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Need for Speed Unbound leaves last-gen consoles behind, emphasizes style and speed

The open-world street racer is back in Criterion’s hands

Electronic Arts’ next Need for Speed game, Need for Speed Unbound, takes street racing fans to a new open-world city called Lakeshore and features a heavily stylized look. Need for Speed Unbound will be available for PlayStation 5, Windows PC, and Xbox Series X, when it launches Dec. 2, the publisher announced Thursday.

Need for Speed Unbound promises 4K, 60 fps racing. Players will be able to race offline in a single-player campaign, or online with cross-platform multiplayer, as they race, collect, upgrade, and customize streetcars that EA boasts are “the most realistic looking cars in the franchise’s history.”

According to a news release from EA, Need for Speed Unbound will layer on graffiti-inspired visual and sound effects as players race through Lakeshore. Given that this is illegal street racing, players will build up heat and will need to outsmart Lakeshore’s police force, earning “big rewards or even bigger consequences for getting busted.” EA promises hundreds of cosmetic items, including “exclusive licensed gear from some of the world’s pioneering fashion innovators and custom automotive gear companies.”

Need for Speed Unbound features music and creative input from rapper A$AP Rocky and his AWGE creative agency. A$AP Rocky appears in-game as the leader of a faction called the Takeover Scene, which is home to a replayable “precision driving mode” that emphasizes style over speed and a mechanic wherein players try to claim areas of Lakeshore for themselves.

Need for Speed Unbound is for current-gen console platforms and PC only, and carries a next-gen price tag: The racing game costs $69.99 for its standard offering, and a deluxe “Palace Edition,” named for its association with Palace Skateboards, includes exclusive content (four custom cars, a clothing pack, driving effect, decals and license plate, character pose and banner artwork) for $79.99.

Developed by Criterion Games (which includes Codemasters Cheshire, which EA acquired in 2021), Need for Speed Unbound was originally envisioned for a 2021 launch, until EA assigned Criterion to support EA DICE with last November’s Battlefield 2042.

The Need for Speed franchise was sent back to Criterion Games after 2019’s Need for Speed: Heat, the last of three titles developed by the now-dissolved Ghost Games. None of the three generated the kind of critical or commercial reception that Criterion’s Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit (in 2010) or 2012’s Need for Speed: Most Wanted delivered.

Over the past 10 years, Criterion Games has mainly been known for supporting DICE on Battlefield 5, Battlefield 2042, and Star Wars Battlefront 2. Its most recent racing titles were the 2018 remaster of the open-world classic Burnout Paradise, and a 2020 remaster of Hot Pursuit.

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