Need for Speed, also known by its initials NFS, is a racing video game franchise published by Electronic Arts and developed by several studios including EA Black Box, Criterion Games and Ghost Games.
The series released its first title, The Need for Speed in 1994. The title comes from a famous quote from the 1986 film Top Gun. All installments of the series consist of racing cars on various tracks, with several titles including police pursuits in races. Since Need for Speed: High Stakes, the series has also integrated car body customization into gameplay.
Need for Speed is the most successful racing video game series in the world, and one of the most successful video game franchises of all time. Over 150 million copies of games in the series have been sold to date.
In June 2012, following Black Box's restructuring, British developer Criterion Games announced that it was in full control of the Need for Speed franchise. However, in August 2013, Swedish and British developers Ghost Games, Ghost Games UK and Criterion Games joined forces for the foreseeable future of the Need for Speed series. At the time, Ghost Games UK staff consisted of 80% of former Criterion Games employees.
Almost all of the games in the NFS series employ the same fundamental rules and similar mechanics: the player controls a race car in a variety of races, the goal being to win the race. In the tournament/career mode, the player must win a series of races in order to unlock vehicles and tracks. Before each race, the player chooses a vehicle, and has the option of selecting either an automatic or manual transmission. All games in the series have some form of multiplayer mode allowing players to race one another via a split screen, a LAN or the Internet.
Although the games share the same name, their tone and focus can vary significantly. For example, in some games the cars can suffer mechanical and visual damage, while in other games the cars cannot be damaged at all; in some games the software simulates real-car behavior (physics), while in others there are more forgiving physics.
With the release of Need for Speed: Underground, the series shifted from racing sports cars on scenic point-to-point tracks, to an import/tuner subculture, and street racing in an urban setting. To date, this theme has remained prevalent in most of the following games.
Need for Speed: Shift and its sequel took a simulator approach to racing, featuring closed-circuit racing on real tracks like the Nürburgring and the Laguna Seca, and fictional street circuits in cities like London and Chicago. The car lists include a combination of exotics, sports cars, and tuners in addition to special race cars.
Most of the games in the franchise include police pursuits in some form or other. In some of the games featuring police pursuit, the player can play as either the felon or the cop. The concepts of drifting and dragging were introduced in Need for Speed: Underground. These new mechanics are included in the tournament/career mode aside from the regular street races. In drift races, the player must defeat other racers by totaling the most points, earned by the length and timing of the drift made by the player's vehicle. In drag races, the player must finish first to win the race, though if the player crashes into an obstacle, the race ends.
The concept of car tuning evolved with each new game, from focusing mainly on the mechanics of the car to including how the car looks. Each game has car tuning which can set options for items like ABS, traction control, or downforce, or for upgrading parts like the engine or gearbox. Visual tuning of the player's car becomes important in tournament/career mode after the release of Need for Speed: Underground 2, when the appearance is rated from zero to ten points. When a car attains a high enough visual rating, the vehicle is eligible to be on the cover of a fictional magazine.
Like all racing games, the Need for Speed series features a list of cars, modeled and named after actual cars. Cars in the franchise are divided into four categories: exotic cars, muscle cars, tuners, and special vehicles. Exotic cars feature high performance, expensive cars like the Lamborghini Murciélago, Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren, Chevrolet Corvette and the Ford GT; muscle cars refer to the Ford Mustang, Dodge Challenger and the Chevrolet Camaro; while tuner cars are cars like the Nissan Skyline and the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution. The special vehicles are civilian and police cars that are available for use in some games, such as the Ford Crown Victoria in Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit and garbage trucks, fire engines and taxis in Need for Speed: Carbon.
Originally the series took place in international settings, such as race tracks in Australia, Europe, and Africa. Beginning with Underground, the series has taken place in fictional metropolitan cities. The first game featured traffic on "head to head" mode, while later games traffic can be toggled on and off, and starting with Underground, traffic is a fixed obstacle.
Most of the Need for Speed games are set in a fictional version of our world, in a number of different time periods. These include Motor City, Olympic City, Bayview, Rockport, Palmont City, Coast City, Tri-City Bay, Seacrest County, Fairhaven City, Redview County, and Ventura Bay.
The Need for Speed series was originally developed by Distinctive Software, a video game studio based in Vancouver, Canada. Prior to Electronic Arts' purchase of the company in 1991, it had created popular racing games such as Stunts and Test Drive II: The Duel. After the purchase, the company was renamed Electronic Arts (EA) Canada. The company capitalized on its experience in the domain by developing the Need for Speed series in late 1992. EA Canada continued to develop and expand the Need for Speed franchise up to 2002, when another Vancouver-based gaming company, named Black Box Games, was contracted to continue the series with Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit 2. EA Black Box has been the primary series developer on a yearly cycle from 2002-08. In 2009, EA brought in Slightly Mad Studios, due to sagging sales, and they released Need for Speed: Shift, and EA's own UK-based company Criterion Games came with Hot Pursuit in 2010. In 2011, Slightly Mad Studios released a sequel to Shift, Shift 2: Unleashed and EA Black Box released Need for Speed: The Run.
In 2010, EA introduced a social platform, titled Autolog, for Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit and future games in the series. Autolog provides social features for Need for Speed games via a mobile app and website; it allows players to track game progress, view leaderboards, share screenshots with friends, and more.
At E3 2012, Criterion vice president Alex Ward announced that random developers would no longer be developing NFS titles. Ward wouldn't confirm that all Need for Speed games in the future would be developed entirely by Criterion, but he did say the studio would have "strong involvement" in them, and would have control over which NFS titles would be released in the future.
As of January 2016, Ghost Games has begun development of Need for Speed: Payback. This game will be released in November 10, 2017.
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