EA’s latest entry in the Need for Speed series – Need for Speed Unbound – is out on general release today for Xbox Series X|S, PlayStation 5 and PC.
For this much-hyped sequel, EA has passed the development responsibility onto Criterion Games, the studio taking the reigns of the franchise for the first time since 2012’s Need for Speed: Most Wanted.
With a focus on the underground street racing scene, Unbound’s uniquely spectacular aesthetic has generated a lot of headlines ahead of its release. However, one notable feature of Unbound is it won’t be available for the PlayStation 4 or Xbox One.
The Need for Speed
“I mean, we wanted to,” said Criterion Games’ Creative Director Kieran Crimmins to Traxion.GG.
“As we were going through it the stuff we could do on current-gen consoles [is] just so much better than what you can do on previous gen. We wanted to double down on it, we wanted to deliver the best possible experience to players that could play it,” he continued.
Thanks to external influences like the COVID pandemic, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the trade conflict between the USA and China, microchips and semiconductor supplies have been interrupted in recent times, enforcing worldwide industrial delays.
Car manufacturers, for example, struggled to produce enough new cars to satisfy demand, prompting a sharp rise in used car prices. The chip shortage extended to the gaming market too, with Sony and Microsoft battling to source components to satisfy the demand for PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X|S consoles.
It is because of this that developers have clung onto producing games for older-gen consoles longer than originally anticipated, simply as not enough households owned a new console.
Crimmins believes the difficult decision to develop Unbound for PC and PS5/Xbox Series only is the correct one: “Playing it all [in] 4k 60 frames a second, HDR is an absolutely transformative racing game experience. With the new physics system, the new handling, the new effects and new graphics – I feel like anyone that plays it will totally understand”.
Criterion’s Creative Director firmly believes that playing the game will convert any critics of the studio’s decision to focus on current-gen consoles. But was there a little regret in that decision, as, after all, there are still plenty of PS4 and Xbox One owners out there?
“It’s a shame. I would love to release on everything from you know, your Casio watch to your HDTV. But we want to make the best, you know, we want to make the best possible player experience we can.”
It seems the games industry is reaching a crucial crossover point between console generations. With supplies of PS5s and Xbox Series consoles approaching healthier levels, we would expect to see more games developers following Criterion’s lead.
As can be seen from Assetto Corsa Competizione’s (ACC) buggy Xbox One and PS4 versions, resource-intensive games can only work on ageing hardware for so long.
A decision was taken soon after the game’s release to cease development of ACC’s old-gen console iterations. The focus switched instead to its PC, PS5 and Xbox Series X|S versions. A lesson learned by the industry, perhaps.
For Crimmins, the decision to focus on the current generation of consoles was motivated by a very simple aim: “We wanted to make the best game we possibly could.”
And you can’t really argue with that sentiment.