Creating a new Need for Speed game presents an interesting challenge in that the franchise has never really been just one thing. Across 21 years and 22 games, Need for Speed has covered a lot of mileage, appealing to different kinds of gamers with different kinds of racing. The high-speed, arcade antics of Need for Speed 3: Hot Pursuit are barely even comparable to the more simulation-centered Need for Speed: Shift, for example.
With the 2015 approach to the series, simply titled Need for Speed, developer Ghost Games has found an interesting solution to solidifying the disparate goals the series has raced after in its lifetime. Instead of forcing players to drive one way or another, it's going to let you make the choice.
"We're going deeper into customization than we ever have before," says Marcus Nilsson, general manager of Ghost Games. "If you want to be grippy, make it grippy. If you want to have it drifty, make it drifty. You can even set up your different cars with different handling styles."
This handling choice is presented elegantly enough in the game as a part of the car customization menu. You can tweak individual, granular parts of the handling setup, or you can just pick a spot on a single bar, with one end representing a more sim-style "grip" system and one representing a more arcade-y "drift" system.
This choice is a pretty big change for the series, and Nilsson says it was not exactly simple to implement.
"It might sound easy to people, but physics systems are complicated," he says. "Even if it's an action racer like Need for Speed, there's still a really sophisticated racing engine underneath it. The game needs to be tickled a certain way to be an action racer and tickled a certain way to be grippy. We now have a layer where we can kind of define that."
While taking an extra year to work on Need for Speed after 2013's excellent Need for Speed Rivals, Ghost Games spent time going back through every single previous Need for Speed and attempting to pick out what was special about each one. Then, to make sure they got it right, they went even further.
"We went as far as making sure that we had people that worked on each previous title back in the studio," says Nilsson. "So we have people from Carbon, we had people who worked on Underground. We definitely have Criterion people who worked on their titles. We've got people from Black Box. We have them all. The amount of Need for Speed knowledge in Ghost Studios is just insane."
The new handling selection system presents such a huge shift to the series that Nilsson is hoping Ghost Games can return to it.
"My guess would be yes, we will want to bring back this handling choice system," he says. "We can already see that it works. I'd say that everything's indicating that we'd like to keep this going forward. Ultimately, it will be the reactions to it that decides that."
Nilsson also says there's a big reason for all this ambition: He wants to make the new Need for Speed "massive again."
"Think about the journey from Need for Speed Underground, where we sold 15 million copies, to maybe a third of that now," says Nilsson. "I really, really want to make it great again."
We'll find out how well Ghost Games has accomplished this lofty goal when Need for Speed comes out on4, and PC on Nov. 3, 2015. You can check out the most recent trailer for the game from EA's E3 press conference below.