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Watching an actual race can be about as exciting as being stuck in a traffic jam. These drivers are athletes in their prime, and they know each track as intimately as that little bit of nose you can see when you close one eye and look down. Races are often predictable, and the top-billed driver will usually be the one in pole position.

Racing games let us live that fantasy of being the top driver by giving us tools that allow us to reset our mistakes. Traditionally, it was via the pause menu and a complete event restart. More recently, some racing games have introduced a Prince of Persia-esque rewind mechanic, allowing you to scrub the action back to the moment before you hit another car head-on.

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Need for Speed Unbound goes for the restart option, but they’re limited. The entire game is structured a bit like a roguelite. Each day starts in the garage, where you can change car parts, upgrade, buy new cars, and wear really obnoxious clothing. From there, you head out into the open world during the daytime and tackle whatever events you have the right cars for. Once you’ve done them, you get back to base and bank your cash, but be careful – get busted by the cops and you can lose it. Then day turns to night and you head out and do it again. That’s one day.

Every day only gives you a specific amount of restarts, so you can only use them when you really mess up. If you use them too soon, it could be a problem in tougher events later in the day. Unless you’re really, really good, it’s unlikely you’ll take first in each race. Sometimes you have to settle for second, third, fourth, or the ones we won’t talk about and I definitely didn’t finish in.

When you do land a win, it feels good because it’s earned. You didn’t memorize each corner or just slowly improve over time – you took to the streets, weaved in and out of traffic, and you beat the competition. It’s perfect for a game about unsanctioned racing.

Layered on top of this is the betting system, which allows you to put extra money down against a rival racer. Whoever finishes ahead of the other takes the cash home. At the start of each race, the game predicts what position you’ll end up in, as well as your AI opponents. In any other game, you’d just bet against the person who’s predicted first because it’s more money, but here you’re just trying to get the maximum you can realistically take home.

All of this feeds into the car tuning system, since you’re only banking at most around 10k – at least early on in the game – each day and night. You head back to the safehouse and spend your cash on a few upgrades, and you pocket the change for buy-ins for races the next day. It gives you a proper sense of ownership over your car, and actually buying a new car feels like a real investment.

It’s a big contrast to games like Forza Horizon, which treats supercars like confetti. It’s a shame Need for Speed Unbound stuck with the industry standard of racing games with dialogue that makes you want to drive into oncoming traffic in real life, but there’s a smart, refined, racer with its own identity here if you can tune out the constant blabbing. 

Since you're here, here's how to make money fast in Need for Speed Unbound