need for speed unbound review: racing in my own style

PC Review Code Provided by EA

Bringing a series back for a player base that has been asking for it is always going to be a good call on the developer’s end. Now, EA and Criterion Games have delivered with Need For Speed Unbound which is a title that has definitely crossed the finish line with a leading position. However, they may not have landed first place in this race as they hit a few bumps in the road, but a top-tier title is what we have here.


After working at Rydell’s mechanic shop for years, you and your friend Yaz decide to fix up one of the rides in the back of the shop for racing. With the car working well enough to hit the streets, it’s time to start making a name for yourself here in Lakeshore. After a few races and a few fights with Yaz, you get back to Rydell’s shop only to find it being ransacked by a group taking all the cars! Worse yet, before they all leave you hear them call for Yaz who then hops in the car you just fixed up and drives away.

Betrayed and without a car, you spend the new couple of years trying to help Rydell get his shop back up to speed with customers and stock. Luckily, one particular Uber rider helps you get back on the street after you find yourself at a meet-up led by none other than Yaz, who still has your car. As she announces the return of street racing in Lakeshore with an event called ‘The Grand’ it’s your chance to get back at her for the betrayal and take her down in the one thing she lives for; racing!


The first thing you need to know is that your character and car in career mode do not transfer over to the online game mode. Once you set up your character and car in one game mode, you will need to do that again in the next one. The difference between the two is that in career mode, you will be starting out with nothing and in the online mode you start out with some spending money. You can use the online mode’s spending money to set up your career mode character as well, but only the car you use for online play will be able to be upgraded with that money.

If you are focusing more to play online, it is farily easy to work with. You can party up with friends before finding a play server so that you will all end up joining the same server. Each server only holds a certain amount of drivers and has a handful of race options available at any one time. No matter the grade level of your car, you can always join a race of any car grade level – you will just end up in a stock version of the car fitting that grade level whether your car is a lower or better grade than it. This is handy so that you can play with your friends, even if your cars don’t match on grade levels.

Earning money is as easy as winning races! You can also earn some money by finding art murals around town and running down these stuffed bears that are located in seemingly random locations, but the big bucks come from taking first place. Once you are ready to spend that money to upgrade your car, just head over to a safe house and check out the menu. While you are there, you can update your character’s look and your player banner as well.

 		 		 		need for speed unbound review: racing in my own style

Customization in this game is beyond expectations. Maybe not so much for the player, but for the cars it definitely seems endless! Characters are made by picking a base model and then updating the hair, accessories, and clothing on them. There are quite a lot of options for all of these sections including brand-named merch and off-brand generic items. As for the car, you will have just about any color you can think of to set its base, and then you can change up everything from the rims to the window tint and add on stickers, wraps, and whatever else you desire to make that car look at unique, cool, or even ridiculous as you want.

Career mode has a lot of the same qualities as the online mode, including the art murals and stuffed bears to take down, but it also has some other features. While you will be preparing each week to upgrade your vehicle to the grade level needed for ‘The Grand’ race set for the end of the current week – which will play through a series of 4 weeks – you will have plenty of side quests and money making opportunities along the way. Plus, during the races themselves, you can make side bets with other racers where you earn money as long as you beat whoever you bet against.

The goal for career mode, and online mode I would presume, is to get your B-grade car up to the S+ grade to be among the best! This will require you to upgrade your shop to a level where it would have the better grade material and then upgrade your car with the best shocks, suspensions, tires, and everything else that goes into tweaking your car. There really is a lot to the upgrading system, so be sure to spend some time looking through the various options.

You will also be able to adjust some things on your car, like its handling. Once you get the proper upgrades, you’ll be able to slightly adjust the range between drift and grip on the vehicle. Of course, you will be picking your vehicle from a few different options when you start out and that base build will be what you are working off of. That means don’t just go with what is cool looking – go with the car that seems to match your play style best. The beginning chapter of the career mode gives you an initial test on this as you go through a few races with one car before it is gone.

Something to be aware of in the game are the cops. You can gain heat from some of the quests you do, but just about every race will come with a degree of heat added to you. Once you have at least 1 heat level, cops will start chasing you the moment they see you. You will have to outmaneuver them to get away, which isn’t hard on a low heat level but once you get to a higher heat level, it becomes rather difficult. Once the heat has died down, or rather you got away enough that you are at least considered ‘escaping,’ then you can enter a safehouse to get away. In career mode, this will also send the game from day to night or vice versa.

Audio and Visual

 		 		 		need for speed unbound review: racing in my own style

While the music in this game wasn’t necessarily to my own taste, it was a quite diverse list of songs that I would imagine being in any street-racing-themed movie. On top of that, the voice acting in the game and the sound effects were all very well done. While I wouldn’t say the sound design was precise to the accuracy in which car sounds are – especially given you can just adjust how some parts of your car sounds in the menu – it is beyond fitting to the series itself.

I enjoyed the art style they went with in this game. Above all, the way they let you choose your burn-out smoke and the way they have the color of your car’s design and speed pop out was really interesting. Giving characters a more drawn, almost cartoon-like appearance while the cars look a bit more realistic. Since you mostly see the car itself, having the majority of the customization options set up for the car and having the graphical quality of the vehicles match the environment around it was just simply a good choice.


Even if you just wanted to enjoy a bit more of the career mode, I would say this game has replayability. The various different cars you have to choose from, the multitude of ways to set them up, and the constant grind to not only improve your car but improve your skills will always be around! The online mode is sure to be full of racers for quite some time.

What Could Have Been Better

For those that don’t really know their driving play style too well, it would have been nice to have a more fleshed-out way to test out the different styles. Cars come with the option of better grip or drift, but they also come with front-wheel drive, rear-wheel drive, and all-wheel drive, which many won’t know what the difference is – or at least when it comes to the in-game handling of their vehicle. Perhaps having a “vehicle tester” mode in the menu or something would have been nice just so players can try out the different options before settling on one.


Need For Speed Unbound is simply fun to play and a very entertaining title! Setting up my car with some unique styles was fairly easy to do and taking the top spot in the races was a challenge. Working on my skills to take the top spot while upgrading my car is what this series is about and it was all well-blended into one with this new title. Whether you enjoy the super competitive side of racing or just like to put on a bit of a challenge against some friends, I would recommend this game.

Need For Speed Unbound is now available on PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X|S, and PC via Steam, Epic Games Store, Origin, and the EA app.

 		 		 		need for speed unbound review: racing in my own style


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