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Need For Speed Payback’s Handling Model Is Still Problematic, But It Makes For Fun Offroad Driving
One of the biggest issues for most fans in Need For Speed 2015 was its handling model. The model was inspired by NFS games made by Criterion, the folks behind Burnout, which meant a lot of the driving involves drifting. But the one in 2015 promised that it can be tuned to either go full drift or drive like you similar to NFS Underground- using brakes to corner.
Unfortunately, that was not how it turns out. By tuning cars to go full grip, you can’t drift. That would be fine if the car can turn effectively, but every car has massive understeering- in other words, it barely turns in. The only way to compensate this is to use handbrakes at tight corners and use heavy breaking to tackle the windy turns, which is effectively slower than cars that can just drift through them at consistently higher speeds. Plus, drifting gets your nitrous to fill up quicker so they can compensate the slow (but stylish) cornering with a fast exit. It’s awful, drifting just makes you faster.
Need For Speed Payback is still using this model, unfortunately. You can now live tune the handling while free roaming rather than having to load to the garage each and every time to tweak some sliders, a good solution to that problem. But it is still not viable to drive without drifting. Cars feel heavy and stiff despite cranking the steering sensitivity all the way up. The problems is best exemplified in the Drag cars. These cars are built for quarter-mile straight lines rather than turns so it is expected that they handle so stiff in corners. But Payback will also have you use these cars in a few sprint races and time trials. There’s one race near the end of the game where you have to take a set of windy curves- a boon for drift cars, but a bane for these understeering machines.
Whoever that thought that driving drag cars -which can barely turn without handbraking- in a race with many turns made for drifting is a great experience needs a reality check. The idea is interesting, but with this handling model it’s a bad experience.
But when you embrace the fact that this game still rewards drifting in many ways possible is when it becomes fun. The new offroad races are all filled with twisty curves and the uneven surfaces will make your car prone to slide. Add that most of the offroad courses are wide and this new addition to the series is the best they have added in Payback. It’s fun to take long drifts then exit the turn at full speed with a big dose of nitrous. This also applies to the drift trials, it’s so much fun this time around, and the way the road layout is in the open world, makes drifting clearly the best way to drive. It’s not perfect, how a car handle and drift is not only tied to the live tuning, but also what Speed Cards you have installed, so they will always change as your car gets faster.
If Need For Speed really wants to allow grip driving a viable experience, there’s still more work needed to be done, because it is still awful in Payback. If the developers intend to keep this handling model for the next game, better just make all cars drift and not offer the option for grip.