Recently, Electronic Arts’ John Riccitello did not use the typical ‘PR-speak’ to discuss his feelings on last November’s Need for Speed: Pro Street, stating:
“I thought it was an okay game, in terms of gameplay. It’s not good. But who wanted Pro Street? It was a sort of made up, put numbers on the side of your car and pretend to drive your Ferrari where? Or your Porsche where?”
This year, Riccitello has implemented some adjustments in hopes that this year’s Need for Speed game succeeds in a world dominated by Burnout Paradise and Forza. One of the first changes the CEO made was to double the size of the Vancover-based development team, before splitting them into two separate teams. This permitted the original team- who had churned out a Need for Speed title every twelve months, for the past eight years, a little breathing room. Now, the team has two full years to work on all future titles.
Riccitello also mentioned that Need for Speed: Undercover, which will be available on November 18th in the US, (November 21st in the EU), will focus on narrative storytelling. Electronic Arts has hired Hong Kong film star Maggie Q, for some live-action cutscenes. The EA head likened the game to being the interactive equivalent of The Transporter– B grade, testosterone-fueled, mindlessness.
We at Tech-Gaming wonder if Ricitello’s prescription will be effective in reviving the once engaging franchise. While giving a team additional development time seems wholly beneficial, adding a storyline doesn’t seem like a surefire path to success. Racers such as Burnout, Forza, and Gran Turismo have achieved critical and commercial acclaim from their compelling gameplay, without the benefit of narrative.
Luckily, EA has promised some of the features gamers have enjoyed most in the series- police chases, licensed cars, and the option to participate in a sandbox style of gameplay. If the developers concentrate on these core elements, Need for Speed: Undercover might be worthy of a full investigation this November.