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Need for Speed Unbound is already out now if you bought the edition with early access, and it’s been a fittingly speedy release cycle for this game. While leaks let us know of its existence ahead of time, the official reveal trailer dropped a little under two months ago, at the start of October. It’s got a striking visual style, sliding into fantasy in an era where many racing games are trying to be as realistic as possible.

We spoke to the game’s Creative Director, Kieran Crimmins about the game, and how the decisions behind this game came about.

Speaking about the driving mechanics, Crimmins told us that "It's a completely reworked handling model and physics system", which pairs nicely with the new engine the game runs on, now the current generation of consoles is well underway.

While it’s been reworked, it’s not abandoning the series’ identity, as Crimmins assured us. "We're well known for our arcade racing sensibilities so when you play it, it should feel the same…but also the depth and the mastery you can achieve with the physics calculation that we've completely upgraded."

Need For Speed Unbound placing a sidebet before the race

NFS Unbound is all about risk and reward with high-paying races giving you high heat with the cops.

Need For Speed has always been influenced a lot by street racing culture, speaking on that, Crimmins describes the representation of it in the games as "Very loosely based on reality, but not completely uninformed by it." Speaking in more detail, he says, "Need for Speed fits in a funny space in that sense, I believe the best Need For Speed games were heavily based in a kind of street racing fantasy.” He mentions Underground, Heat, and the original Most Wanted as examples that lean heavily on this aspect.

"There's a fantasy behind that about being an illicit street racer,” Crimmins explains, “betting all your money with an underground group of people, racing with the cops trying to shut you down.” At the same time, they don’t want to disregard the reality of the culture entirely. "It's a fantasy loosely based on reality. We do a lot of research with street racers in different communities, we have documentaries, behind-the-scenes stuff, and interviews with people from the LA street racing scene and the Chicago street racing scene, and they talk about the gritty reality of those scenes"

Need For Speed drifting on top of a building

NFS Unbound lets you race in all sorts of crazy places, like on top of a skyscraper.

Need For Speed Unbound isn’t shying away from its fantasy elements though, with characters being portrayed in a cel-shaded art style, with cartoonish visual effects appearing around your car during races for a fun dynamic feel. This is entirely intensional, as Crimmins describes, “We really don't look to fully recreate the reality. What we try to do is transpose it into this fantasy space, where not only is it a bit more accessible for everyone, but also it's a bit hyper-real, a bit heroic."

Over the past few generations, the racing genre has become a crowded one, with many different takes and levels of realism out there, but Crimmins thinks Need For Speed still stands out amongst the crowd. "I think Need For Speed as a brand has always been known as a bit of a trendsetter, a bit of a rulebreaker, something different every time,” he says. “We’re gonna do our own thing and do it very, very well.”

With Need For Speed Unbound hitting general release on December 2 for PC, PS5, and Xbox Series X/S, we’ll soon see what trends Need For Speed will set next.