EA returns Need For Speed franchise to Criterion Games

Cal Jeffrey

Posts: 2,326   +535
Staff member

On Wednesday, EA announced that it is taking the Need For Speed franchise out of the hands of Ghost Games and returning it to Criterion. The former studio, located in Gothenburg Sweden, will be restructured into an engineering support hub for various EA projects.

"The engineering expertise in our Gothenburg team, some of whom are architects of the Frostbite engine, is vital to a number of our ongoing projects, and they would remain in that location," an EA spokesperson told GamesIndustry.biz.

Many of the creative staff at Ghost Games will be moved to Criterion or other EA controlled studios, but about 30 positions may be eliminated.

Need For Speed returning to Criterion is probably the best news to come out of the EA press room in a long while. The studio was responsible for Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit and Most Wanted. These two titles were arguably the best in the series, particularly Hot Pursuit.

Hot Pursuit was initially developed in-house by EA in 2002. Criterion rebooted the title on next-gen hardware in 2010. It then followed it up with NFS: Most Wanted two years later.

After that, Criterion moved on to support work for EA DICE, helping develop Star Wars: Battlefront games and Battlefield V. Ghost Games took the reins of the racing franchise and, to the dismay of many fans, ran the series into the ground with unwanted changes, including cheesy story elements and cut scenes, an open-world environment, and upgrading systems that were more annoying than fun.

While failing to acknowledge the shortcomings of the last four NFS games, EA did note that Ghost Games was struggling to find talent in Gothenburg.

"Despite our best efforts to establish an independent development group in Gothenburg over several years, it's become clear that the breadth of talent we need to maintain a full AAA studio is just not available to us there," said EA.

Based in the UK, Criterion has not had trouble finding talented staff. EA feels that the studio is better equipped to handle the NFS franchise from here on out.

Here's hoping Criterion returns to the roots of what made Need For Speed games fun; breakneck races and chases with a real sense of speed, a clean and functional user interface for selecting courses, and great car models that run like beasts without having to tune them. And most of all, no microtransactions.

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ShagnWagn

Posts: 1,283   +1,066
My favorite is still probably NFS Porsche Unleashed. The tuning was fun for me as well.

Hot Pursuit was fun for the time, except the computer cars would use rubber-banding. It really ticked me off so I can't say I liked it as much.

Underground (2?) was fun to me for customizing looks of the cars. I liked the music and the racing aspects.

I gave up on EA after that.
 

EClyde

Posts: 2,165   +839
I don't know how many there have been. I have enjoyed three or four out of 7 or 8 I have tried
 

EClyde

Posts: 2,165   +839
My favorite is still probably NFS Porsche Unleashed. The tuning was fun for me as well.

Hot Pursuit was fun for the time, except the computer cars would use rubber-banding. It really ticked me off so I can't say I liked it as much.

Underground (2?) was fun to me for customizing looks of the cars. I liked the music and the racing aspects.

I gave up on EA after that.
Porsche was the worst of the lot I tried
 
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ShagnWagn

Posts: 1,283   +1,066
Porsche was the worst of the lot I tried
Personal choice. If you thoroughly enjoy fake arcade racing, then yes you would love the others. Porsche was one of their more realistic ones, so anyone who can't handle finesse over spastic reflex actions and love rubber banding cars won't like it.
 

arrowflash

Posts: 132   +108
I never liked NFS: Most Wanted 2012 (MW 2005 is one of the best tho). It's an absolutely soulless game and the gameplay and controls aren't good. Also, Criterion is a has-been studio that only lives on its name, it is known that all the talent from the days of PS2 Burnout and Black has already left the company long ago (including the founders). The last good game Criterion made was NFS Hot Pursuit 2010, and I don't have many hopes that current Criterion will be able to save the franchise.

What I'd really love to see from EA would be a sequel to NFS: The Run, the title from the modern NFS franchise that no one seems to have played since no one ever talks about it. It's my favorite NFS game from the last decade, I loved the concept of a Cannonball-style coast to coast race across the US - that game is pretty much a modernized version of the classic Rad Mobile and Rad Rally arcade games by Sega from the late 1980s. I'd say it's the most underrated title in the entire franchise. I really want to see a NFS: The Run 2 one day, set in Europe instead of the US.

Funnily enough NFS: The Run wasn't made by Criterion, but by the now defunct EA Black Box studios - The Run was the last game they developed before being closed.

As for my favorite title in the entire franchise... it will always be Road & Track Presents: The Need for Speed.
 

DukeJukem

Posts: 158   +113
Slightly off topic but I think it's time for Rockstar to bring back the Midnight Club franchise back as well.
 

EClyde

Posts: 2,165   +839
Personal choice. If you thoroughly enjoy fake arcade racing, then yes you would love the others. Porsche was one of their more realistic ones, so anyone who can't handle finesse over spastic reflex actions and love rubber banding cars won't like it.
What got me was how slow the cars were and I never thought Porsche made an attractive auto. You are right it is choice and my days of rubber banding are OVER
 

arrowflash

Posts: 132   +108
NFS: The Run sounds interesting; I had never even heard of it before!
It's really worth checking out, especially if you miss a modern NFS game that brings a return to old-school form in many aspects. There's no free roaming open world or closed circuit/closed track races - all events are races or time attacks on point a-point b linear open roads with traffic. No tuning either. Since it doesn't have open world and it's set in a Cannonball Run-style cross country race, it has more variety of roads and scenery/environments than any other NFS game classic or modern. Probably no other game in the series focused so much on simple straight-up road racing since Hot Pursuit 2.

At its release in 2011 NFS The Run was very criticized for having a corny b-movie, F&F-style story with lots of cutscenes, some of which even have QTEs. But I think critics focused too much on these negatives that can be easily ignored.

What got me was how slow the cars were and I never thought Porsche made an attractive auto. You are right it is choice and my days of rubber banding are OVER
Did you play the PC or PS1 version of Porsche Unleashed, because they are very different games. From some of your comments sounds like you might have played the PS1 version. The PS1 version is bad, it's a much more arcade-like and simpler game.

The PC version has no rubber banding at all, a skilled player with an overpowered car can easily run laps over the AI.

The starter cars are indeed slow. But Porsche Unleashed is one of those racing games where you begin with slow cars and gradually unlock better/faster cars during the campaign, you can also upgrade the cars you own to make them faster by replacing engines, mufflers and other parts. And believe me, this is a game where you better start with the slower cars to become used to the controls and realistic physics. Anyone who played this game and got rekt race after race after first upgrading from the 356B to the '67 911 will understand what I mean.

Sounds to me like maybe you just shouldn't play simulation racing games because they're not your thing. Nothing wrong with that.

 

trgz

Posts: 298   +81
My favorite is still probably NFS Porsche Unleashed. The tuning was fun for me as well.

Hot Pursuit was fun for the time, except the computer cars would use rubber-banding. It really ticked me off so I can't say I liked it as much.

Underground (2?) was fun to me for customizing looks of the cars. I liked the music and the racing aspects.

I gave up on EA after that.
NFS: Porsche Unleased was the last great, even good, one in the series - I've bought a few since then but none really match the fund on NFS1 or 2
 

samfisher

Posts: 13   +8
I don't know how you decided Criterion put NFS on the map... The first one they made was Hot Pursuit (2010 one, not the original), only 9+ years ago and NFS was already by far the biggest name in arcade racing prior to that.
 

VariableSpike

Posts: 14   +12
I felt that Black Box was when the rot started to set in.
Funnily enough, Hot Pursuit (2010) was the worst selling at that time for the franchise, and Blackbox only flopped because The Run was a bit crap, otherwise, all the good NFS games (Underground, Most Wanted, Pro Street) were made by Blackbox. The problem with Criterion is that they tried to make NFS burnout like without calling it burnout, which was especially the case with MW 2012,which people didn't like because it was nowhere near its namesake, hence why Ghost Games picked it up in 2013 with Rivals