Need for Speed World is a MMO racing game set in an open world, released in 2010 it’s now 3 years old and has gone through a few improvements since its release. There are currently four ‘shards’ to choose from, two US based and two European based. The game is free to play, but includes micro-transactions in the form of Speedboost currency. It’s very much an arcade racer, but it doesn’t go over the top with unrealism. The game is fun to play and doesn’t feel too much of a grind with regards to the levelling system. Levels seem to go by in a timeframe that feels about right, especially the earlier levels. The choice of cars is quite varied, there are imports, muscle cars, super and hyper cars from various manufacturers. A lot of the cars however can only be purchased using speedboost. There are regular sales on speedboost cars and there is an in game cash (IGC) car rotation. Cars are split up into classes E being the lowest, through D,C,B,A and S being the highest.
Vehicle handling and controls have got to be the most important aspect in a driving game. If it’s right and it works, it’ll probably get overlooked and nobody will think about it, but that’s good, when it’s wrong, it’s noticeable. If everything feels natural and does what it’s expected to do the game will be much more enjoyable. NFS Worlds controls are spot on for the style of racing, you can control the cars very easily, even at high speeds, pushing the stick results in a predictable turn in and small adjustments can be made by small flicks without having the car ending up in a wall. The cars also respond well at slow speed. Part of this is obviously down to the handling model used in the game, which is definitely more arcade than simulation, but this suits the game perfectly, the cars have just the right amount of grip to be able to be driven quickly and not crash all the time, but also allow the occasional drift. Some cars have very unrealistic handling which makes it feel more like your driving a boat than a car, but if you pick wisely and do a bit of research before buying, you should be able to avoid these. If not, you can usually use them as pursuit cars to speed down highways with when you don’t need to worry about getting on the podium.
If you want to win, you do need to know how a car should be driven and how to take the best lines, if you just try to floor it and ignore the brakes, you’ll come last every time. Skill behind the wheel will reward you, and due to the handling model, this can be picked up pretty quickly with some practice and watching what other drivers do, carrying speed through the corners is one of the most important points, especially on twisty tracks.
Hacking is currently a big problem in the game, speedhacks and autofinish are the most common. It doesn’t detract too much from the experience in my opinion, yes it’s annoying, but it doesn’t take long to report the driver and find another race. There has been a recent announcement stating that the developers are going to start clamping down on hackers more, so hopefully things will improve.
Vehicle customisation is an area where a Need for Speed game should shine the most, the original NFS Underground had a myriad of options for customising the look of your car, and these options improved with later games, such as allowing you to sculpt the body kit yourself to make it even more unique. NFS World isn’t quite as comprehensive as these, each car will have maybe four body kits to choose from, only one of which can be bought with IGC, a selection of spoilers, most of which must be bought through micro-transactions and a few hoods, again most of which require micro-transactions. There are also a reasonable selection of wheels, each offering different sizes, again, a lot of the wheels require micro-transactions, but you will win wheels as rewards or through completing achievements. You can also paint standard wheels, which means you may be more likely to keep the standard wheels. There are also Neons, Window Tints, Lowering kits and license plates. All of these require micro-transactions to buy, but they are also won as rewards for racing and by completing achievements. The lowering kits consist of three kits, Level 1, 2 and 3, with Level 1 giving the smallest drop and Level 3 dropping it on its floor.
The choice of paints and different paintable areas is very good, allowing you to paint different body panels in different colours. The finish of the paint can be matte, gloss, metallic, flip, pearlescent or candy, each being distinctly different from each other.
The choice of vinyl’s is very comprehensive, ranging from simple shapes to stripes, flames, tribal and numbers. Not all of these are available immediately, each group must be unlocked by attaining a certain driver level. The choice of vinyl’s certainly makes for easy personalisation of your car, with no two cars ever looking the same, unless of course they’re copies of cars from films such as The Fast & the Furious etc.
Each car has three stats, Top Speed, Acceleration and Handling, the combination of these stats determines the performance index of the car and what class it is in. Tuning the performance of your car is limited to selecting upgrades for 6 key areas, engine, forced induction, transmission, suspension, brakes and tyres. Every upgrade is rated from 1 star to 4 stars, the higher the rating, the more performance increase you’ll get from it. Parts will give a percentage increase to one or all three of the car stats, with higher rated parts giving a larger percentage boost. 1 star parts can be bought using IGC, higher rated parts must either be won as rewards for races or achievements, or bought using speedboost.
Graphics are a controversial area in racing games. On the one hand, you could argue that once driving, you won’t be paying much attention to the surroundings, so the detail of these areas isn’t as important as say making the game run smoothly, but on the other hand you could argue that a lack of detail, sparsely decorated and dull environments will detract from the immersion. NFS World sits somewhere in the middle. The vehicle models are highly detailed and look great and the special effects when using power-ups are a nice touch. The textures on the buildings aren’t that great, but once driving, the surroundings become slightly blurred anyway, so this isn’t really a problem. The design of the world has been laid out carefully, it seems to try and hide any wide panoramic views, it does this very well mainly through the use of trees but also through the elevation of the roads. Inside the cities there are areas which are brightly lit with neon signs and billboards which works very well at drawing the eye away from the dull skyscrapers and buildings behind them. Nothing about the graphics of NFS World will make you go wow, but there’s nothing really to complain about either. The game runs smoothly on moderate hardware too at the higher settings, at the lowest setting the game does look worse, but it’s still playable. With a Q6600 and a GTX460 I can run the game at the highest settings at 1920×1080 with not lag whatsoever.
Overall, I’ve found it to be a great game, yes the hackers are annoying, but when you get a lobby full of proper drivers, you can get some really close and exciting racing. The fact that it’s free to play makes it even more attractive and the price of Speedboost isn’t too extortionate if you wait and buy cars when they’re on sale.