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High Heat Races Is Where Need For Speed Heat Is At Its Best

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One thing that Ghost Games wants to make loud and clear is the cop chases are back in Need For Speed Heat. It may be weird, considering the arcade racer has always been about racing against the law, but Need For Speed Payback toned down the cop chases and fans really don’t like it.

Good news is, the cop chases reach the highs of the original Most Wanted. But Heat does one thing better- it makes racing while being chased by cops even more lucrative than ever. And harder.

Enter, high heat races.

As you progress through the campaign, you will eventually encounter high heat races. These are races only available at night and only available after getting enough heat multiplier. That means you need to be out there and do a few races (or escape a pursuit) before attempting this. Going at night for too long is risky- cops are relentless at this time of day and if not careful you’ll lose all your heat multiplier bonuses and get slapped with a big fine if you get busted.

There are high heat races for heat level 3 and level 5, the max heat level. The race requirement will match your current car’s performance number, ensuring a very close pack. The reward? Access to a higher tier performance part earlier than the rep level requirement. Not only do you get one for free but you unlock it to buy for any other cars too.

Hot Hot Heat

The high heat races sport some differences at the starting line. Instead of colourful flares, there are two poles on fire, with no effigies thankfully. Also, the starting line is on fire. And literal dumpster fires littered around too. The change of scenery marks this is serious business.

With an already high level of heat on you, there’s bound to be cops, and most likely you’ll bump into them. Unlike the races when you have no heat levels, the police will actually stick to the racers and give chase to really make your night miserable. Not only that, but you also need to keep looking straight for oncoming cars on very sudden blind corners, and your opponents will also surely be close by.

Then it makes sense why you only need to finish in the top 5 of 8 cars, rather than requiring a win, to earn the special performance part. High heat races are hard. These races also offer both money and rep points, a rare thing to see outside of campaign missions and side stories. But getting the top step is a tall order.

The hectic races remind me of the good days of Need For Speed Hot Pursuit 2 (and the very good Hot Pursuit 2010). The police chatter is non-stop, you constantly need to adapt or change your lines to avoid the cops. And you have a race in your hands. It’s an assault to the senses that keeps you on your toes all the way to the finish line.

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Going Down On It

But it doesn’t end there. Like any night races in Heat, there’s no cutscenes and celebrations after a win, keep the pedal to the metal and now it’s time to shake off the cops. Here’s where the second catch with high heat races- the performance part you won is considered volatile, and you can only safely claim them if you can get back to a safehouse without the law on your back. If your heat level is 3 at the start of the race, it probably already climbed to level 4. If it’s already at the maximum level 5, well, the barrage of incoming Rhino rams, roadblock with spike strips and that helicopter spotlight will keep on coming.

High heat races work because it rewards big risks, and tempts you enough with a reasonable level of entry. And this is where Need For Speed Heat is at its best. The allure of big rewards, the fun of driving scenic but lovingly flowing courses, a car with an agreeable handling model you can understand and tweak, and the frantic chases from aggressive cops.

It definitely feels terrible if you placed terribly in the high heat races, or got caught before banking in the performance part. But unlike Need For Speed Rivals, you still can make progress after getting busted. All your acquired rep points still count, it just loses the multiplier. It’s not all for nothing.

High heat races will keep players continue playing post-campaign. It also helps that most of the fundamental issues with the franchise, the handling, for example, have been resolved.

Stay tuned for our full review of Need For Speed Heat. The game is out now on PS4, PC (Origin) and Xbox One.