Need for Speed World is a pretty ambitious little F2P title. Taking a million-selling racing franchise to the online PC gaming world seems like a pretty obvious idea, but the fact that EA Black Box is trying to do more with the title than just offer a lobby where you set up races against friends and foes, is pretty unique. Like the title suggests, NFSW (not to be confused with NSFW) has a massive over-world where you and other racers will roam the streets, anger and outrun the cops, cause destruction, and compete for control of various sections of the map. At E3 2010 I had the chance to plunk myself behind the controls and give it a go.
The first thing I noticed was that NFSW controls very much like you'd expect when using the keyboard. The arrow keys handle accelerate, brake, and turn and the cars handle more like a kart racer or recently released Blur than anything else. This is one racing game that's not about realism. I was told the title will fully support controller-based play and steering wheels if you're so inclined, but for the hardware challenged you'll be happy to know that the keyboard is more than adequate. Using the spacebar to handbrake was especially effortless.
I drove around the game world for a little bit before selecting a race, and was pleased to see that one of NFS: Hot Pursuit's best features had made its way into the game. Ramming a police car starts the Hot Pursuit mini-game in which you have to try and get away from the cops before they get you. This can be easy and not so easy depending on where you're at in the game world and how quickly you can react to what's going on around you. Luckily EA Black Box has found it a good idea to add in special abilities in the form of consumables to the game, much like Mario Kart or Blur. One such item instantly hurls all cop cars away from you, giving you a chance to get away should they surround you. Like I said, this is one racing game that's not taking itself too seriously.
The actual races themselves are unlocked in one of two ways: exploration of the map and leveling your racer. Winning races, evading police and causing damage to city property will all give you reputation (experience) which will gain you ranks, thereby unlocking more races and game modes as you go on. If you've played any NFS game before, you'll be right at home here, especially if you're a fan of the recent Carbon or Most Wanted titles. There are shortcuts and secret paths galore to found on each track, and the developer promises there are plenty of races to unlock when the game launches this July. I will comment that the race I played was rather easy, but that could have been because it was either an early race or because I was playing on a pimped out developer car. I'll know soon enough I suppose since the game launches and will be free to play and download at the end of July.
NFSW is launching with over 20 cars to choose from, and each is fully customizable. You'll be able to spend your cash and real-life money on new models and consumable items, but the developer assured us that everything you can buy with real currency can be earned in game from playing. In short, if you've been longing for a game that blends online persistent worlds with arcade racing and realistic visuals, Need For Speed World might be right up your alley. I'm anxious to see how the territorial control and other modes work out, and just how deep the rabbit hole goes. At the very lease EA Black Box has created a very fun arcade racing game with compelling online component. Look for more as the game nears its July release date.