Need for Speed Payback PS4 Review

Need for Speed Payback is an arcade racing game available from retail stores and for download from the PlayStation Store for the PS4. Need for Speed originated in 1994 as a 3DO exclusive before being ported to PC in 1995 followed by PS1 and SEGA Saturn in 1996. Numerous sequels began releasing for PS1 and PC with Need for Speed II in 1997, Need for Speed III: Hot Pursuit in 1998, Road Challenge in 1999 and Porsche Unleashed in 2000. It was not until the following generation of consoles that Need for Speed reverted back to multi-platform on home consoles when Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit 2 released in 2002, while Need for Speed Underground 1 and 2 followed in 2003 and 2004 respectively as two fan favourite entries into the series with the tradition of Need for Speed releasing annually continuing until the series debuted on PS4 with Rivals in 2013. Ghost Games co-developed Need for Speed: Rivals with Burnout creator Criterion Games before former talent from Criterion Games, EA Blackbox and Playground Games were grouped together within Ghost Games that resulted in a Need for Speed reboot in 2015. Can Need for Speed Payback compete with the best of the Need for Speed franchise?

The story revolves around the lead character named Tyler Morgan being betrayed by someone who he thought he could trust, then deciding to take revenge on the person that betrayed him, their accomplices and everyone who stands in his way. However, with six months having gone by between the betrayal occurring and the present day; Tyler has to work his way through the ranks once more even to the point of being in desperate need of a significantly upgraded car as his initial car in the present day cannot compare to those that are driven by racers further up the ranks.

Street Leagues contain numerous racing crews with each crew having their own racing style, skill level, preferred event type, headquarters and boss all situated within Fortune Valley. The main purpose in defeating them is to climb through the ranks and in doing so, qualify for entry into the Outlaw’s Rush event. Players will also get the chance to drive as characters other than Tyler Morgan throughout the story with a choice of taking on a set of missions at one point or another as different team members from your crew.

Classic Need for Speed games dating as far back as the very first Need for Speed have contained high-risk police pursuits that could potentially swing the race against or in favour of anyone. Need for Speed Payback’s police pursuits are always engaging and high-risk as ever due to Fortune Valley Police Department’s (FVPD) motivation to bring in all street racers. FVPD utilises a Ford Crown Victoria as their common police car, although rarer police cars include the Dodge Charger SRT8, while the Chevrolet Corvette Grand Sport is the fastest police car within FVPD and even has the capability of disabling your car’s engine for a temporary period of time, albeit only after achieving a successful lock-on. Further police vehicles are introduced as the pursuit continues for longer than anticipated including a heavy armoured S.W.A.T. known as the Rhino as it can smash through any car to pin it up against a wall before making the arrest, while the police helicopter is dispatched to keep up with a fast moving suspect in order to report on the suspect’s current location for ground units to follow in pursuit. Police units enforce road blocks, set-up spike strips and using a killswitch to deactivate your engine in addition to pit manoeuvres and ramming in attempts to force you off the road.

There are a variety of activities situated throughout Fortune Valley including speed run which involves setting the fastest average speed through the checkpoints; hitting a speed trap at the top speed your current car can produce to set the record for that stretch of road; 30 jumps in which a certain distance must be travelled in mid-air; and drift zones were a total drift score must be accumulated through multiple checkpoints. Successfully completed activities are rewarded with stars which unlock big rewards when enough stars have been earned.

There are multiple types of collectibles including smashing through 30 billboards located throughout Fortune Valley in the true tradition of the Burnout series, alongside chips also referred to as casino tokens with 100 casino tokens hidden across Fortune Valley. Smashing through a billboard or finding a casino token rewards players with in-game currency and reputation on each occasion.

There are 27 officially licensed car manufacturers including Acura, Aston Martin, Audi, BMW, Buick, Chevrolet, Dodge, Ford, Honda, Jaguar, Koenigsegg, Lamborghini, Land Rover, Lotus, Mazda, McLaren, Mercedes, Mercury, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Pagani, Plymouth, Porsche, SRT, Subaru, Volkswagen and Volvo. Each dealership sells cars within one of five specialist build types comprising of race, drift, offroad, drag and runner such as an offroad build type being designed for grip on offroad surfaces and jumps.

Every car has a specific set of attributes with unique qualities in the sense of strengths and weaknesses within their respective performance capabilities including horsepower, top speed, time to reach 0-60mph and travel a quarter mile, NO2 capacity and power, the amount of airtime, comfort of landing after a jump and brake power and response. Speed cards are earned by winning events with three speed cards to choose from at random following the completion of an event and have a significant importance as speed cards improve performance. However, speed cards do not necessarily have to be equipped as they can be sold, traded in or sent to Rav in the garage. Sending a speed card to Rav’s garage allows you the choice of equipping it at a later time when visiting the garage to customise your car.

Car customisation includes applying vanity items such as nitrous colour, tyre smoke, underglow, air suspension and horn which are received in shipments, while paint and wrap allows players to change their car’s paint colour and apply decals to create a stylish look that can be shared with other players. Tune stance provides the ability to adjust the camber on the front and rear tyres in addition to the ride height, while visual customisation produces the opportunity to customise the fundamental design and shape of your car’s bodywork, although every customisable component of the car must be unlocked through completing particular unlock conditions such as completing three jump activities with a two star rating to modify the hood, while drifting for 8 consecutive seconds to alter the front bumper, alongside building a car from derelict parts to transform the headlights and much more besides. Performance customisation is the area in which speed cards can be equipped for the head, block, ECU, turbo, exhaust and gearbox in order to improve your car’s attributes.

Derelicts are a set of five cars that can be individually built component by component after receiving a rumour of the location for the chassis by completing a specific group of missions. For instance, completing Tyler’s first five story missions will unlock the location of the Ford Mustang 1965 chassis followed by a general location of the engine, bodywork parts, wheels and tyres and Mustang accessories. When each of the five cars have been assembled; they provide the further reward for your efforts in successfully restoring the five classic cars by producing qualities in their respective attributes that are more than capable of competing with the best cars available outside of derelicts.

Fortune Valley is a massive thriving open-world environment full to the brim of events, activities and collectibles, although race events are mostly linear in track design as players have to drive through checkpoints in the majority of events. Tracks are situated in diverse environments such as the bustling cityscapes of Silver Rock, desert roads of Liberty Desert, mountain roads of Mount Providence and picturesque views of Silver Canyon in which race events are set at varying times of day and night. Every environment has its own landmarks such as Liberty Desert’s airstrip Airfield 73 and a group of solar panels referred to as Fortune Valley’s Solar Project, while Silver Canyon has the Silver Dam, alongside Silver Rock constructing the tallest building in the city titled the Ark Tower and many more landmarks positioned in key locations within each area.

Every character has their own mannerisms and personality which plays out throughout the course of the story as players get to see how each character approaches the scenarios they find themselves in. Tyler is a very believable lead character as his desperation for revenge is apparent, while his crew all have their own reasons for rejoining his team; opposite the villains that they want to take down and expose. Different characters focus on varying driving styles; for instance Mac concentrates on drifting, while there are some drivers who prefer maximum outright speed without style or substance.

There are three third-person camera angles that vary from being close-up to a reasonable distance behind the car, although the positioning of the camera pulls back when accelerating and draws nearer under braking in a rather immersive fashion in addition to panning the camera a full 360 degrees in order to see your opposition or the surrounding environments. There are two first-person perspectives that are positioned from the front of the car looking forwards without any bodywork and a camera mounted to the bonnet showing some of the front bodywork, while having the ability to look to the left, right or behind in an attempt to prevent an opposing driver from overtaking you. Cinematic cutscenes optionally occur when cars crash during events, while the camera rotates around your car when not having moved for a minute or so during free roam. However, it would have been amazing to have an interior view with the camera angle positioned directly from the driver’s line of sight with his hands on the steering wheel and shifting through the gears in addition to a helicopter view for an aerial perspective of the racing action. There are no race event replays which would have been fantastic to see reintroduced as a throwback to the classic earlier Need for Speed games during the foundations of the franchise that allowed players to re-watch the entire race they had just competed in.

Downloadable content includes High Roller Pack containing a story mission pack, exclusive nitrous colour for five cars, license plate and leaderboard icon, five premium shipments, 5% reputation points bonus and 10% discount on garage purchases included in the Deluxe Edition, alongside the Platinum Car Pack containing five uniquely tuned cars in addition to platinum blue tyre smoke and underglow neon is a pre-order bonus for the standard edition and deluxe edition.

Given the high quality of previous Need for Speed games that have released on portable platforms; it is disappointing to not see a Vita port of Need for Speed Payback. However, if you are looking for a portable Need for Speed experience on a dedicated portable gaming platform, then it is important to look at Need for Speed: Most Wanted which released at retail and via digital download on Vita in 2012, while Underground Rivals, Most Wanted 5-1-0, Carbon: Own the City, ProStreet and Undercover released on PSP between 2005 and 2008 at retail and via digital download. It is disappointing to see Need for Speed’s relevancy on the Vita become so little in comparison to the well refined Need for Speed: Most Wanted that the controls have not been optimised as accelerating and braking are mapped by default to the right and left of the rear touch pad respectively, while taking a snapshot is mapped to the bottom right of the rear touch pad. It may take some getting used to, but with some persistence it will become a tolerable control scheme.

The controls are appropriately mapped to the DualShock 4 controller with the default control scheme consisting of holding R2 to accelerate; pressing L2 to brake; pressing R1 to perform an action; pressing L1 to sound the horn; pressing triangle to manually shift up a gear; pressing O to manually shift down a gear; pressing X to engage nitrous; pressing square to apply the handbrake; pressing up on the d-pad to toggle between camera angles; pressing down on the d-pad to perform live tuning; pressing left on the d-pad to use snapshot pro; pressing right on the d-pad to cycle through to the next song; pressing L3 to turn the engine on or off; pressing R3 to take a snapshot; changing the direction on the left analogue stick to steer your car; moving the direction of the right analogue stick to pan the camera angle to look in any direction such as behind the car; pressing the share button takes you to the share feature menu; and pressing the options button to display the pause menu. There are two presets for auto gearbox and manual gearbox control schemes in which the major adaptation for the second auto or manual gearbox control scheme sees gear shifting up and down being re-mapped to the right analogue stick. Tapping the touch pad displays a large scale map of Fortune Valley, while vibration occurs during drifting, donuts and crashing into cars, obstacles or barriers. There is no light bar implementation which is surprising as it could have produced the health of your car or the amount of time remaining during the events that have a time limit ranging from bright green for a healthy car or a large amount of time remaining to flashing red for a heavily damaged car or hardly any time left on the time limit, although the light bar could have flashed between blue and red to highlight that police are in pursuit.

Graphically, Need for Speed Payback utilises DICE’s Frostbite 3.0 engine to create exceptional particle effects when cars collide, scrape against each other or crash heavily in amongst amazing car models and open-world environments with a consistent frame-rate. However, there are noticeably slow loading on car textures particularly after loading the game for the first time within a gameplay session, while there is a hint of pop-in at times in the far distance.

The presentation of the game is solid with a great user interface across various menus such as the main menu, home menu, journal menus, shipments menus, photo menus, challenges menus, multiplayer menus, settings menus and gameplay menus with support for navigation via the left analogue stick, directional pad and face buttons, although it does not include support for navigation via the right analogue stick and touch pad. Pre-gameplay menu backgrounds focus on environments from Fortune Valley, while gameplay menus show the image in the background from when the game was paused.

An excellent cast of actors and actresses have brought life to their characters with a cast comprising of Jack Derges voicing Tyler Morgan having previously starred as Simon in Humans and Andy Flynn in EastEnders, while David Ajala voices Sean ‘Mac’ McAlister having previously voiced additional characters in Mass Effect: Andromeda and starred as Ivory in Fast and the Furious 6, Ibis in Jupiter Ascending and Bounty Hunter in The Dark Knight, alongside Ramon Tikaram voicing Ravindra ‘Rav’ Chaudhry having previously voiced Doctor Strange in LEGO Marvel Super Heroes 2, Dorian in Dragon Age: Inquisition and Gabe Weller in Dead Space: Extraction. Jessica Madsen voices Jessica Miller having previously starred as Clarice in Leatherface, while Dominique Tipper voices Lina Navarro having starred as Maddie in MindGamers and Naomi Nagata in TV series The Expanse, alongside Robert James voices Marcus Weir and an entire cast providing voices for additional characters. Radio station style voice-overs are massively influenced by Criterion’s Burnout franchise which provides even more personality to the gameplay from a character standpoint.

Sound effects include the roar of each car’s engine, shifting up and down the gears, accelerating, braking, drifting, collisions with opposing cars, barriers or objects such as lamp posts or road signs and scraping bodywork and paintwork along competing cars or barriers. Need for Speed Payback’s soundtrack contains a mixture of rap and rock genres from established music artists which is complimented by excellent compositions for the more cinematic and climactic scenes in the story by Joseph Trapanese (Oblivion, The Raid 2, The Crew and Insurgent). The DualShock 4 speaker produces the cop scanner output in which the police communicate with each other regarding the last known position of the street racers.

The trophy list includes 54 trophies with 44 bronze trophies, 7 silver trophies, 2 gold trophies and 1 platinum trophy. Easier trophies include the Welcome to Fortune Valley bronze trophy for completing the prologue and the Training Wheels Off bronze trophy for reaching rep level 2. Harder trophies include the Top Dog silver trophy for reaching rep level 50; the Active Lifestyle silver trophy for getting a 3 star rating in all activities; and the Who Runs This Town gold trophy for winning every event and beating all roaming racers. There are 4 online multiplayer trophies including First Strike is Deadly bronze trophy for completing all 5 events in a single speedlist; The Climb silver trophy for completing 10 events in ranked speedlists; the Friendly Competition bronze trophy for beating your first autolog recommendation; and the A Daily A Day bronze trophy for completing your first daily challenge. It is estimated that depending upon skill and a good trophy guide to provide some helpful tips that it would take between 25 to 35 hours to platinum the trophy list.

There are three difficulty levels including easy, medium and hard with the major differences being the accuracy and pace of your opponents. However, technically every point to point race is hard as missing a single checkpoint will result in you losing track position which can prove very costly come the end of a race event. Point to point races and racing in general can become even harder on any difficulty level when the Fortune Valley Police Department decide to get involved as they will employ any tactics necessary to bring down any street racer within their grasp when seen driving dangerously in Fortune Valley.

There is no split-screen multiplayer which from a Need for Speed purist’s perspective who has been playing the majority of Need for Speed games since the franchise launched back in 1994 on 3DO is quite disappointing. After all, Star Wars Battlefront I and II has clearly showcased that DICE’s Frostbite engine can handle split-screen multiplayer and all of the gameplay modes in online multiplayer would translate to split-screen multiplayer without any problems. Even if it had to be optimised to be pre-set tracks instead of an open-world, then that would if anything make it a more user-friendly split-screen multiplayer experience as players would just be able to immediately start their competitive split-screen multiplayer racing.

Online multiplayer is only accessible after completing the entirety of the first chapter. Upon entering online multiplayer for the first time; players will have to select one car per archetype, although it would be advised to not rush your decision as players cannot alter their loadout after a game has begun. Online multiplayer supports up to 8 players with performance that is equivalent to single player gameplay throughout a variety of point to point focused races, while a rather positive design choice is that players who join a lobby when a race is already in progress can drive around the open-world environment in free roam, alongside speed cards, reputation and in-game currency which can all be earned when participating in casual or ranked online multiplayer. Casual Speedlist allows players to compete in a series of five races for 8 players without results affecting their online multiplayer ranking, while Ranked Speedlist changes it up by introducing the results counting towards your online multiplayer ranking, although players must play 10 Ranked Speedlist races before being able to be ranked.

Daily challenges are unlocked after progressing through to reassembling your crew in the story in which four new challenges become available for playing every day with a reward of earning shipments in exchange for filling the challenge meter. Daily challenges include winning five consecutive distinct events, getting at least three stars on six distinct activities in a row, getting at least two stars on eight distinct activities and beating three autolog recommendations.

Replayability stems from the unpredictability of racing events and police pursuits, alongside numerous activities and collectibles, extensive car customisation of officially licensed cars from some of the world’s leading car manufacturers, daily challenges and online multiplayer for up to 8 players which should collectively bring players back for quite some time.



  • Title: Need for Speed Payback
  • Developer: Ghost Games
  • Publisher: Electronic Arts
  • System: PS4
  • Format: PS4 Blu-Ray Disc/PSN Download
  • Cross-Buy: No
  • Cross-Play: No
  • Players: 1/2-8 (Online Multiplayer)/Online Rankings
  • Hard Drive Space Required: 24.33GB (Version 1.04)


Jason plays all genres of games and enjoys all different kinds of experiences that the games industry has to offer. Jason’s favourite PlayStation exclusive franchises throughout various eras include: Crash Bandicoot, God of War, Gran Turismo, inFamous, Killzone, Little Big Planet, MotorStorm, Resistance, Spyro the Dragon, Uncharted, Wipeout and various games that never became big name franchises. A special mention goes to Black Rock’s superb Split Second: Velocity as it is rather unbelievable that it will never receive a sequel.Jason now mainly plays modern PlayStation games on home console and portably, but occasionally returns to the old retro classics on the 3DO, PS1 and PS2 such as discovering Cool Spot Goes to Hollywood 20 years after its original release on PS1. Jason is happy to see gaming coming full circle with updates for retro classics such as Alien Breed, Superfrog and Crash Bandicoot.

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