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Thank God, Need For Speed Heat’s Handling Model Is As Good As It Was Promised To Be


There is a lingering air of doubt when it comes to Ghost Games’ take on Need For Speed games after the 2015 reboot. Especially from the hardcore fans (including us over here). The one unfortunate mistake was for the game to promise Need For Speed Hot Pursuit (2010) drift handling and Need For Speed Underground’s grip handling. Turns out, the handling model is in favour of drift handling, and driving full-grip cars were atrocious.

With Need For Speed Payback, the two-year dev cycle had fans hopeful of a much-needed improvement of the handling model. But grip handling is still awful, as we dissected in length here. So to see Need For Speed Heat being promised to have a better handling model, with outlines on how it has changed, I was optimistically doubtful. Is the handling physics really as good as it is being promised here?

Five hours into the Need For Speed Heat free trial for Origin Access Basic subscribers and the impression I have is: Oh thank god, the handling’s good. It’s good!

Freedom To (Not) Drift

Need For Speed Heat has significantly overhauled the handling system that might not be noticable to new players, but NFS veterans can immediately feel the difference.

Your car can turn now. Normally. Hit the brakes, nip that apex, and accelerate out of corners. And it is as fast as drifting through it.

From the get-go, your first ride in the Polestar 1 cover car is tuned to be on the “race” (read: grip) spectrum of handling rather than drift. The twitchy brake-to-drift handling prevalent in Need For Speed (2015) and Need For Speed Payback is gone.

I picked the BMW M3 Evo as the starter car, which has by default the most race-biased handling of the three. The Beemer can take corners like this is a sim racer. It’s still noticeable understeer-y but in contrast to the oversteer-iness when drifting, it makes sense. There is now a setting in the live tuning setup to put more downforce, which makes it less understeer-y.

Gas Gas Gas

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Need For Speed Heat also adds a new way to initiate drift- gas-to-drift. It’s something you can change in the live settings as well. So rather than tapping brake, you tap the gas pedal.

Early footage of gameplay highlights saw a lot of cars turning like this, which made folks like me included not that convinced if grip is as good as promised. You can do small drifts with the gas-to-drift method, more to get the car snap just the right angle in tight corners, instead of yanking the handbrake. The last resort if you miss your brake point. It’s not necessary, but if you feel like doing a cheeky drift instead of taking the line properly, you can. A choice, not mandatory.

Also, drifting around corners is less advantageous now thanks to the changes to how nitrous works. Nitrous is now a one-tap boost button (unless you put on multiple bottles)

If you’re a loyal stalwart of the brake-to-drift gang, that’s okay too. It’s still an option, which I used an RX-7 and put on parts that increase its drift handling. Note that you can pick one of the two, but it does not necessarily disable a car’s ability to do so. More like it’s easier to perform one than the other.

Drifting, in general, is also vastly improved. Cars don’t snap into a pre-determined minimum angle when they drift. You really need the right power and low enough grip to properly swing that rear end. In the early stages of the game I find myself to be very underpowered to get those big drifts. Those were pretty easy to pull off early on, now that’s not the case.

Which is good, there’s something to look for as more performance parts are unlocked.

You can say that I had the need… for speed.

Closing Thoughts

From the first five hours, Need For Speed Heat is delivering the many promises and the many things fans have been screaming about. Will this be Ghost Games’ properly good Need For Speed game? We are not ready to say that just yet, but from the handling changes explained here, which is one of many, it’s looking hopeful.

Need For Speed Heat is out now on the PS4, PC (Origin) and Xbox One.