Fans rejoice: Let's face it. The last several Need For Speed games have been lame. EA and developer Ghost Games tried taking the series in a direction that many fans did not want to go. Namely, giving it an open-world just because that's the "in-thing," forcing a grindy tuning mechanic, and worst of all, microtransactions --- looking at you Payback. Fortunately, the series is returning to the developer that put it on the map, Criterion!
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.