Need for Speed Unbound (opens in new tab) attracted immediate attention to itself with its "street art" visual styling, which includes anime-style characters and hand-drawn visual effects like sparks, wings, and lightning bolts that react to your car's actions and performance. Now, thanks to the release of the first gameplay trailer, we can see what it looks like in action.
I'm actually a little surprised by how much it looks like a conventional Need for Speed, with tuners and sports cars bashing around nighttime city streets, evading and outrunning the police as they challenge one another for the street racing crown. The visual effects give it a certain flair, but they're less intrusive than I expected. Electronic Arts has previously confirmed that they can be switched off (opens in new tab), which is good news for NFS purists, but this video makes me think that most players won't find it necessary.
What I do find distracting in the video—and not in a good way—is the racing itself. The cars look (and appear to handle) like toys, and show no signs of weight or momentum; a little Nissan rams a SWAT truck barricade and suffers no ill effects—it barely slows down at all. I know, Need for Speed is an arcade racer and not a high-fidelity driving sim, and how it looks in a trailer isn't necessarily a reflection of how it will play. But even for an arcade racer, those cars look awfully stiff and non-reactive.
But even if Unbound ends up driving more like Dinky Cars than supercars, that might only be an issue for me: Multiple comments on YouTube also praise the move away from realism, which is a perfectly fair position to take too.