Need for Speed already had a lot in common with the Fast and Furious films.
They’re both long-running franchises obsessed with driving fast, crazy customisation and OTT action - but this latest entry gets closer than ever to matching the car-based carnage of Dom Toretto and crew.
Payback is a story-driven revenge tale, putting your ragtag team of drivers up against the underground gambling cartel that’s been rigging the local racing scene.
As anyone that has ever stepped foot in a casino before will tell you, though, it’s never a good idea to bet against the house - it usually wins.
What wanton act of villainy kicks off this quest for retribution? Nothing major, it seems.
After being double-crossed by one of your crew-mates and having your fancy-pants Koenigsegg half-inched out from under your nose, your team disbands and basically does odd jobs for a few months. Eventually the leader gets sick of being a valet to the rich and famous, and gets the gang back together for some old-fashioned revenge.
It’s not like anyone dies, gets arrested, or put in the hospital - but apparently that’s enough to risk life and limb in all manner of insane set-pieces.
At least your target, “The House”, is shady enough to deserve taking down. It’s out to control all the gambling in the city, racing included, and if that includes stealing a few cars, or blowing up a few houses, then so be it.
Cue lots of climbing up the ranks of different race disciplines, in order to earn the recognition that gets you onto the radar of the city’s big players - interspersed with chaotic story missions ripped straight from the silver screen.
SHUT UP AND DRIVE
It’s not like these plot-driven diversions endear you to the three main characters, either.
Racer Tyler, drift star Mac and getaway driver Jess are all generic creations, spouting irritating sound bites whenever you overtake an opponent, land a big jump, or the sun goes down at night (yes, really).
They talk a lot more during big set pieces, with some seriously corny dialogue that actually made me wince when I heard it. Annoyingly, the best bits of each mission (like pulling up alongside a moving lorry with my accomplice hanging out of the window) are taken over by cut-scenes, leaving you to watch rather than pull off the exciting moves yourself.
THE OPEN ROAD
Beyond the big story missions, the more familiar racing is decent enough. The Need For Speed series has always has wild, arcade-style handling, with dramatic oversteer and cars that are super-eager to drift around every corner, and Payback is no different.
Every car starts with a basic tank of nitrous under the bonnet, letting you boost for an extra burst of speed when you’re lagging behind. It constantly refills, too, so you can make liberal use of it in each race.
You essentially have to use it, too, because of the aggressive AI rubber-banding. In some races I would do everything perfectly and still come up short by the end, only to retry and absolutely smoke the rest of the field - with a worse time to boot.
Giving your car some much-need upgrades isn’t as simple as rolling into the shop, though - and it’s here that Payback shows its true colours.