Need for Speed: Payback (PS4)

Tyler Morgan is not a hero, although Need for Speed: Payback is convinced otherwise. Street racing games often lean on “heroes” like Payback’s protagonist Morgan, privileged 20-somethings putting people in harm’s way to beat their opponents. In the fictional Fortune Valley (clearly Las Vegas) no pedestrians walk on the streets. That’s probably Morgan’s fault. He’s a maniac.

“We are the last fighters against corporate tyranny,” spouts a racing group’s leader. These kids are not only dangerous, they’re delusional too. The belief they can take down the high rolling staples of Fortune City through illicit street racing is disturbing. Each of these kids lived a life of privilege, enough to continually upgrade their rides and compete. Their angst concerns street level competition – someone rigged their illegal game. Morgan’s crew won’t have any of it.

Need for Speed: Payback doesn’t make sense. At certain point, it seems to know that. The “corporate tyranny” line does draw a jeer from a responding character. The rest of the script hopes you won’t notice. As Payback begins, Morgan wins two races. The antagonist calls, offers Morgan a free car – without ever meeting – and tells Morgan to lose the next race. Planning his vendetta, Morgan wins. Gamblers lose, and it’s all to blame on lax ID checking and improbably car giveaways rivaling the Price is Right.

As it goes in 2017’s videogame storylines, Need for Speed: Payback concerns fighting against corruption, but in this case, the resistance isn’t in the right. Everyone is guilty here. It’s a bunch of college kids doing stupid stuff under a baffling belief that what they do is for the greater good. Morgan flips cop cars end over end and his team takes down police helicopters. Surely the drivers/pilot meet their fate in the ensuring fire, with the moral cushion being Fortune Valley’s cops feed off corruption (supposedly).

These kids don’t share Robin Hood’s ideals; they keep everything for themselves so their cars go faster. The last thing these kids need are more cars.


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