Racing has been a popular gaming genre since old times. Need for Speed Franchise has been entertaining racing fans for almost 17 years now and a total of 17 games have been released under the same banner.
Today, we will have a look at various transitions Need For Speed games went through, and where does the modern day installments in the series stand.
Need for Speed (1994)
The first ever game in the long running franchise. Need for Speed was released for PC (DOS), Saturn and PlayStation. A lot of effort was put into the game to make it a racing simulator rather than an arcade game.
The game won a lot of admiration as it was quite a breakthrough at that time. The traditional police car chases which later became the tradition in many installments were introduced for the first time.
Need for Speed II (1997)
Need for Speed II was an arcade thriller featuring the most advanced vehicles of the time. Country themed tracks, the concept of choosing the shortest passage during the race and the new knockout mode were the prominent features of the game. NFS II to me is one of the best arcade racing games I have ever played.
Need for Speed III: Hot Pursuit (1998)
The Hot Pursuit mode was the unique feature in which players either needed to overtake racers being a cop or escape from the police being a racer. Audio commentary was introduced for the first time in the series with support for 3D acceleration on PC. It was also the first time that the downloadable content was made available from the official site.
Need for Speed: High Stakes/Need for Speed: Road Challenge (1999)
Also known as the Road Challenge, Need for Speed: High Stakes featured variety of modes like High Stakes, Getaway, Time Trap and the all new career mode. In career mode, damage modeling was introduced. So players needed to repair their cars first (spending the cash earned while racing) before entering the next race for the full performance.
Time trap was about beating the clock while the cops making it difficult to reach the finish line within the given time. Gateaway like the hot pursuit was all about surviving from the cops for a particular time.
Need for Speed: Porsche Unleashed/Need for Speed: Porsche 2000 (2000)
Need for Speed: Porsche Unleashed was named so because it only featured the Porsche vehicles. The game introduced the realistic vehicle handling for the first time in the franchise.
All the cars were detailed and the damage modeling scale was increased for a more challenging gameplay. The career mode and the Factory driver modes were about winning races in different condition to unlock cars from year 1950 to 2000. One of the best career modes I have played.
Need For Speed games entering the new era with polished graphics and enhanced gameplay with added realism.
Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit 2 (2002)
The traditional cop chase concept returned with Hot Pursuit 2.
Hot Pursuit 2 was developed by Black box games and was the first NFS title for the 6th generations of consoles.
Although the game was visually great but failed to deliver in terms of gameplay.
Primary reasons behind the poor performance was less challenging racing experience and the camera issues.
Need for Speed: Underground (2003)
Drag, Drift and Sprint were introduced for the first time in the series. All the racing circuits were part of one single map. The game featured modern style street racing and allowed players to customize the cars to a large extent both visually and performance wise.
A story oriented singleplayer carrier mode was also included in the game. It was criticized by the analysts for the cops not being part of the game.
Need for Speed: Underground 2 (2004)
Underground 2 offered new modes and the races could be started by reaching certain markers on the map. In Outrun mode, player could challenge any random opponents on the road.
Car handling was pretty much the same but with increased customization options and ability to customize Sport Utility vehicles (SUV).
Need for Speed: Most Wanted (2005)
It was the first ever Need For Speed game to be released on Xbox 360. Cop chases were included again and the race selection was similar to that of Underground series.
The car customization options were reduced and featured a story driven career mode in which one had to beat a list of 15 drivers to reach the top.
Need for Speed: Carbon (2006)
It is the first Need For Speed game to be released on PS3. Game had similarities like the cars and some gameplay elements with Need for Speed: Most Wanted. Cops were there but they didn’t affected the game like in the previous versions. Players were allowed to build a team (referred as crew in the game) which could help them in different races.
Need for Speed: ProStreet (2007)
Need for Speed: ProStreet was developed to revive the realistic driving style. Free roaming like in the previous couple of versions was removed allowing players only to race on closed tracks only.
The career mode included races to unlock new events and features. Game did not receive the appreciation it was supposed to due to it’s shallow driving experience.
Need for Speed: Undercover (2008)
The concept resembled more or less like Need for Speed: Most Wanted. The game had a story mode in which players needed to act as an undercover cop to catch the bad guys.
It had better response than the Pro Street but still couldn’t won the hearts of many gamers.
EA diversifies the franchise with the introduction of different types of racing games within the franchise to cater to the hardcore as well as the casual racing games fans.
Need for Speed: Shift (2009)
Things got better with Need For Speed: Shift as it was better overall game then previous two installments.
It was more or less a simulation than arcade and featured real life racing circuits around the globe.
There were 60+ different cars to race with and additional content was also released later on.
The unique feature introduced in the game was it’s realistic driving with helmet cam.
Need for Speed: Nitro (2009)
Need for Speed: Nitro was exclusively released for Nintendo DS and Wii and was an arcade racing experience made for casual gamers. A sequel (NFS: Nitro – X to this arcade stunner was announced just after E3 2010 for Nintendo’s latest handled 3DS and also for DSiWare.
Need for Speed: World (2010)
Need for Speed: World was primarily designed for multiplayer racing. The typical Need for Speed racing experience mixed with MMO elements made it quite a unique game in the respective genre. People had to face lag issues but overall the game was a good effort to unite the racing fans around the globe.
Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit (2010)
It was the first game after original Hot Pursuit to win E3 awards. It was an arcade thriller in which cops played a big role in most of the races in singleplayer. In the singlepayer campaign, players could play both as cops and racers being chased by the cops. It also featured weapons like the EMPs, Spike strips and the jammers etc. The new Autolog feature which allowed players to keep up with their friends progress, stats and images etc. played a big role in game’s success.
Shift 2: Unleashed (2011)
The sequel to Need For Speed: Shift. With the popularity of games like Gran Turismo and Forza Motorsport, EA tried to make a realistic racing experience. With every assistance off, the game is as difficult as driving a real car but with assistance the game feels like just racing and braking at turns. Overall Slightly Mad Games did a great job with the game and it received a lot of positive reviews and feedback.
Need for Speed: The Run (2011)
Need for Speed: The Run is yet to be released and all we know so far is that the game will use the Frostbite Engine 2 like Battlefield 3 and will be story driven. EA plans to take the racing back to streets with Need For Speed: The Run.
You may have played all of the released Need For Speed games to date, If you have, even if you have played most of these, share your experience of the franchise and reservations with us in comments.