I'll be honest—I've lost track of exactly what's happening with Need for Speed these days. The most recent entry in the series, a "reboot" called simply Need for Speed, arrived on Origin in March 2016 to something less than critical acclaim. "It’s not only boring," we wrote in our review, "but so bereft of ideas that it represents a series running dangerously low on creative fuel." Ouch.
That less-than-enthusiastic response led developer Ghost Games to say a couple of months later that it was "taking stock" of the situation, and that a new NFS wouldn't be out until sometime in 2017. It also promised that it wouldn't be "going quiet" in the lead-up to the announcement of its next game, although aside from a July 2016 note that Need for Speed was being added to Origin Access, that's exactly what happened.
Today, however, the studio posted a new update discussing "customization, offline experience, and what to expect for 2017."
"Customization, we love it, you love it, everyone loves it. What’s not to love? Rest assured that we’re committed to customization having a home within the Need for Speed series. It’s not going away and it will play as strong a role as ever as we move forward into the next game and beyond," the studio wrote. There will be cops to run away from, and in-game events, and of course it will all be very pretty and flexible: "A world that not only looks beautiful, but offers you the space in which to do the things you want."
There's obviously not much in the way of substance here, which almost begs the question why bother with this kind of update at all, but Ghost Games did share one actually useful bit of detail by confirming that, unlike the previous game, the next one will not require a persistent internet connection to play.
"To say that this is a topic you're passionate about would be an understatement, and whenever there’s a topic that gathers as much attention and feedback from you as this did, we take note," the studio wrote. "So, when release day rolls around for the next Need for Speed, you will be able to play through a single player experience completely offline. Before you ask, and we know you will, this does mean you will be able to pause the game."
Ghost Games also again pledged that the new NFS will be out "by the end of 2017," but I'm inclined to see that as carved in something softer than stone. The previous Need for Speed came out for consoles in November 2015 as scheduled, but the PC release was ultimately delayed to March 2016. Recent changes at the studio could also have an impact on its progress: Craig Sullivan, the creative director on Need for Speed and its 2013 predecessor NFS: Rivals, left the studio earlier this month to take the same role at Amazon Game Studios.