Need for Speed Heat Exclusive Behind Closed Doors Preview
On the last day of Gamescom 2019, myself along with the rest of the Need for Speed Game Changers, were invited to view an exclusive Behind Closed Doors demo of Need for Speed Heat different to the one on the show floor.
This is everything we saw during our two hour demo — focusing on all the locations we got to see around the map, discussing how Cops work during the day time, and delving into some secret information from the developers.
As we sat down with the developers, we were introduced to the prologue and beginning race of Need for Speed Heat – detailing the Speedhunter Showdown, establishing Lt. Frank Mercer’s role in the game and setting up the main storyline – however for spoiler purposes, that’s about as much as we can disclose on that front.
After a few story cutscenes and the initial introduction was complete, we were put straight into the garage with none other than Polestar One cover car. Not much was new in this preview build for us to do, performance customization was there however we had no parts to through on, same with Visual customization. Much like various cars currently available on the NFS Heat Studio app, the cover car variant of the Polestar had very few customization options, most likely due to being specifically designed by Vehicle Artist Khyzyl Saleem himself.
After we were done messing around in the garage, we were dropped into the world of Palm City during the day time and given full freedom to explore the entire map without any boundaries. We spawned atop a bridge up in the hills, coated in puddles in the late-afternoon lit up by a glary orange sky that oozed Miami vibes but also of older NFS games akin to Most Wanted ‘05 and Hot Pursuit ’10.
This hillside area inparticular was very reminiscent of the hill areas of Need for Speed 2015, with a huge valley in front overlooking Palm City in the distance, with a swampy Space Station area much further out to the right. Trust me when I say the draw distance in this build of the game was insane, covering what felt like miles worth of map on screen at once, and this was all running on a PS4 Pro much like the public demo.
At this point, StraightUpHippo was handed the controls and set off into the hills. The map flattened out and featured large open valley/farm-like areas with very few buildings, including some barn houses and water towers as well as a gas station to repair your car during those hot pursuits. The best way to describe this area would be to compare it to Miami outskirt freeway areas mixed in with farm areas seen in Rivals. The elevation begun to change and suddenly we were heading uphill on a single road engulfed in overhanging trees, before coming out to huge sweeping corner roads leading further up the hill - a drifters wet-dream.
These drift roads were impressive to say the least, so much so that I noticed Nick (AR12Gaming) sporting a cheerful grin as the Polestar begun its drifty ascent to the next main area – the Observatory (If you were looking for more Hot Pursuit 2010 vibes you found them). While we didn’t explore much of this area, this area featured plenty of slight elevation changes, offroad mountain tracks and drifty roads leading back into the valley or down into the city, complete with some jaw dropping vistas overlooking the entirety of Palm City that were so breath-taking you’d think you’re staring at Keanu Reeves!
Heading back down the hills and speeding down the straight roads of the valley, we discovered an Abandoned Shopping Mall with a huge car park off to the side. We spent some time taking a look around this area with our group goal to get on top, which can be done by climbing a multi-story car park nearby and jumping from the conveniently-placed ramp at the top (fun fact: one of the collectibles will be up there in the full game, according to the developers).
Once I was put in control, the developers suggest to drive towards the South Western side of the map and try find the Quarry. I found myself driving through a small town before pulling up near a beach area and taking me towards the Dockyards as seen in the Day Event from the Public demo. Further north of the Dockyards I discovered a train track, which the developers pointed out to us runs around the entirety of the map. Following it led me to the massive Quarry area at the edge of the map, featuring some large mining vehicles and even bigger conveyor belts to pull off some huge jumps!
This Quarry area is small and very comparable to the one in Most Wanted 2012, featuring several offroad hillclimb areas which were fun to tackle despite some out-of-bounds bugs I discovered while messing around that the devs joked about. There’s even an area uphill with three parked mining vehicles next to one another for players to try jump perfect for online challenges and mini-games, which is a lot tougher than it may seem!
Leaving the Quarry brought me to a long road beside it which runs from the Dockyards back to the Observatory in the hills, with one stretch of the road inparticular leading to the hills where players will be able to pick up some serious speed. Immediately I was reminded of one of the Norway tracks in DRIVECLUB that led into the snowy mountains, with the Ghost devs telling us that this road will almost definitely be used for top speed runs to test how fast their cars are when the full game launches in November.
We were all quite familiar with the city from our time capturing gameplay, though Palm City takes on a completely different style during the day. Heading down the windy drift roads straight into the city was a sight to behold, and something I can only describe as that feeling you get playing Grand Theft Auto V as you enter Los Santos coming in from the hills. One developer even mentioned how this was his favourite road in the game and is the one road he believes perfectly captures the essence and atmosphere they’re aiming for with Need for Speed Heat.
Exploring the city some more, we found a monorail that runs through it which one of the devs pointed out to us that we could get up on with the right jump. This jump required us, or more so Tomcat, to hit a ramp at a certain speed then drive along two buildings before eventually jumping another ramp to get up there. It took him awhile, but rest assured we gave him a round of applause once he did.
Once BlackPanthaa took over he managed to find a run-down NASCAR speedway around the city outskirts, which gave us all flashbacks to the infamous Hyperspace Circuit race from Payback. This area was incredibly open and was definitely one of my favourite locations on the map, somewhere I can see people using to make for some seriously fun races, drift competitions, speed tests, drags and other mini-games online.
Leaving the city, DomesticMango was in control and headed straight out to the Space Station area in the swamps. Yes, you can explore all around the space station area and can even drive up the launch site and park right beside the rocket. From here we got our first taste of Day Time Cops, which act a lot like 2015’s where they will fine you, and if you don’t abide and continue to break the law will initiate a pursuit.
Cop AI was a bit buggy in this build, with one cop funnily doing donuts into the swamp, however they are nowhere near as aggressive to the night cops. Building Heat to level up the pursuit was tough (though that might have been set for the demo) and unlike during the night, once you lose the cops during the day your Heat Level will automatically reset back to Level 1.
The rest of the demo was much similar to what you’d already seen, with GTAWiseGuy taking on the Day and Night events then heading on a Heat Level 5 night pursuit along the long winding freeways and out into the valley. Night Cops had been buffed in this build compared to what we played, the devs confirmed, taking Robin almost 15-20 minutes to lose the cops – something many of us felt we wouldn’t be able to do especially after how impressively he was driving and dodging Palm City’s toughest.
One of the biggest takeaways for me with the map was not only the amount of diversity Ghost have managed to cram into its 18-region map, but more so how perfectly designed the map has been to feel like a fun arcade playground to mess around in. Need for Speed Heat’s world has been designed with pivotal locales across the map, such as the ones I mentioned and many more that I don’t want to spoil, to try help players get a sense of familiarity no matter where they are in the world. There’s tons of secret areas, shortcuts, hidden intricacies and fun playground spots in the world they’ve crafted that remind me so much of Burnout Paradise, and I absolutely love it.
The Polestar One we drove was our first experience using a vehicle that was skewed towards Race and On-Road (Full Grip) on the new performance grid, and it handled surprisingly well from what I can recall. As I mentioned in our Hands-On Preview Coverage, the base handling model can grip and drift whenever it needs to around corners depending on Clutch Kick. Here in this demo however, it felt quite tough to initiate a drift (though I didn’t properly try) as the car felt planted to the road at all times and took corners at insane speeds with little to no issue – just like how it should, and I can’t wait to fully test the Grip and Drift handling in the full game.
And that about wraps up everything we saw and experienced in our two-hour preview, I can’t thank the developers at Ghost for giving us this opportunity and answering all the questions I asked them. While not much was new and primarily focused on the map, I hope this preview gives you a visualization of just how well designed the world is in NFS Heat, which is shaping up to potentially be my favourite Need for Speed map yet.
Need for Speed Heat launches on November 8th 2019 for PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC, or three days earlier for Origin Access Premiere subscribers. If you’ve missed any of our previous Need for Speed Heat coverage, be sure to find more from our dedicated Need for Speed Heat section in the Games tab!