On the last day of Gamescom 2019, myself along with the rest of the Need for Speed Game Changers, were invited to view an exclusive Behind Closed Doors demo of Need for Speed Heat different to the one on the show floor.
This is everything we saw during our two hour demo:
As we sat down with the developers, we were introduced to the prologue and beginning race of Need for Speed Heat – detailing the Speedhunter Showdown, establishing Lt. Frank Mercer’s role in the game and setting up the main storyline – however for spoiler purposes, that’s about as much as we can disclose on that front.
After a few cutscenes and the initial introduction was complete, the demo then took us to the garage with none other but the Volvo Polestar 1 cover car. Not much was new in this preview build for us to do, performance customization was there however we had no parts to through on. Visual customization was there, but much like various cars currently available on the NFS Heat Studio app, the Polestar cover car has already been specifically (and masterfully) designed by Kyza Saleem so not much was able to be changed from what I recall.
Next, we were dropped into the free-roam world of Palm City during the day time and were given the freedom to explore the entire map without any boundaries. We spawned atop a bridge up in the hills, coated in puddles in the late-afternoon - lit up by a glary orange sky that oozed Miami vibes but also of older NFS games like Most Wanted ‘05 and Hot Pursuit ’10.
This hillside area was very reminiscent of Need for Speed 2015’s hill areas, with a huge valley in front overlooking Palm City in the distance, and a swampy Space Station area much further out to the right. Trust me when I say the draw distance in this build of the game was insane, covering what felt like miles worth of map on screen at once.
At this point, StraightUpHippo was handed the controls and set off into the hills. The map flattened out and featured large open valley/farm-like areas, with very few buildings including some barn houses and water towers alongside a gas station to repair your car. The best way to describe this area would be to compare it to Miami outskirt freeway areas mixed with farm areas seen in Hot Pursuit and Rivals. The elevation begun to change and suddenly we were going uphill on a single road engulfed in overhanging trees, before coming out to huge sweeping corner roads - a drifters wet-dream.
These drift roads were impressive to say the least, so much so that I could notice Nick (aka AR12) sporting a cheerful grin as the Polestar begun its drifty ascent to the next main area – the Observatory (If you were looking for more Hot Pursuit 2010 vibes you found them). While we didn’t explore much of this area, this area featured plenty of slight elevation changes, mountain tracks and drifty roads leading back into the valley or down into the city, complete with some jaw dropping vistas overlooking the entirety of Palm City that were so breath-taking you’d think you’re staring at Keanu Reeves!
Heading back down the hills and speeding down the straight roads of the valley, we discovered an Abandoned Shopping Mall with a huge car park off to the side, where we spent some time trying to get on top of by climbing the multi-story car park and jumping the conveniently placed ramp at the top (fun fact: one of the collectibles are meant to be up there, according to the developers).
Once I was put in control, I was suggested by the devs to drive towards the South Western side of the map and try find the Quarry. On my way I found myself driving through a small town before pulling up near a beach area and taking me towards the Port area as seen in the Day Event from the Public demo we played. Travelling further on I discovered a train track North of the Port area (which according to the developers runs around the entirety of the map) and led me to the massive Quarry area featuring some big mining vehicles and even bigger conveyor belts to pull off some huge jumps!
This Quarry area featured quite a few offroading hillclimb areas which were fun to tackle (and even some out-of-bounds bugs too that I managed to discover trying to climb to the top, which we all laughed and the devs joked about), though I wouldn’t quite compare it to something you’d see in The Crew but more like the Quarry area you’d find in Most Wanted 2012. There’s even an area uphill with three parked mining vehicles next to one another for players to try jump, which is a lot tougher than it may seem!
Leaving this Quarry area brought me to a long highway road beside it that runs all the way from the Port area back to the Observatory area in the hills, with one stretch of road inparticular leading from the Quarry to the hills where players will be able to pick up some serious speed. It gave me vibes of the long road from one of the Norway tracks in DRIVECLUB that led to the mountains, with the Ghost devs telling us that this road will almost definitely be used by players for top speed runs to test how fast their cars are when the game launches (and I can certainly agree with that statement).
This time we decided to head into the city, we were all quite familiar with the city from our time capturing gameplay, though Palm City takes on a completely different look during the day. Heading down the windy drift roads straight into the city was a sight to behold, and something I can only describe as that feeling you get playing Grand Theft Auto V as you enter Los Santos coming in from the hills. One developer even mentioned how this was his favourite road in the game and is the one road he believes captures the essence and atmosphere they’re trying to achieve with Heat.
Exploring the city, we found a monorail that runs through it which one of the devs pointed out to us that we could get up on with the right jump. This jump required us, or more so Tomcat, to hit a ramp at a certain speed then drive along two buildings before eventually jumping another ramp to get up there. It took him awhile, but rest assured we gave him a round of applause once he did.
Theo took over and found a run-down NASCAR speedway on the city outskirts, which gave us all flashbacks to Hyperspace Circuit. This area was incredibly open and one of my favourite locations on the map, something I can definitely see people using to make for some seriously fun competitions and mini-games online.
Leaving the city, DomesticMango was in control and headed straight out to the Space Station area in the swamps. Yes, you can explore all around the space station area and can even drive up to the launch site of the rocket and park right beside it. From here was when we got our first taste of Day Time Cops, which act a lot like 2015’s where they will fine you, and if you don’t abide then will begin a pursuit.
Cop AI was a bit buggy in this build, with one cop funnily doing donuts into the swamp, however they are nowhere near as aggressive to the night cops. Building Heat to level up the pursuit was tough (though that might have been set for the demo) and unlike during the night, once you lose the cops during the day your Heat Level will automatically reset back to Level 1.
The rest of the demo was much similar to what you’d already seen, with GTAWiseGuy taking on the Day and Night events then heading on a Heat Level 5 night pursuit along the long winding freeways and out into the valley. Night Cops had been buffed in this build compared to what we played, the devs confirmed, taking Robin almost 15-20 minutes to lose the cops – something many of us felt we wouldn’t be able to do especially after how impressively he was driving and dodging Palm City’s toughest.
One of the biggest takeaways for me with the map was not only the amount of diversity Ghost have managed to cram into its 18-region map, but more so how perfectly designed the map has been to feel like a fun arcade playground to mess around in. Need for Speed Heat’s world has been designed with pivotal locales across the map, such as the ones I mentioned and many more that I don’t want to spoil, to try help players get a sense of familiarity no matter where they are in the world. There’s tons of hidden areas, shortcuts and hidden intricacies in the world they’ve crafted from what I saw that remind me so much of Burnout Paradise, and I love it.
The cover car Volvo Polestar we drove was our first experience using a vehicle that was skewed towards Race and on-road (Full Grip) on the new performance grid, and it handled amazingly well from what I can recall. As I mentioned in our Hands-On Preview Coverage, the base handling model can grip and drift whenever it needs to around corners depending on Clutch Kick, here in this demo it felt quite tough to initiate a drift (though I didn’t properly try) but the car felt planted to the road at all times and took corners at insane speeds with little to no issue – just like how it should, and I can’t wait to fully test the Grip and Drift handling in the full game.
Payback feelings dia e noite.
Dirigir e dirigir vagando pelo mapa atrás de eventos.
Vastas áreas pra vc viajar, observar, parar o carro e admirar.
Drift, neons, chuva e asfalto molhado.
Mais do mesmo. Não obrigado.
We’re just weeks away from the launch of NFS Heat but before you get in your car and find yourself cruising the streets we thought we’d give you a bit of insight into why we think Palm City is our best NFS world yet.
Inspired by Miami
After the arid deserts of Need for Speed Payback’s Nevada-inspired world, we wanted a big city location that could deliver dense urban action and open world cop chases while capturing the feel of fan favourites Need for Speed - Most Wanted ‘05 and Underground.
We started looking for a setting that would feel both familiar to players and unique to Need for Speed. Miami gave us all the right ingredients - a vibrant city with a multicultural blend of music, cool street art and stunning night neons. It felt pretty fresh for a Need for Speed game, and we also knew immediately that it could deliver that classic NFS look.
While we were location-scouting Miami, we saw crazy weather - blazing sunshine then torrential rain then bright sunshine - all in the space of a few minutes. We loved the idea of bringing this to the game, so we built a full dynamic weather system. You get a range of changing conditions as you play, and it was a great excuse to wash the streets down and go big on night neons, wet cars and reflective roads.
We stretched reality a bit, fusing Miami and Florida with Georgia’s Blue Ridge Mountains to provide us with some much-needed elevation and big vistas, and to inject a little variety. There’s a massive city to explore, and the surrounding countryside gives you these cool panoramic city views while you drive.
Built for Racing: - Fast, Fluid and Uninterrupted Action
Before driving games became open-world, designers could craft race routes to perfection, packaging high speed straights, technically challenging sequences and epic scenery to dramatic effect.
With NFS Heat, our approach was to start by building a solid set of race routes, then tune and craft them to the landscape around them. We incorporated epic scale landmarks, spectacular vista reveals, sequences of perfectly-driftable turns and dramatic changes of scenery to try and focus the experience on amazing racing.
We then set about adding more challenging, technical routes because they were more fun, and focused our efforts on reducing the frustration when you got it wrong.
We removed blind turns, so you’d always have time to react to the challenges in the route, and we removed hard-stops in the scenery. We wanted to make something fast, fluid and uninterrupted - a rewind-free experience that demanded more forgiving route design.
We loaded run-off areas with destructible scenery, so even if you make a mistake and slide off a particularly challenging corner, you don’t need to respawn - you just barrel through a load of props and keep going. It’s fast, fun and easily the most visceral driving experience we’ve ever built.
The Perfect Escape
We found early in development that getting chased by the cops is way more fun if you’ve got decent tactical options. We tried to fill the landscape with lots of different ways to shake your pursuers.
Look out for ramps and billboards, head for the interstate and drive in oncoming traffic, weave through dense back-alleys in the city, refill health at gas stations, tune your car for all-out speed and find somewhere to hit top speed or tune for offroad and use the backcountry.
We also built a much denser road network. You’ll hit an intersection roughly every 20 seconds compared with every 60 seconds in Payback. There’s around 100 KM more road in a smaller, more compact footprint.
There’s just way more choice when you’re under pressure and trying to lose the cops. A side effect was the world is just much easier to navigate - pick a landmark, follow your nose, and you’ll pretty much get to where you want.
NFS Heat is about the contrast between day and night gameplay. Day is about earning, night is about risk and danger. One key aspect of this gameplay is the use of Safe Houses. It’s tense trying to make it to a safe house with low health and high heat level with the cops on alert.
For the first time in Need for Speed, you can pretty much drive anywhere off or on the road. You get these tense cat-and-mouse moments with the cops patrolling the roads while you try and make it cross country to the nearest Safe House to bank your REP.
Reasons to explore
We’ve overhauled our exploration and discovery gameplay in a number of fundamental ways.
First up, Billboards. Hitting ramps and smashing through billboards is simple, distracting and fun, but they need to be fast, spectacular and easy to retry, so we found places in the world where you could generally hit them full tilt, take in amazing reveals of the landscape, land in specially cleared areas and circle round to try again, if you miss. You’ll need to upgrade your car or choose between tarmac or dirt performance to collect them all. We also placed a few in devious locations - easy to see but hard to access to get you thinking.
For die-hard collectors, we placed smashable neons all over the world and to celebrate Need for Speed’s urban roots, we placed a load of collectible graffiti tags and street art in hard-to-find places. The street art’s well worth looking out for - find it to send it to the wrap editor, and you can use it to customise your car.
Finding collectibles in games can be a bit daunting. When a message reads “CONGRATULATIONS YOU FOUND 1 OUT OF 150”, it’s easy to switch off, so we carved the world up into 18 districts and created great rewards for each district.
Now you’ll see something like “CONGRATULATIONS YOU FOUND 1 OUT OF 6”. You know you only need to find 5 more, AND you know they’re pretty close by. The map displays the district totals as you go, so you can easily check back while you play.
We also wanted the rewards to be great. Find everything in a district to unlock a package of customisation options - decals and vanity items. Find everything globally, like the street art, and you’ll get a special edition car.
Massive play spaces
We noticed how much our fans liked to play in the airfield at the centre of the Need for Speed Payback map, and we wanted to bring that idea to life on a larger scale and reward people for exploring the whole location, so we added multiple play areas to NFS Heat.
Head for the disused Raceway on the edge of the city to rip it around a high speed circuit. It’s right next to the player garage, so it’s a pretty good place to test out your performance customisation.
In the South West of the map, there’s a big industrial zone. The centrepiece is a massive container loading area, where we used the versatility of containers for some ultra-challenging time trials and some of our more deviously concealed collectible items. It was like building gameplay out of building blocks.
Tune your car for offroad, and head for the quarry - a massive rock playground in the North West of the map carved into the landscape with terraced sections designed for exploration and airtime. It’s a fun place to play.
Head South from the city and you’ll find a vast complex of warehouse buildings and test facilities surrounding a rocket launch site.
And that’s not all. There are tons of secrets, signs and hidden areas to discover and explore.
NFS Heat arrives on November 8th, we can’t wait to see you in-game, try to keep up.