Need for Speed: The Complete History

Need for Speed - The Complete History

Need for Speed: How it all began

Need for Speed is a racing franchise that has been with us since 1994, the game was originally developed by a Canadian based company called Distinctive Software, Electronic Arts bought them out in 1991.

Distinctive Software were then renamed Electronic Arts Canada, and so began the development of The Need for Speed, released in 1994 on Panasonic 3DO, then in 1995 on PC and 1996 on Saturn and finally on PS1.

I Feel the Need for Speed

If you are unfamiliar with the Need for Speed franchise, basically the game is based around street racing, you must complete a variety of races whilst dodging those pesky cops.

Currently the console and PC games are developed by Ghost Games, the iOS/Android NFS games are developed by EA’s in-house company Firemonkeys Studios and are based in Melbourne, Australia.

There have been a staggering 24 Need for Speed games since it’s first launch in 1994, here is a breakdown of all of them, strap yourself in,  here goes!!!

The Need for Speed (1994)

Platforms: Panasonic 3DO, DOS/PC, SEGA Saturn, PlayStation | Developer: EA Canada

The godfather of Need for Speed was the only real attempt at making a realistic handling dynamics game.

EA collaborated with staff from Road & Track (an American auto magazine) to get the handling as realistic as possible. This led to impressive oversteer and understeer that still stands up today.

There was another version of the game released only for PC in 1996 called “The Need for Speed: Special Edition”. It featured two new tracks and DirectX 2 and TCP/IP Networking support.

Need for Speed II (1997)

Platforms: PC, PlayStation | Developer: EA Canada/Seattle

Need for Speed II featured countryside tracks from Europe, North America, Asia and Australia. And also boasted some pretty cool and exotic vehicles like the Ford Indigo concept car.

A new game mode called “Knockout” was introduced, the last racer to finish each lap gets eliminated. Another neat addition was the ability to cut across the track to take shortcuts.

The PlayStation version was the first to take advantage of the new “DualShock” controller which featured analog sticks. There was also support for the NeGcon controller.

Need for Speed 2

Need for Speed III: Hot Pursuit (1998)

Platforms: PC, PlayStation | Developer: EA Canada/Seattle

Need for Speed III comes with the addition of Hot Pursuit mode. You can choose to outrun the police or be the cop.

It features audio commentary and even music videos and picture slideshows. This is the first game in the NFS franchose to feature downloadable cars as content through the website.

The game supported Direct 3D hardware on PC and was the first game to receive the mod treatment with modders adding many additional cars to NFS III: Hot Pursuit.

Need for Speed:
High Stakes(1999)

Platforms: PC, PlayStation | Developer: EA Canada/Seattle

Need for Speed: High Stakes introduced 4 new game modes, High Stakes, Getaway, Time Trap, and Career mode.

High Stakes is a racing mode, while Getaway is similar to Hot Pursuit but you can only outrun the police. Time Trap is all about time trials.

Career mode introduces car damage, you win money in races which can be spent on car repairs and upgrades.

The PlayStation version of the game, released some months before the PC version featured improved gameplay. The AI in the game was more advanced: the five AIs known as Nemesis, Bullit, Frost, Ranger, and Chump featured different driving characteristics. In the PlayStation version, the McLaren F1 GTR was based on the 1997 Long Tail, while the PC version was based on the original 95/96 version.

Need for Speed:
Porsche Unleashed (2000)

Platforms: PC, PlayStation, Game Boy Advance | Developer: Eden Games/EA Canada Pocketeers

Need for Speed: Porsche Unleashed, or Porsche 2000 in europe. Win races to unlock Porsche’s in chronological order from 1950 to 2000.

There is also a Porsche factory driver mode. The PC version featured the most realistic handling to date for an NFS game.

Sadly, the PlayStation versions controls were much more arcade feeling and basic, and led to this being a poor version in comparison.

Need for speed Porsche Unleashed

Need for Speed:
Hot Pursuit 2 (2002)

Platforms: PC, GameCube, PS2, Xbox | Developer: EA (Black Box/Seattle)

Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit 2 was the first NFS game of the 6th console generation and the first from the EA Black Box studio.

The gameplay style comes from NFS III, focusing more on the police chasing aspects of the game.

It was the first NFS game not to feature a cockpit mode camera too, making this more arcade style and less realistic than it’s predecessors.

This was the last version for the PC to feature a split screen mode, favouring GameSpy’s Internet Matchmaking system instead.

EA also introduced the EA Trax label which features music from licensed bands.

Need for Speed:
Underground (2003)

Platforms: PC, GameCube, PS2, Xbox, Game Boy Advance Advance | Developer: EA Black Box

Need for Speed: Underground is the first NFS game to feature single map racing. The game focuses on a more arcade feel street racing.

This was the first NFS game to require Hardware Transform and lighting in graphics cards. This became the trademark style of NFS games that still is featured today.

There are drag and drift modes in this game and also a story mode which has pre-rendered video scenes.

This game and it’s sequel did not feature any police, which drew huge critiscism from the die-hard NFS fans.

Need for Speed:
Underground 2 (2004)

Platforms: PC, GameCube, PS2, Xbox, Game Boy Advance, DS, PSP, Mobile | Developer: EA Black Box

In Underground 2, the story mode continued, but there were new racing modes such as Underground Racing League and Street X, more tuning options, and a new method of selecting races.

Also included was an “outrun” mode where a player can challenge random opponents on the road (similar to Tokyo Xtreme Racer). Underground 2 also introduced several SUVs, used to race against other SUVs.

The most significant change vs. the original Underground was the introduction of its Open World (free roam) environments,[198] setting the tone for numerous NFS games to come.

This was also the publisher’s most marketed feature at launch. In addition, the game featured actresses/models Brooke Burke and Kelly Brook as in-game characters to help guide the player through the campaign.

Need for Speed:
Most Wanted (2005)

Platforms: PC, GameCube, PS2, Xbox, Xbox 360, Game Boy Advance, DS, PSP, Mobile |
Developer: EA Black Box

Need for Speed: Most Wanted was the first NFS game to feature on Xbox 360. The game marked a triumphant return to it’s police chasing roots,

It also combines the free roaming map aspects of Underground but with a lot less vehicle customisation.

The game featured the Blacklist, a crew consisting of 15 racers that the player must beat one-by-one to unlock parts, cars, tracks, and to complete career mode.

The player had to meet certain requirements before they could take on the next Blacklist rival, such as races completed, milestones achieved, and bounty earned.

A special Black Edition of Most Wanted was also released, featuring additional races, challenges, and a few bonus cars; it also included a behind-the-scenes DVD.

Both versions were available for the PlayStation 2, Xbox, Nintendo DS, and Windows-based PCs, while only the standard edition was available for GameCube and Xbox 360.

Need for Speed:
Carbon (2006)

Platforms: PC, GameCube, PS2, PS3, Xbox, Wii, Game Boy Advance, DS, PSP, Mobile | Developer: EA Canada/Black Box

Need for Speed: Carbon was the first to grace the PS3 and Nintendo Wii and also the last NFS game for the Game Cube.

The handheld ports were known as Need for Speed Carbon: Own the City.

In this game, they reintroduced night time only racing, drift events returned, but drag racing was scrapped.

Canyon Duel was introduced as a game type, where the closer the player is to the leader, the more points they accrue.

If the player overtakes the leader and remains in front for 10 seconds, they win automatically. Another new feature is “Autosculpt”, which allows players to custom-fabricate their own auto parts.

The Collector’s Edition Featuring three new cars, ten specially tuned cars, six new races, and a bonus DVD with behind-the-scenes footage on the making of the game.

Need for Speed:
Prostreet (2007)

Platforms: PC, PS2, Xbox 360, DS, PSP, Mobile | Developer: EA Black Box

Need for Speed: ProStreet, developed by EA Black Box, was released in 2007.

Key features of the game included realistic damage, a return to realistic racing, modeling, and burnouts.

The game lacked the free roam mode found in earlier releases, instead, all of the races were on closed race tracks that took place on organized race days.

The game consisted of drag races, speed challenges (essentially sprint races and speed traps), grip races (circuit racing), and drift races.

Need for Speed:
Undercover (2008)

Platforms: PC, PS2, PS3, Xbox 360, Wii, DS, PSP, Mobile | Developer: EA Vancouver, Exient Entertainment, Firebrand Games, Piranha Games

Need for Speed Undercover was the last game in the series for the PS2.

EA admitted that ProStreet never lived up to expectation, so Undercover was a return to the games roots.

The game focused on tuning and police chases, featured over 50 cars, and took place in a fictional city called Tri-City Bay.

The player’s role was as an undercover cop, trying to stop street racers. Containing live-action cutscenes which feature the actress Maggie Q, the game also featured a damage system where parts could break off after a crash.

The Collector’s Edition for PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 added another five new cars, twelve new circuits, and sprint and checkpoint track configurations.

Also included were specially tuned versions of ten existing cars, plus 35 exclusive vinyls for adding a unique visual style.

Need for Speed:
Shift (2009)

Platforms: PC, PS3, Xbox 360, Wii, DS, PSP, Mobile | Developer: Slightly Mad Studios. EA Bright Light

Need for Speed: Shift, developed by Slightly Mad Studios, was released in 2009.

It features over 60 cars and 19 tracks, some of which are licensed tracks while others are fictional.

The improved driving simulation was accompanied by an adaptive difficulty, while it reintroduced a cockpit view.

NFS: Shift focused on racing simulation rather than the arcade racing of previous titles.

Need For Speed: Shift received better reviews than the prior three games in the series.

The Special Edition contained a special tuned BMW M3 GT2, and an Elite Series track.

Two items of downloadable content were released for the game.

Need for Speed:
Nitro (2009)

Platforms: Wii, DS | Developer: Firebrand Games, EA Montreal

Need for Speed: Nitro is the first NFS game made exclusively for Nintendo DS and Wii, featuring arcade-style gameplay and targeting a casual audience, released in 2009.

Need for Speed: Nitro was also available as a social multiplayer game on Facebook.

Need for Speed: Nitro-X (2010) was a newer installment for use with the DSi/XL and the 3DS system.

Essentially the original release, it was updated with several updates: 18 licensed vehicles; new police units; custom tags; 16 updated tracks; a revised career mode; local multiplayer matches for up to four players; and new rewards and unlockables.

The game was released as a digital download only, released in 2010.

Need for Speed: Nitro Gameplay - Nintendo DS

Need for Speed:
World (2010)

Platforms: PC | Developer: Firebrand Games, EA Montreal

Need for Speed: World was a free-to-play MMO racing game for Windows-based PCs.

It took on the gameplay style of Most Wanted and Carbon, focusing on illegal street racing, tuning and police chases, and adding classic MMO elements to the mix.

World incorporated almost exact replicas of the cities of Rockport and Palmont, the cities of Most Wanted and Carbon respectively, into its map design.

NFS: World was originally scheduled for an Asian release in the summer of 2009, however the game was not released at that time and it was released worldwide in 2010. In October 2009, the game was in public beta-testing limited to residents of Taiwan.

In April 2015, it was announced that Need for Speed World would be closing its servers on July 14, 2015.

They soon after removed the ability to create new accounts for the game and began winding down their support for it.

Since the announcement, there have been several “end of the world” promotions and in-game events.

Need for Speed:
Hot Pursuit (2010)

Platforms: PC, PS3, Wii, Xbox 360, Mobile | Developer: Criterion Games

Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit is the first NFS game to be developed by british developer Criterion Games.

It focuses on racing and police chases rather than car customization. The game won many awards at the E3 2010, including “Best Racing Game”, becoming the first game in the NFS series since the original Hot Pursuit to win an E3 award.

There were over 60 cars, most available to both racers and cops, but a few were exclusive to either side.

Unlike previous NFS titles, there was no customization, and the game takes place in a fictional rural area called Seacrest County, which the “free roam” feature lets you explore.

Hot Pursuit allows play as either police or racer. The game also features many weapons, with some exclusive to the cops or racers.

The biggest feature introduced was the Need for Speed Autolog, which tracked player progressions and recommended events to play.

In addition to its statistical system, Autolog also features Facebook-like speedwalls where players can post their comments and photos while in the game.

Hot Pursuit has received some of the best reviews of the series.

The Limited Edition gives players exclusive access to the Alfa Romeo 8C Competizione and Ford Shelby GT500. Various downloadable content was released for the game.

Shift 2 Unleashed (2011)

Platforms: PC, PS3, Xbox 360, iOS | Developer: Slightly Mad Studios

The sequel to Need for Speed: Shift 2: Unleashed was developed by Slightly Mad Studios, and released in 2011.

Shift 2 includes the Autolog feature introduced in Hot Pursuit. It also includes features such as night racing, an in-helmet camera, and a more in-depth career mode.

NFS Shift 2 features more than 140 vehicles available for racing and tuning, a smaller number compared with other racing games such as Forza Motorsport 3 and Gran Turismo 5.

There are also 40 real-world locations including Bathurst, Spa-Francorchamps and Suzuka as well as fictional circuits.

The Limited Edition features three unlocked cars, and an additional 37 career race events. Two downloadable contents were released for Shift 2.

Need for Speed:
The Run (2011)

Platforms: PC, PS3, Wii, Xbox 360, 3DS | Developer: EA Black Box,, Firebrand Games

Need for Speed: The Run was developed by EA Black Box, and released in 2011. The game continued the street-racing gameplay of Black Box’s previous titles, with a story based on a race across the United States from San Francisco to New York.

The game features quick time events with the player, for the first time in NFS history, exiting their car and traveling on foot. The Run was powered by DICE’s Frostbite 2 engine, making the game the first non-shooter and one of the first console titles to use the engine. Additionally, the NFS Autolog was also used in the game.

The Run has a large range of real-world vehicles, which can be altered with visual upgrades. An XP (Experience points) system is used for unlocking cars and events. The Limited Edition features three exclusive cars and five exclusive challenges with bonus rewards and achievements.

Need for Speed: The Run Gameplay

Need for Speed: Most Wanted (2012)

Platforms: PC, PS3, Wii U, Xbox 360, PS Vita, Mobile | Developer: Criterion Games

Need for Speed: Most Wanted features open world racing, and most of the cars in the game are available from the start, hidden in different locations.

It also features a blacklist of 10 instead of 15, and there is no story or visual customization for the game.

It is powered by Autolog 2.0. Performance upgrades are available for all the cars in the game, such as chassis, tires, nitrous, and bodywork.

Milestones and achievements are unlocked through a variety of ways, e.g. completion of races and breaking through billboards.

Need for Speed:
Rivals (2013)

Platforms: PC, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One | Developer:Criterion Games, Ghost Games

Need for Speed: Rivals was developed by Ghost Games (formerly EA Gothenburg) in association with Criterion Games, and was released in 2013.

It runs on DICE’s Frostbite 3 Engine. It has the same basic concept as Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit, but with new features like the AllDrive system, and several pursuit techs.

Need for Speed: No Limits (2015)

Platforms: Android, iOS | Developer: Firemonkeys Studios

Need for Speed: No Limits was released in 2015, and a mobile installment in the Need for Speed video game series, developed by Firemonkeys Studios and published by Electronic Arts.

It is the franchise’s first original title made exclusively for mobile devices, unlike past mobile games in the series that were simply adaptations of various Need for Speed games.

Need for Speed (2015)

Platforms: PC (Origin), PS4, Xbox One | Developer: Ghost Games

Need for Speed is a full reboot of the franchise. The Standard Edition is the base edition, whereas the Deluxe Edition has the styling pack, performance pack, tricked-out starter car, exclusive wraps, unique identifying stickers, VIP icons and a lifetime discount on all items using the in-game currency.

The story revolves around the player and a small ragtag group of racers waiting to be noticed by any of the game’s five icons, all of them being real-world motorsport and street racing figures.

Spike (Adam Long) wants to meet Magnus Walker, Amy (Faye Marsay) has a desire to greet Akira Nakai, Robyn (Christina Wolfe) wants to come to Risky Devil, Manu (Howard Charles) wants to impress Ken Block, and Travis (Leo Gregory) is inspired by Shinichi Morohoshi. As the game progresses, the player earns money and reputation among the other drivers and people he meets along the way.

As soon as the player defeats Magnus Walker, however, a cutscene appears in which Spike becomes jealous and angry, saying that the player got the chance before Spike did. After this, Spike gets over it because of Travis saying to him that if one of them gets noticed, they all get noticed.

Once the player becomes the ultimate icon, the final challenge is against Travis, Spike, Amy, Robyn, Manu, and the icons. After the race, the final cutscene includes all of them taking a group photo together, with the player wearing a mask to hide his true identity.

Need for Speed: Payback (2017)

Platforms: PC, PS4, Xbox One | Developer: Ghost Games

Need for Speed Payback is a racing game set in an open world environment of Fortune Valley; a fictional version of Las Vegas, Nevada.

It is focused on “action driving” and has three playable characters (each with different sets of skills) working together to pull off action movie like sequences.

In contrast with the previous game, it also features a 24-hour day-night cycle. Unlike the 2015 Need for Speed reboot, Payback includes an offline single-player mode.

Need for Speed: Payback features a total of 74 vehicles, with downloadable contents. Toyota, Scion and Ferrari do not feature in the game due to licensing issues.

However, the Subaru BRZ appears in the game. Aston Martin, Audi, Buick, Jaguar, Koenigsegg, Land Rover, Mercury, Mini, Pagani, and Plymouth make their return after their absence from the 2015 installment.

While Alfa Romeo, Infiniti, Mini and Pontiac were added via downloadable content.

Need for Speed: Heat (2019)

Platforms: PC (Origin), PS4, Xbox One | Developer: Ghost Games

Need for Speed Heat is set in Palm City (Just like Miami), an open world environment.

The in-game map features diverse geography, including mountainous areas and open fields.

Unlike Need for Speed Payback, the game does not include a 24-hour day-night cycle, but players can switch between day and night.

During the day, players can take part in sanctioned race events, which reward players with cash to spend on new cars and upgrades.

They can also take part in illegal street races at night, which would earn players REP. The more REP player earns, the more aggressive the police will be during the night.

Players must escape the cops and get back to their safehouse, before they are busted, or their car is wrecked. When players return to a safehouse, the REP they have earned during the night will be multiplied by their “Heat Level”.

If players are arrested, they will lose their REP multiplier, but will still receive their unmultiplied REP. The REP multiplier mechanic works similarly to the Speed Points multiplier from Rivals.

The game also features a storyline in which the players interact with the city’s police force, led by authority figure Lt. Frank Mercer.

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