With the largest world in the series, this fast-paced game packs lots of accessible races, a solid story line, and a few flaws along its fuel-injected streets. Need for Speed manages to truly capture a racing fan's desire to go fast in any vehicle you can get your hands on from the very first time you hit start. Regardless of whether you've just begun with a Subaru or you've saved your cash to purchase that Lamborghini, each machine manages to fly around the streets of Ventura Bay with ease. Even better, you can purchase additional performance parts so your beginner car can eventually race and put on a respectable challenge to the highest-performance sports car in any race in the game. (In fact, a quick tip would be to take on the build challenges first; they provide plenty of options to improve your car to make other events easier.) The bar to entry is rather low, which means a novice racer can simply purchase parts while the gearhead can tune many aspects of a car and get it to work exactly how they'd like, yet both can have massive success on the streets; that can't always be said about many racing games. Plus, this is a living, breathing world -- you can be in the middle of a race only to get hit accidentally by another player; the same thing could happen in real life to racers, and that tension really amps up your sense of speed as you tear around corners or race down freeways at over 200 miles per hour.
Though some players may groan about some of the characters on their crews, the story line and how you play a role in each of the five driving styles provide a surprising amount of flexibility. If you can't beat one race, you can always try another in a different racing style, meaning you're not stuck without a way around a key plot point. Not to mention that you can simply abandon the story quest and drive around the city streets, picking up collectibles, meeting (or challenging) friends to impromptu races, or taking on challenges that are presented on a daily basis. Plus, the scenery and the cars that race through it are simply gorgeous, especially when people start creatively customizing their rides. A few issues give Need for Speed a few flat tires. Some intermittent connection issues with the game's servers can interrupt games in progress, and some bugs in race collisions can automatically return your car to your garage. Also, the story can be a bit short for some players, especially racing fans; you may be able to fly through the story in 15 hours. But racers looking to tear up the streets of a fictional city with their friends can't go wrong with starting their engines and fulfilling their Need for Speed.