Need for Speed Payback First Impressions

Confession time; I haven’t really invested in a racing title since Burnout: Paradise City. Needless to say it’s been a few years (okay so maybe like 9 years ago) since I have really spent any amount of time running the roads/offroads of a decent racing game. In fact the last time I touched a racing game from the Need for Speed franchise, it was 2003 and the title track was “Get Low” just to give you a bit an understanding of where I’m coming from.

So when Need For Speed Payback came across my desk for review I really had no idea what to expect from a racing title in 2017. To my credit I really have no biest either way and it was nice to walk into a genre with little to no real current influence to sway. I’ve only spent about four hours with the title thus far and wanted to give you my first impressions. You can expect a full review early next week as I will be spending my weekend racing through Ghost Games latest racing. For now though why not grab that coffee, kick back and enjoy this first impressions write up of Need for Speed Payback.


Set in a fictitious modern desert city, NFS Payback follows a heist crew who are track for some revenge against some nefarious double crossing group that left them in the cold after a heist gone sour. The Prologue of the game does a pretty good job at telling a fairly straight forward story. It was impressive to see so much investment in the story of a racing title and despite having a lot of Fast and Furious undertones( the theme of family being a major one) the story does at least try to bring some originality to its approach to its topics. In all fairness it would be an interesting challenge to tell an engaging story when your only real mechanic is racing vehicles.

Ghost Games has managed to deliver the story fairly well but so far I have found the story pacing to be a bit of slow out of the gate. The game’s prologue seemed to drag on for quite a lot longer than I would have expected and I was left feeling like I was going nowhere fast. Thankfully once I pushed through this first section of the game the world, game modes and mods all opened up. Even the story pacing has picked up and I am finding myself getting more invested. Think of story mode a slow burn, it takes time to get there but it does get there.

I am just now beginning to purchase cars and unlocks had have to confess that I am only just beginning to understand all the ins and outs of the customization mechanics. That being said what I am seeing shows a lot of promise. After completing races and events you are given a random boost card that contains some type of upgrade or mod for your car. A quick visit to the garage allows you to upgrade and kit out your car to your heart’s content, assuming you have the money and unlocks, with the whole experience feeling streamlined, informative and easy to understand.


This couples well with in world events which have a sort of recommended level to them. Every time you come up on an event or race it shows your level compared to the recommended level. As a racer you are free to continue with the event even if you don’t meet the recommended level but it is definitely more challenging. It reminds me a lot of a power level ala Destiny 2. For someone with little current experience with the genre this was a nice touch.

The game boasts and open world and I can confirm that it is not only open but also offers a diverse set of tilesets to play on. I’ve sent time drifting through the tight streets of the city proper as well as off roading my way through the desert area surrounding the city. I’m definitely interested to see what other areas wait for me over the horizon. My only real critique so far is that I feel like events and pretty sparse in the areas I’ve been in. Outside of the mission races and a few speed trap events I haven’t really seen much to do. Granted I am still early in the game so time will tell.


The cars handle really well and although I’m a noob to racers (that aren’t Mario Kart) it was interesting to have to adjust to the different handling of each car and environment. This attention to detail is great a lot of fun to adjust to. The game even features different car builds for different types of events, such as drifts, off road and runners to name a few with each offering a unique and specific set of abilities. Its nice to see this kind of variety in a racing title.

Despite a slow start to story, I’m enjoying my time with NFS Payback. I am interested to see if the story can break free of some of its stereotypes and Fast and Furious vibes it seems to be entangled in as well as how much there really will be to do in the open world setting that the game has created. Be sure to check back to for a full review soon.

Written by
Husband, Father, Gamer, Co-Host of Roll the Level. Here for the hack, slash, loot, repeat!

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