A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Need for Speed is a racing game set in a fictional city centered on a group of young street racers eager to make a name for themselves. Though the crew is mostly supportive of each other, they're still performing illegal racing and other lawbreaking acts, such as police chases or smashing through roadblocks. Players can drive through lampposts, signs, and bus stops and will frequently collide with other racers. Accidents and crashes look bad, with car parts frequently vibrating loose and getting dented. Fortunately, there's no blood, gore, or injuries shown, and vehicle performance isn't affected. Language is relatively mild throughout, and though there's implied alcohol use during cut scenes, there's no other mature content. But parents should be aware of unmoderated multiplayer, which could expose kids to inappropriate comments, as well as the fact that plenty of logos for real cars, aftermarket parts, and other products are plastered on cars and billboards.
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What's it about?
NEED FOR SPEED is the latest installment of the long-running franchise and takes place on the fictional streets of Ventura Bay, a city modeled on Los Angeles. Players take on the role of a nameless, faceless racer who decides to make a name for himself on the city streets. After quickly demonstrating your skills, you get hooked up with a crew of up-and-coming racers who are well-known in town, each with his own specialties: sprint racing, drift racing, car building and tuning, drift team racing (drifting in a group), and being an outlaw (getting chased by cops). Players can pick and choose which specialty they want to explore at any time, earning money that can be spent on cars or car upgrades. Players also earn rep points, which give access to more difficult races. Drivers also can be affected during their races by other players who accidentally cross their paths and even can be challenged by these players to sprints or other race events. Daily tests of skill round out the trials to see whether you'll be the best driver in Ventura Bay.
Is it any good?
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.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the dangers and violence of street racing. Is this racing acceptable because it's blatantly unrealistic that racers can survive so many crashes and accidents without physical harm? Could the game be as much fun without the high-speed crashes?
Talk about cars. Do you have a favorite car you'd like to own someday? Would you be interested in racing that car in safer, controlled environments, such as on racetracks?
Our editors recommend
For kids who love racing
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.