Need For Speed Unbound is missing one feature that made Burnout great

Opinion by Kes Eylers-Stephenson,

Need for Speed Unbound came to PS5 last year and has a new update after steep sales. However, the racer is missing something from Burnout that would make it great...

This week, Kes has been collecting Need for Speed Unbound trophies on PS5 after a big Vol. 3 update brought new cars and features to the racer. However, the more he plays, the more he realizes that Need for Speed Unbound is missing one feature from developer Criterion's Burnout franchise: car destruction. After all, it made Burnout Paradise one of the best racing games on PS5...

Need for Speed Unbound's destruction is a problemNeed for Speed Unbound's destruction is a problem

Kes

Kes — Need For Speed Unbound's destruction is a problem

Criterion's Need for Speed Unbound is great, let's make that clear from the start line. Having collected all the racing developer's Burnout Paradise trophies back in the day (and in the Remaster), I do feel entitled to say that the new, very pretty, anime-infused game doesn't quite have the special sauce that made the aforementioned arcade racer so, so special. Ultimately, I'm convinced it could be sorted by one major thing: destruction.

Burnout games bring a veritable pickup-truck load of debris with it. Every time you clip a car something gets torn off. Every major crash and driveaway leaves your vehicle without a door and the aerodynamics of a broken brick wall. Every battle with a rival vehicle or cop results in a takedown with shards of cars spraying across the screen. It also means there is visual risk involved with everything you do. Barrel roll too many times? Crunch. Drift too wide? Smash.

Heck, there is a legendary Crash mode that involves causing as much destruction as possible. It looks good, but it feels good too. It's a visual acknowledgment that your cars aren't toys: they are destructible and combustible. What you do on the streets with your off-brand car has a real consequence. Criterion nailed it and even brought some of it to Need for Speed Most Wanted years later.

In Criterion's latest game, however, destruction is pretty much absent. Your low-ride Aston Martin DB5 with a hot pink decal trim and wheels bigger than moons will remain intact if you plow into a tree at 183 miles an hour. They bobble like a Hotwheels car jumping out of the track; spick and span. It all feels heavily sanitized and plain.

Why no destruction feature? Probably licensing agreements. No real-world car manufacturer wants to show their vehicles in a state that would indicate it had been street racing and ran through several billboards, resulting in total devastation of all of its road-legal safety features. Burnout managed it by making analog real-world vehicles, but Need for Speed Unbound won't ever get that luxury.

It's really unfortunate because it strips Need for Speed Unbound of that perfect action-consequence dynamic from Burnout. Whereas a sim racer can tone down the destruction because you'll be penalized with track time for a crash, the looser parameters of enjoyment you can get out of an arcade racer need something a bit more (for me at least). I'll be blazing to first place in NFS Unbound with no problem, but every time I crash or make a mistake, literally nothing happens. I bounce, reset, and probably catch up enough to finish in a decent position, collect my winnings, and bail — the consequence seems minimal.

Add in destruction? Well, I think you are a winner. Need for Speed Unbound has customization options from mechanical heaven, plenty of engine tuning options, and a lovely sense of weight to the cars (until you try and drift). If you were watching your hard-earned customization work get ripped apart, the engine pieces go flying, and have a meaty crash that felt in line with the driving... I think Need for Speed Unound would remove that sterile feeling that keeps its oil tank dry. Plus, destruction would make the environment an enemy at high speed and give that feeling of consequence for mistakes.

As I said, Criterion's Need for Speed Unbound does a lot right — but it just doesn't have that extra bit of chaos it needs to reach the best PS5 list. For me, at least, I'm missing the fun destruction feature of Burnout that leaves us to feel the consequence of poor driving. In any case, I'd love to know what you think! Have you played either game? What do you think of Unbound? Let me know which cars you are rocking and if you agree in the comments!
Kes Eylers-Stephenson
Written by Kes Eylers-Stephenson
Editor Kes is our resident expert in PlayStation and other gaming news. He writes about PS5 exclusives like The Last of Us and Horizon, PS Plus news, and his favorite games — The Witcher, Assassin’s Creed, and God of War — before an evening swim.
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