[Review] Need for Speed: No Limits Is A Simplistic Racer Heavily Loaded with “Stuff”

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Need for Speed No Limits release is a big event in the world of mobile here, and we’ve all been waiting for it. It is fun, good-looking and free-to-play, but it also has some of the drawbacks that might be a turnoff for some. Without getting too emotional about either, let’s see what this gorgeous has under the hood.

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Gameplay

Always Online

As in many similar games, the gameplay is divided into two main chunks – the racing itself and upgrading the cars. The races are short, snackable bursts of fun, and if you could play it offline, Need for Speed No Limits would have probably made it to my list of the best racing games this year (not the first position, but still). Unfortunately, the game need to be always online to let you play, so be prepared for the loading times that last longer than the races themselves, and for occasional disconnects that will cost you the entry ticket and a failed race.

An occasional “downloading some more data” when I was level 9 totally made the game go glitchy until I restarted the device because force closing the game did not work. However, the overall connectivity seems to work fine on my connection, the always online requirement means I won’t be playing on the go. Sigh.

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Controls

There are three options for the controls in Need for Speed No Limits – touch, tilt and swipe. I seriously recommend the default touch one. Even though there are no on-screen buttons, I found this scheme to work perfectly smooth when you master the active areas right. Tap left and right to turn, swipe up for a nitrous boost, swipe down to drift.

The game has your car accelerating at its max speed at all times, so all you have to do is turn, overrun other cars, use the nitrous boost, and drift. This feels like the game is too easy, and to some extent it is, especially with the “Easy” mode. In most races, you will be able to select a car from your garage of unlocked cars, and the more upgraded the car is, the easier is the mode. But you can choose the medium and hard mode cars to challenge your skills, too. However, some races are car or level-specific only. Oh, and there is no controller support.

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Races

There are always plenty of things to do in NFS No Limits. The variety of races to take is quite pleasing. However, don’t count on burning that rubber for too long. The races are very short, sometimes as short as 30 seconds. Each race requires a fuel tank or two to enter (hint – timers).

First, you have the Underground series that go with a story of sorts and are filled with generic characters that need to work on their composure. Ramirez does not handle failure too well. The Underground consists of chapters, and each chapter consists of some 10 levels. Some levels are just time-based, others will have you racing against other players or versus the AI characters. In my opinion, the player’s PR in most cases defines the outcome, especially on the easy mode.

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Completing each level grants you some money, some spare parts, car blueprints (more on that later) while completing the chapter grants you Gold and Fuel Refill.

Then, pretty soon into the game you unlock the Car Series. They are vehicle-specific. I don’t know how it goes for other players, but I have unlocked three cars within my first gameplay and one more after lvl 14, so now I have four car series events to munch on. They, too, consist of chapters and the sole purpose of racing them is to gain more reputation. You will need that rep to be able to play the Underground series new chapters, that get unlocked not only as you complete the previous chapters, but also depending on your player level.

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As of yesterday, the Special Events races are available worldwide, and the first one features Snoop Dogg and a loan car with nice stats, which you still have to upgrade. These races consist of levels and chapters, too, but get unlocked based on completion and time (one chapter per 24 hours). Winning all five chapters in the event will grant you a high tier vehicle. Hopefully. Snoop Dogg’s verbiage is peculiar, and sometimes I feel like I need a translator, but thankfully the text bulbs don’t mean much in this game, so who cares!

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Additional Content

As you reach level 15, Tournaments and Show Room areas become available. This is where you can race for your global leaderboard position and see all of the cars available in the game, as well as see where you can find their blueprints.

You can tweak your car’s looks in the Mod Shop that is unlocked at some early levels. But here is the catch – you won’t be doing much of that.

I am telling you this because it is somewhat disappointing to find out all by yourself. As probably many of you, I have been looking at my cash pile grow, anxiously anticipating my Mod Shop tour. I have seen some of the impressive designs, and wanted to beef up my simplistic Subaru with a glamorous outfit. Alas. The Mod Shop does not work with money, or gold. It requires something called Visual Points, and you get them randomly while racing in the Underground. I have never gotten them in the Car series, yet. The worst part is they are a part of the Mystery Prize, when you have three cards to choose as your prize, so even if you aim for the Visual Points you don’t always get them.

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Even if you have a few thousand of them, there is not much you can do in the Mod Shop because the prices are ridiculously high, if compared to the prices of upgrades in the Garage, for example. Long story short, painting a car a different color costs five thousand visual points. The Black Market is unlocked as you reach some level 10, and you can buy car blueprints and special kits to upgrade your cars. After level 15, as you unlock the Show Room, you start earning the Visual Points in the Tournaments on a more or less regular basis, but not much anyway.

IAPs

If you think you can buy yourself the good looks for the real money, there comes the disappointment. The game works with the crate system, which means you are always kind of buying or choosing a “surprise” purchase. Politesse aside, I hate this approach. It basically tells the paying customer – you can buy the shoes in my store, but you can’t see them, or try them on. You just pay the money, take the box and get the hell out.

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So, if you want to buy the visual points, you buy the premium crates that cost you lots of gold. The same is true about the car blueprints. You can’t just buy a premium car. In theory, any car can be unlocked by grinding, but if you want a Porsche, you will need to have 8 blueprints. Say, I won one in the Underground race, and I have piled up some gold to buy 3 Porsche blueprints on the Black Market, but here is the catch – even the Black Market won’t sell you all the blueprints you need. Even if you have the gold. The assortment of goods on the Black Market is limited to six offers, and they refresh once a day. You can refresh them by paying 100+ gold bricks, but if you grind for that gold to unlock a cool car, chances are you’ll have to wait. I am level 15, and I need 4 more of them. The car’s info says I can find them in the Loading docks, that is the crates or Chapter 6 and Chapter 19. It’s basically grinding blindfold. By the time I might unlock that Porsche my other cars will be beefed up so I might not even notice the difference. I already have one significantly upgraded vehicle, one medium and three simplistic, so I bet that’s how it’s going to be.

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The gameplay time might also be limited by the Fuel refills after level 14. You have ten as you start, and some races require 1 tank, others 2.

Is there a paywall in Need for Speed No Limits? There certainly is if you want something specific from the game, like a specific car, or a different color for your existing car. If you go the free-to-play route and grind, the grinding will be tedious. However, you can just play whatever content you have available without stressing yourself too much about that Lamborghini. If you choose to pay real money, check out the daily deals – some come with a car and gold.* I would not recommend investing in crates – their randomness nulls their value.

[Upd.] Thanks for clarification, . The deals containing a premium car you can purchase via IAP are available once per chapter and only during 24 hrs.

The upgrade and level up system

Car upgrades are downright boring. You collect the parts by winning the races and then you make the tough call by choosing which car to upgrade next. You can upgrade them all at a more or less even pace, or you can bet on your first or favorite car and invest in that. However, not all parts you win will be available for that one car, and the wheel of fortune you play in the Loading Docks does not encourage much. Once the part’s parts are installed, you can Rebuild it and max out on its potential. The next step up is to install a higher-tier part. Overall, upgrades is a boring distraction that keeps you from racing.

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Sometimes, I notice the parts I win in the races and crates just disappear because they don’t show up in my Garage. I bought a premium crate with a kit of sorts, and it did not show up anywhere. So, I am not wasting the resources on premium crates anymore unless I get them for free. Players get one premium crate per day. Players also get daily log-in rewards and get back rewards. I skipped a day and got 20 thousand cash. Too bad I can’t spend it in the Mod Shop.

Overall, the upgrades are chaotic and random. It’s like collecting mushrooms and berries as you walk through a forest – might find a sweet one, might find a bitter one.

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Replay Value

I have mentioned the player has ten fuel tanks at the beginning, and they refill gradually, but… In my experience, I have never been locked out of the races because of the fuel tanks. Completing a chapter in whatever series, Underground, Car series or Special event, grants you a full refill, so you should not be locked out for a long while. Unless you lose and have to re-run the race two or three times. I imagine this can drain that fuel tank occasionally.

Now, not all chapters can be replayed on a different car, and so far I haven’t been replaying the content I have already played because there are things to do to progress and because all the races feel pretty much the same. I don’t see myself replaying the already cleared content at all.

The bottom line is the game is pretty packed with content, and when you are locked out of the Underground chapters, you always have the Car Series and then you have the Special Event. When you level up to 15, you will also have the Tournaments unlocked. So, the play time is sweet with the NFS No Limits. Nonetheless, the medium and hard modes will probably have you replaying some of the races and leveling up will become slower than initially. The outcome is – you play an hour or two the first couple of days, and then your gameplay sessions may dwindle to 20 minutes, depending on whether you choose the easy, medium or hard mode.

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Performance

An unfortunate move made this game an online-only story, so sometimes it might kick you out in the middle of a race or drive you nuts with the long loading times and short races. However, my biggest problem with Need for Speed No Limits, other than the ridiculously rare Visual Points and expensive Mod Shop offers, is the options for the visuals. Or the lack of whereof.

iOS users got lucky – there is only high-tier graphics for their devices, but the Android users are totally mad because of the lack of the settings. If you are on Android and the game just does not recognize your device as a higher-end one, you are stuck with the looks that are almost pixelated. There is no way to choose the design quality manually. Hence, my rate of the visuals will differ significantly from what I have heard from iOS players.

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Design

Meh…diocre. The fact that I can’t tweak the visuals and see if a higher quality affects the performance on my Samsung device drives me impatient. It’s ridiculous to limit the players like this. Perhaps, EA wanted to avoid the criticism over the lags and glitches associated with the high-end graphics, but instead they have too many users complaining about the outdated looks on Android, which look nothing like realistic.

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The Good

  • Fun, bite-sized races
  • Lots of cars
  • Lots of content
  • Special events, cars series, main series
  • Multiplayer Tournaments
  • Global leaderboards
  • Overall good performance
  • Free crates in the Loading docks and Snoop Dogg’s free crates refresh often

The Bad

  • Wi-Fi only and hence, connectivity-related issues
  • Android devices often default to the lowest graphics quality, which does not look as good as the iOS version – no way to tweak the graphics manually
  • Tedious grinding if you want to unlock a specific car
  • You can’t just buy a premium car for real money because you can only buy its blueprints in crates or on the Black Market. The crates are random, even premium, the Black Market may have a limited stock of the blueprints you need, so paying money dos not guarantee you get a car right now.
  • Mod Shop and the Visual Points are by far the worst disappointment
  • Past level 14-15 the gameplay sessions will be shorter due to how harder it becomes to level up and unlock new chapters
  • No controller support
  • No premium version without all that freemium attire

featNeed for Speed™ No Limits

Developer: ELECTRONIC ARTS
Genre: Racing
Download from Google Play
Download from iTunes
Price: free-to-play

The Verdict

Need for Speed No Limits is a fun game for a casual player. The players can advance rather fast in their reputation, and provided they have a lot of time on their hands they can level up and unlock the Tournaments in two days, or three as a maximum. The game offers a lot of races in different areas, and unlocks new cars steadily as the player finds the corresponding blueprints. The upgrading part is boring, and the trading part is a wheel of fortune. The races are very short and when that is topped with the long loading times due to the game’s being online, the gameplay sessions will be long, but you won’t be racing all of that time. The better half of that time will be spent on upgrading, spinning the wheel in the Loading Docks and sorting out how can the Mod Shop suck that much. The lack of visual options on Android is off-putting for many while tricky IAPs might be a further turn-off for the hardcore player. NFS No Limits is a perfect time killer for a casual player and a beginner, but the experienced connoisseur might get bored soon when the inevitable becomes evident. You can’t just build or buy a car you want when you want it since the cars are blueprint-based. Paying or not, you still have to put up with the randomness of the premium crates.

Should you try it? Certainly yes, if the racer slot on your device is vacant.

REVIEW OVERVIEW
Gameplay
Controls
Design
Performance
Difficulty
IAPs
Replay Value
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  • little_ghost

    Don’t know if it is me, but since the last update, the refueling does not wrok anymore?!
    Instead of counting down for the next refil, it keeps counting up!!! first it was 6 hours, now it already says 2 days!!! Unless I pay for a refill, there is no more racing going on….

    • Dan Vlasic

      I bet it’s not you. I am experiencing the same but with the free crates in the loading docks and special event. I haven’t been able to claim one in three days. And the game started lagging a lot, especially during the races. I wouldn’t mind spending 4 retries worth of fuel on a single race if it were hard, but on an easy or medium, with the obvious lag – it’s the update. As of now, I am seriously stuck.

      • little_ghost

        I used the “one time free refuel” against my will and now it seems to work again.
        I’m afraid now to empty the tank; if the problem comes back it will cost me 30 gold to TRY and solve it, which is a lot of gold.

        • Dan Vlasic

          I bought several packs of 5 crates each/ per 20K money. Got plenty of parts… No idea where that lot went because I only saw 2 in my Garage.

          • little_ghost

            Wren they in your spare parts (bottom of your screen, XX/65)?

          • Dan Vlasic

            It was the first place I checked after the Garage, but no. But the free crates are back again, as of this morning.

  • Nendogamer

    I have already played using the mobile data and its working just fine.
    The issue with the graphics on android depends on your device entirely. Some devices are not capable of running it on HIGH SETTINGS thus the game reverts to a setting that allows it to run in an optimal condition. No issues with mine under Xperia Z Ultra. Lastly, you can actually buy a premium car using real money but you only have 24 hours to do so and it happens once per chapter. Not quite sure as to why you didn’t notice that.

    • Dan Vlasic

      “If you choose to pay real money, check out the daily deals – some come with a car and gold.”
      I did notice that, and I guess it needs to be in bold to avoid further confusion.
      It was not self-evident the “deal” is only available once per chapter, but thanks for clarifying.

      I played on Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 and expected something better-looking. The lack of manual settings is surprising in the least. Besides, when reviewing, I also pay close attention to what the users on Google Play say in their feedback. The looks are an issue.

      I also noticed a stark drop in performance during the races right after I crossed the lvl 17 divide. The races aren’t more difficult, the game just lags here and there in peculiar moments. I have noticed that a few days ago and seriously hope it’s a bad update.
      Oh, and the free crates are no longer. Whenever I log in, the countdown timer shows more and more time. I have not received a free crate in three days neither in the loading docks, nor in the special event docks. Is it me, or is it them? 😀

    • darkich

      You’re wrong about the device dependence, at least in terms of their available performance. I have a Galaxy Note 3 with a Snapdragon 800AB chip (more advanced than the one in the Z Ultra), yet the graphics are at their lowest quality.
      The game just doesn’t recognize what it runs on.

      Anyway, for me, car racers are about driving feel, and this game takes away so far too much from that with these dumbed down controls. No throttle and brakes is an insult for such game.
      I get if they don’t want to jeopardize their amazing Real Racing 3 but turning the Need for speed into this is not a solution.

  • Robert James Levis

    the biggest problem it seems this person who wrote the article has is that you cant simply buy your way through the game as easy!!! i love that feature

  • Michael Groenendijk

    game hangs at chapter 19 after winning first race. already deleted game and odd file and reinstalled. same issue over and over again. i cant pass the hanging screen.

  • Tushar

    I updated my Samsung galaxy s6 to 6.0.1 marshmallow, before that the game was working perfectly fine but after the updates the game is running slow