Impressions: Need for Speed World

It's rare to get excited for a Need for Speed project. Sure, it's a reliable franchise that's spawned a number of good, and sometimes great titles as of late, but innovation is hardly its strong suit. Considering the series' track record, I was surprised to find that one of EA's most ambitious and innovative upcoming titles is Need for Speed World, a free-to-play massively multiplayer online racer for the PC. It's the largest Need for Speed title yet, offering a potential platform for limitless updates, and it could easily become the last Need for Speed game EA will ever need to make.

Imagine a world not unlike the one found in Burnout Paradise and Test Drive Unlimited. Now, imagine those worlds with persistent online multiplayer functionality. Essentially, that's what Need for Speed World is. Even at its pre-beta stage, the gameworld is incredibly expansive, spanning over 150 miles of playable road, comprised of a "best of" tasting menu from the entire Need for Speed franchise. If there have been certain tracks, certain environments and certain streets you have enjoyed in previous games: chances are, you may find them in Need for Speed World.
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[Heads-up: Details about the open beta -- launching today! -- are posted after the break following the preview.]
The driving stays true to its more arcade-inspired lineage in World, a sensible decision considering the game is meant to be playable on a keyboard. Accessibility is a key aspect of the experience, with most moderately powered laptops able to join in. According to EA, all that's necessary to play is a computer equipped with a 2.0 GHz processor, 2GB of RAM and a 512MB graphics card. While capable of running off of relatively weak hardware specs, Need for Speed World is still no FarmVille, but its experience is certainly far more visually compelling than any mere web app.

Perhaps the most accessible aspect of World is its price. Like Free Realms and other MMO games on the market, Need for Speed World takes advantage of the "freemium" model, with a zero cost entry to play. Real money can be used to purchase rental cars, like an upgraded Porsche. There will be ways to purchase improved skills and vehicles, bypassing the free alternative: grinding. Should you prefer not to open up your wallet, you'll be able to progress through World by participating in both single-player and multiplayer races.


It's easy to imagine both casual and hardcore racing fans drawn into the experience EA is developing in Need for Speed World. And with no cost to play, it seems foolish not to give it a try. EA is developing a fully-featured arcade racing game with one of the most ambitious online capabilities ever -- and isn't charging for it. That certainly sounds like a win for the gamer, especially when you consider the ambitious plans for expanding the world.

New areas will be introduced to the game every few months, increasing the playable world with each major update. Not only will there be new places to drive in, but there will be new ways to drive. For example, Need for Speed World will eventually feature a series staple: cop cars.

We'd love to see the ever-evolving playground of Need for Speed World to find its way to consoles, but we were told that it is "definitely not coming to consoles." By providing a strictly online-only game, EA believes there are "zero gates" to playing from anywhere. Like I said earlier, World is without a doubt the most ambitious project to fall under the Need for Speed banner, and open beta testers will be able to give it a test drive beginning today.


To enroll for your chance to join the Need for Speed World PC open beta, visit world.needforspeed.com. The first release of the game will be available this summer.

This article was originally published on Joystiq.