The Need for Speed series has a long history and, within it, there are amazing highs alongside the lows. For me the greatest era for the games was when EA put Criterion on it, then best-known for the Burnout series, who produced several standout entries including Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit—a top-notch action racer, and arguably the best in the series.
However good the games were, Need for Speed has always shifted units, although in recent years it really felt like they've just been spinning their wheels. The last instalment, 2019's Need for Speed Heat, was completely fine but didn't feel like anything special and, in a world where Playground's now raced through five Forza Horizons, just didn't have that excitement factor. Clearly publisher EA thinks something needs changing, too, because now it has moved the series from previous developer Ghost Games over to two of its internal studios that, for racing fans, can only be called a dream team: Codemasters and Criterion.
We can confirm Criterion Games and the development team at Codemasters Cheshire are officially coming together to create the future of @NeedforSpeed, forming one Criterion studio with two location hubs. [1/3]May 12, 2022
"We can confirm Criterion Games and the development team at Codemasters Cheshire are officially coming together to create the future of Need for Speed," reads the statement. Codies Cheshire is being folded-in to form "one Criterion studio with two location hubs. This integration builds off the close partnership the two studios have developed over the past few months.
"Sharing common values and similar cultures, we strongly believe unifying the huge wealth of expertise across both teams will help us to deliver the best racing experiences we can for our players."
Criterion really needs no introduction for fans of action racing, with Burnout Paradise still the best example of this kind of game ever made. It's made many brilliant racing games over the years, even though recently it has seemed to be acting as more of a support studio for other big EA titles like Star Wars Battlefront 2 and couple of Battlefields.
Codemasters Cheshire is a studio that rose from the ashes of Evolution Studios, a specialist racing developer best-known for the Motorstorm series, which was assembled by Codemasters after Sony rather unceremoniously closed Evolution in 2016. EA acquired it last year as part of its Codemasters acquisition, which cost $1.2 billion. The wider context is that Codemasters itself has become a specialist racing studio, with both the Grid and F1 series delivering consistently excellent games.
So... the next Need for Speed might be the good shit. You could not combine two development studios that would excite me more about an action racing game, and Need for Speed is all about that sheer abandon to the thrill of the road. Ridiculously gorgeous and ridiculously fast cars doing ridiculous things to an awesome licensed soundtrack—if this game lives up to the talent behind it, we could be in for something special.