stop traffic and/or foil pursuers.
There is even a college campus you can race across smashing the trappings of the academic environment (somebody seems to have left a lot of rolling white boards out and about), a bus station with large plate glass windows to smash through, and the ever popular exploding gas stations.
5 – Retro Cars
I was a bit worried when the looking at the initial car list that all vehicles in the game would be “modern,” which to my mind is any vehicle made after I purchased my first new off the lot vehicle… which was in 1987.
But no, the game has thrown out a couple of very nice retro choices, enough for me to actually throw down some real money on them via their SpeedBoost micro-transaction currency. So now I have a 73 Nissan Skyline GT-R, a 74 VW Golf GTI, a 70 Chevy Chevelle 454, and a 67 Corvette in my in-game garage. Good stuff all around.
6 – Lots of Race Courses
That is the one thing the game seems to offer you as you level up, access to ever more race courses.
The race courses are actually sections of the world map that appear in an instance for races you can compete in either against computer opponents or live players. Each new course has its own quirks and getting to know them is part of the competitive game.
7 – Customization
Probably the best aspect of the game is the amount to which you are allowed to customize your car. Driving around, you will see an amazing array of paint and sticker designs on cars. People spend a lot of time on this aspect of the game, and it is one of the things that is pretty open without paying money.
There are aspects that are locked out, some special bits that you need SpeedBoost to obtain… like window tint for some odd reason… but the tools left to your disposal with in-game cash are still impressive. And a lot of people take full advantage of it.
What Irks Me
1 – Pay to Win
I am throwing this in less as an issue I have with the game than an issue you have to hear people gripe about a lot. (Though it still slaps me in the face every so often.)
There is an element of pay to win in the game. When you buy a car with the micro-transaction currency, SpeedBoost, it comes fully equipped with high end parts and from the moment you take possession of it you are equipped to win.
You can often (but not always) buy a comparable car with in-game cash and equip it with special drops and get close to store bought performance, but there is a layer of cars that you just cannot seem to touch with in-game items.
That said, there is an element of skill to the game, and having the best car does not mean victory. I have beat out any number of cars that were statistically much better than my own. I usually do that by following the #1 rule of racing: Don’t run into stuff. A good chunk of my victories were less about what other people were doing and driving and more about my simply avoiding being slowed down by contact with other racers, track debris, obstacles, and the ever present NPC traffic on the roads where you race.
But sometimes you are equally skilled, or maybe a little more skilled, but he put down money for a Porsche 959 while you’re thrashing your little Golf GTI just to keep up and money carries the day.
2 – Lack of Realism
This is one of those things that is good in the right dose. Sometimes when I am in a level 5 police pursuit and I’ve smashed through dozens of road blocks, put even more police cruisers out of action, and my vehicle is literally surfing on a sea of black and whites seeking to bring me to justice, I start to wonder if I might be a bit too invulnerable.
Plus the fact that every car in the game is rear wheel drive pisses me off. I did not notice this at first, since I tend towards the more retro aspect of the game, which tends towards rear wheel drive. But then I got that ’74 VW Golf GTI and noticed it was burning rubber from the rear tires. That just sucks.
Oh, and I want to be able to honk my horn. Is that too much to ask?
3 – Picture Time
If you have read this blog for a while, you might have noticed I have a real attachment to screen shots. Rare is the post about a game that does not include some sort of picture. I mean, I put in pictures of maps of zones from text based MUDs.
This stems from being a visual person. When I look back at old posts and read about an encounter, it is made much more alive in my mind with a picture of the event.
So the screen shot situation in NFSW pisses me off.
First, you cannot turn off the damn UI. Not that I want it off in every picture… it is nice to be able to see I was breaking 100 MPH on the fairway of a golf course… but sometimes you want a glamor shot, something for, say, a travel poster!
But that isn’t the bad part.
The bad part is that the camera is fixed looking at the rear end of your car and you cannot change that without some serious street maneuvers. I have a lot of screen shots of my cars mid-bootleg turn because the camera takes a second to catch up, so for a brief moment I can see the side of my car.
Not that I do not enjoy doing bootleg turns, but I really want to be able to turn off the UI and unlock the camera to take screen shots of my car. That, however, is not allowed.
Now, some might point out that there are special locations within the game that allow you better camera control so you can take pictures of your car. This is true. And they all seem to be in sports arenas, because that is where people take pictures of cars I guess… on football fields and baseball diamonds.
Anyway, I hate that I can customize my car’s look to down to such detail, and then can’t take a decent picture of it out on the road while I am driving.
4 – Small Map
The map seems pretty big when you finally unlock the last bits of it around level 10 or so. (After that, the level unlocks seem to be limited to new race courses.) But when you are zipping along at triple digit speeds, you start to find that you can move from one side of the map to the other in a pretty short time.
There are a couple of points where the road appears to be headed off the map, but you are blocked. I kept hoping the areas beyond the blocks would open up, but they have not so far. Perhaps those are place holders for an expansion? I do not know.
But I do know I have driven every mile of the blacktop in game at this point (plus the golf course), and I would like some new spaces in which to play.
5 – Isolation
The loneliness of the long distance racer.
In a way, this is the game being too realistic. Everybody in game is in their car, alone, and driving around. It is like the commute. Lots of people around you and nobody to talk to.
It is like EVE, everybody alone in their spaceship, only worse, since EVE has a better chat system. No, really.
Oh, there is the common chat channel, which gets partitioned into dozens of channels to keep the spaminess down to a dull roar, which means if you roll by somebody and what to say something, you need to catch their name or right click on them so you can send them a whisper, because they are unlikely to be on the same channel as you. Only you’re both likely in motion, so the moment of opportunity flashes by quickly.
So I have spent a lot of time in the game, yet I know absolutely nobody in-game. And, as we well know, one of the key points to retaining players in MMOs is the social bond they have with their fellow players. I have no such bond, so walking away is easy.
6 – Under-populated Races
You end up with lots of different race courses to try, but I have found that a lot of the courses do not get much use.
The early courses are heavily populated, and getting into a race with a full grid of 8 players is pretty easy. But as you get into the higher level courses, opponents become more and more rare. I have sat for 30 minutes waiting for somebody else to join me on a new course, though that is rare. More common is to queue up for a course and end up in a two or three player race.
I do not mind the two or three player races too much. They are not as exciting generally as a full eight, but they can be good, at least until you get matched up solo against the level 50 guy in the Porsche 959 and the 90% win rate and you wonder if you’ll even be able to keep his tail lights in view.
And don’t get me started on hackers.
7 – Simply Not Enough to Do
This, for me, is the final item because it is the most important. It is the reason I have been slowing down with the game, logging in less and less.
There just isn’t that much to do.
Fast driving is good. I can do that for 15 minutes to unwind, tear down the freeways, carve through the side streets, and generally get my need for speed satisfied.
The daily gem hunt is fine, though having done it for 25 days in a row, I am pretty sure I have all the hiding places down now and I have managed to find all 15 gems in about 3 minutes. (The game keeps track of first gem to last gem time.)
Racing can be a blast, but it is hard to find a good race on higher level courses.
And you can only do so many police chases in a night.
Which leaves… what? Not much.
There are other things less than wonderful about the game about which little can be done. Cars driven by other players tend to be erratic and all over the road… and their front tires seem to be cranked over hard for a left hand turn while driving straight ahead… making racing against live players sometimes more annoying than exhilarating.
But that is more a sign of the reality of the internet than the game. I end up in races with people spanning three continents on a regular basis, so I am pretty happy we can race together at all, even if it means that sometimes the guy three car lengths behind me in the final stretch sometimes jumps ahead of me and beats me without warning.
The game is very international, which is a good thing. Everybody plays on one server, something managed by clever instancing and partitioning. It isn’t uncommon for me to be able to identify four or five languages in the main chat channel on any given night. Spanish, English, and Portuguese are very common, with French, German, and Russian showing up regularly.
All in all, it is a pretty good game. There are trade offs where things had to be kept simple in order to satisfy a broad range of player machines and locations, but it can be a lot of fun.
I just wish there was more to do in the game.