No idea how to start this post. NFS' decline has various reasons but one that always caught my interest was how the fanbase, the press and EA have set unrealistic expectations when it comes to what the game needs to be. 1) Razor Callahan and Lina Navarro came from the same mold Being a racing game first and foremost, the story in NFS is there to set the atmosphere of the game. Yet there's no shortage of reviews criticising the "cringy" storyline and characters. Well, ever since Underground, NFS has been a pastiche of the latest The Fast and the Furious film. Underground itself exists because EA didn't have a FnF license, Carbon tried to ride on the popularity of Tokyo Drift, and other games shifted to action movie style when FnF changed to heists instead of cars. Ironically, it was in the break between 2F2F and Tokyo Drift that Black Box was able to come up with something better, which was the first Most Wanted. The Blacklist and its 15 cars were something not yet replicated in the franchise, but the story was still cringy, as if everyone around you (including Sgt. Cross) was fresh out of high school. The point is, people are expecting AAA-level quality from the script of a game in which the story really isn't the priority. Sure, EA lavishly spends their budget on second-rate actors and film tech instead of something more useful such as brand licensing, but in the end all we care about is having fun driving outrageously customized cars in spectacular fashion while being chased by the police. Story in NFS was cringy then and it's cringy now, so what's the problem? Why are reviewers now deducting points from the games because of the story? I'm not interested in Spike's existential conflict upon realizing the player is a better driver than he is, or in Jack Rourke's suppressed affection for Sam. All I want is to feel like I'm this badass driver whose car is somehow capable of taking down whole crime syndicates without firing a single bullet. 2) Is it a car, or a tank from Battlefield? Ghost Games, in 2019, was still using the basic physics from Burnout Paradise, despite NFS having moved to Frostbite in 2013. All of these games play mostly the same. Brake to Drift was in Burnout Paradise and became the backbone of Criterion's handling in NFS. Ghost Games, which was Criterion but in Sweden, adapted the model to Frostbite, and now the franchise was handed back to Criterion, which will still be Ghost since most of the new staff will come from Ghost. With this summary I wanted to reveal the cold, harsh truth: the physics of NFS will remain this way while Criterion is in charge. That's all they can do. If you hate B2D, you'd better hope the next NFS has a red metascore. Personally, I don't hate B2D per se, but it's clear it works best in maps designed for it, that is, maps with long straights and sweeping, wide corners. Those were the traits of Hot Pursuit's map, after all, and the mountainous parts of NFS15 and Payback seem more suited to such physics. But this isn't supposed to be a rant on Criterion's inability to leave Burnout behind. The people who complain about the physics don't seem to realize that old NFS games didn't exactly have good physics either. If you drift too much in NFS Heat, well, in the 2005 Most Wanted you almost can't! In NFSU2 the AWD cars were hurt by severe understeer and the best drift car was the Golf, which was an FWD car. In NFS Undercover the cars were extremely grippy and cornered at F1-like speeds. Even NFS Shift, made by everyone's (least) favorite wookie, had its fair share of physics bugs. Finally, in NFS Carbon a Muscle (Corvette) would outhandle Exotics and Tuners when it wasn't supposed to. As an end note, B2D was in NFS2. Yes, that one, from more than 20 years ago. Select Arcade mode and watch as your car drifts under braking. And the handbrake was always a factor in NFS, way before the Hot Pursuit remake. 3) Neon Baboon vs Rocket Bunny, who will win? Among the casual public, the solution to all of Need for Speed's many problems is one of two: Underground 3 or a (proper) Most Wanted remake. Which would be a step backwards... I know there were quite a few parts in the old Black Box games inspired by real ones, but seriously, do we want to go back to that low level of customization? Do we want to go back to having traffic car-tier whips such as Puntos, Audi A4s and the base trim Cadillac CTS in the car list? I played Underground 2 back in the day and looked at games such as Juiced with envy. Juiced had real parts, which looked better than Black Box's parts. In NFSU2 you were forced to upgrade your car due to progression and sometimes it was about making the least ugly car possible, not the prettiest. Meanwhile, today not only there's actual licensed body parts in NFS but also the fictional parts look really good and in some cases even better than the real ones. I would sell a kidney to have those diffusers and side skirts in Forza Horizon. I would do even more extreme things for those APR wings, which Forza doesn't license out of pure laziness, considering there's APR wings available for the Exocet Offroad, the Supra and the Funco F9. NFS lost RAYS in 2017 with Payback, but gained new cool BBS wheels in Heat. I remember putting a hood on my Audi TT and someone named it a "baboon's nose". We should rejoice, for now we at least have Rocket Bunnies. 4) EA's draconian demands It's no secret that EA is one of the biggest forces dragging down NFS. Has been for a long time. They literally crunched Black Box to death when they forced the studio to release 6 yearly titles in sucession, some of which radically different from the one preceding them. They did the same with Ghost Games, even though Ghost had more time to develop their games. Which puts things into perspective. Ghost bounced back from Payback's (IMO unfairly) mediocre metascore of 62. Sure, Heat was in the bottom half of the 70s, a far cry from Forza Horizon 4's (IMO also unfairly) genre-topping 92, but it was an improvement. It got plenty of eights, nines and even tens. Even then, EA decided to bring back Criterion's name in an attempt to inject (false) hope into the minds of everyone. To which ends? All of Ghost Games' recent entries scream "we wish we'd had just a little bit more time". In fact, it was a problem Forza also faced with both FM7 and FH4, and even EA has other studios with similar issues, namely Bioware and its disastrous latest titles (Mass Effect Andromeda and Anthem). FIFA itself has began to struggle, and when FIFA is doing bad, you know EA is in a rut. Payback had already been rushed a lot, but Heat was the culmination of it. The game came out of nowhere and the impression I got was that it only got released because they "had to". You know, every two years, the year after Forza Horizon, because we're scared of the new kid in the block. Even Polygon pointed out that the complete lack of microtransactions in Heat were more a sign of EA's not giving a damn about it than a change of heart regarding business practices. EA hasn't yet realized their games will only get high scores if the studios are allowed to put effort into them. Such is the way of life. Dismantling Ghost because they weren't able to get an 80+ metascore despite not having had many resources to work with is the mark of incredibly dense bean counters who will eventually crumble under the might of their own company. 5) The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence... The culmination of the unrealistic expectations people have towards a modern NFS game is how the NFS community seems to believe other games really have it perfect, when that's not really true. As a Forza Horizon player, I'm not entirely happy with the current state of the franchise, and I most certainly wasn't happy with many things about TDU, Burnout Paradise, Race Driver GRID and even older NFS. And DriveClub, even with its share of fans, ended up abandoned by Sony. All recent NFS games took time to become somewhat polished, but Forza Horizon 4 didn't have a smooth launch either. Sound bugs and many, many cut features, along with the inclusion of cosmetics and dances much akin to Fortnite, which took space in wheelspins, made Playground come under criticism, so much that most of the first year in the game's life was spent bringing back stuff from FH3 that Playground in all their wisdom cut from FH4 because "EVERYTHING'S COOL WHEN YOU PART OF A TEAM!!!": online multiplayer was exclusively built around team-based racing. Of course, there's the usual ass-kissers who think the game's perfect (every community has those), but the success of FH4 was largely a continuation of FH3's, with broken promises such as more bodykits and paintable calipers being swept under the rug in favor of amusing (and boring) oddities such as battle royale. One big reason why FH3 was so successful is that the PC community was starved of a good arcade racing game, so everyone flocked into FH3 because it sounded like NFS with proper physics. Now these people are playing FH4, they are vocal and Playground has to listen to them, instead of catering to their few unofficial community stewards on Discord, Reddit and various forums. Well, at least RetroKrystal, who spent a large amount of her time playing Fortnite and Apex Legends and plotting the addition of the Eliminator along with her old teammates, has left the company, which gives me hope the next game will bring back an ounce of car culture, which is the very foundation of Forza... But this ain't about Forza, it's about NFS and the things that, yes, it does have over Forza and other racing games. Outrun (H2H) races are far superior in NFS due to the game laying down checkpoints on the road. In Forza Horizon there's none of that, which makes H2H races a tree-dodging affair instead of grassroots street racing. The game loads much faster (all of them, whether it is NFS15, Payback or Heat), the mountain roads are superb, the soundtrack is leagues above Forza's even with the excess of hip hop, the map is easier to navigate, derelicts are a fun "barn find" mechanic and were blatantly copied by Forza in the Fortune Island expansion, the car sounds are mostly superior to Forza's, and there's police for all its worth, which makes a certain type of car very useful (heavy cruisers such as the Challenger and the Panamera). While overall I'd say Forza Horizon's quality is still at least two leagues above NFS, not all is lost for the franchise... It's not as if the games were completely unplayable and I can see why some people would even prefer NFS to Forza. BlackPanthaa might not be as much of a brainless fanboy after all (he still sucks). ... tl;dr Everyone has set an insurmountable bar for NFS to overcome and this overzealous, overdemanding attitude towards the games has only hurt the franchise. EA can't expect to spend little and profit much anymore, at least not with Forza Horizon as their main opponent. Rose-tinted nostalgia glasses suck. The competition ain't perfect either.