So, your car got stolen, your BFF turned out to be a snake, and your father figure is hiding how much this is affecting him with self-care books. A chance opportunity is at your doorstep and you decide to claim it as two years pass and that chip on your shoulder turned into a plate of nachos. Welcome to Need For Speed Unbound, where revenge is sweet and optimizing your time and money is sweeter.
To your right will be several points of interest in becoming the best fledgling racer one can be and not have their engine smoking on the starting line. Testing a new format here, so, enjoy the fruits of this racer's knowledge and good luck in The Grand!
The Sweet Spot
Before I get into the guide, there is one technique that you must learn in order to have a chance at winning races. This is the “rocket start,” obtained by revving your engine within the car’s powerband (indicated by the bar above the RPMs). If you rev the RPMs in the green at the start of “GO!” then you’ll get a huge boost.
Do not rev your car to the max or cold start your car. If you’re ever wondering why you’re slow off the starting grid, this is why. Every car has a unique powerband thus a different sweet spot, so take that into consideration.
Purchasing The “Right” Car
This will be the most important decision as this will determine how easy or difficult your first week will be. The car you begin with will have nothing but the bare minimum and will be "off the lot" per the Manufacturer. This doesn't necessarily mean that the car is stock, but lightly tuned.
This is important as not all cars will come equipped with the same parts. Some vehicles may be complete stock while others would have a pro upgrade under the hood somewhere.
My suggestion is a modern sports car like the BRZ which has decent acceleration and top speed. The most important thing is the torque and handling as you'll be starting from 0 in every race. The faster you can get your car off the line, the more of an impact you'll make to pull ahead.
I started with the Mitsubishi Eclipse GSX after beginning with the Crown Victoria and realized how bad it was in comparison. The GSX is also the car I’d recommend to begin with as it’s the shining example of an “all-arounder” that you can build around to suit your needs. It’s a good battler, naturally grips the road but can drift when needed, and has exceptional speed and handling. Not bad for a car that hadn’t graced a Need For Speed game since Underground 2.
Generally speaking, the more RPMs your car covers, the faster it goes. A balanced drivetrain is also a plus as you can adjust your car for drift and race events accordingly but you can always purchase parts that unlock this for your vehicle.
Plan Ahead With Your Calendar
Before you begin your session, you'll be presented with a race calendar. Anything with an icon means that there's an event that would be worth your while to enter. Some high-stakes races require a certain heat level to enter but the payout is usually worth it. Other nights may host events where the buy-in is pricey but the prize is a brand-new car.
These are the events that matter the most as you are essentially getting a tuned car for, at times, over half the amount of the dealership price. You'll need four cars to enter The Grand so obtaining free cars for the price of admission will save tens of thousands of dollars. You can build off of them to ensure you always have a car for each class, one for B, one for A, and so on.
This also opens the number of events available as rushing your car to A-tier will make it ineligible for B-tier races. You may figure that the payouts are bigger the higher the tier and you'd be correct, but some races in lower classes may have bigger payouts on certain days. This is why checking the calendar is doubly important.
Occasionally, Tess or Rydell will call you for opportunities involving delivering a car. Doing so will unlock the car for purchase, which you can’t afford right now, but it’s nice to know there’s a P1 or R34 waiting for you. Other racers will call you to pick them up and deliver them to their safehouse safely. Doing so will unlock their safehouse, increasing the number of starting points and places to call it a night. The camaraderie among racers!
Pokuruma: Gotta Race ‘Em All (Choosing The Right Tool)
Please excuse my attempt at making a Pokemon pun, as “kuruma” means car, so, Pokuruma — I’ll stop. But, as your garage fills up with winning cars in events, you'll have an assortment of vehicles at your disposal and it starts to feel like a monster-catching sim, except the monsters are cars. Anyway, like most things, while having a car for each rank is important, having the right car or setup is even more important.
The Lotus Exige will be one of the cars you'll win and it'll be the fastest to go 0 - 60. This, combined with the absolute grip this tiny speedster has, makes it a great choice for city racing but not so much during straights. The Plymouth Barracuda can be useful for top-speed sprints. Finally, the Ford Mustang Foxbody is used as an all-around vehicle when invested in parts.
If you feel as if your main car meets the criteria for any of the free cars, you can always sell them for emergency funds if need be. Liquidating your cars may be a valid strategy if you’ve had a rough night and, worst-case scenario, got busted. You can offset your losses by selling the free cars you don’t need but remember you need four to make it to The Grand. Don’t make it a habit, but don’t sweat it if you’re off your game.
Going Sideways Isn’t Always The Answer
In fact, relying too much on drifting can mean the difference between widening the gap and getting overtaken at the last corner. Drifting is a major component of burst nitrous, but so are racing lines. You drive faster going in a straight line and cars that tend to lean towards Grip benefit from hitting the apex of turns. Your reward in finding your line is a sweet Grip Turn bonus that will earn you just as much as Drifting.
The key is how fast you approach a turn while keeping your angle. If you’ve done it correctly, you’ll see a visual indicator from your tires and a huge bonus to your burst nitrous depending on how fast you attacked the corner. This can also be very easy to miss if you’re not paying attention, so always be aware of this Grip bonus.
Ideally, in races, Grip is better than Drift as you lose speed the wider your drifting angle is. Likewise, not attacking a corner properly will cause oversteering which means going off-road or hitting a wall. It’s up to the player to find a balance that suits them. Grip tends to work on highways with small bends while drifting is great for the mountains and the city. Of course, if you’re doing Takeovers you’d want to drift, which leads to…
Paint The Whole City Black
Eventually, you’ll unlock Takeover events which are Need For Speed Unbound’s version of gymkhanas. There are two types; Drift Trials and the Takeover events themselves. The latter adds to the former by allowing jumps, smashing objects, and boosting to be a part of your score tally. Do not force drifts as the fast you go, the smoother your cornering will be.
Keeping your boost gauge as high as possible while occasionally featuring the turbo will keep your multiplier alive, so only use it if you’re at risk of dropping the combo. Don’t be too worried about scores as keeping a high multiplier and constantly doing any form of tricks will earn points. A little goes a long way.
Doing Donuts On The Donut Eaters
Law enforcement, arguably the cornerstone of almost every Need For Speed title, is handled differently in each title. Unbound is no different, with your Heat level being carried from day into night. This means that being too active during the day will make your night session begin with the tables stacked against you. While the lingering Heat and the importance of money make every encounter with the cops a stint of “high stakes” (Best NFS btw), there are several ways you can manipulate the cops to make things bearable.
The most important thing about how cops work that I discovered early on is that the wanted level only increases after a race is completed. With the exception of certain story events, you almost always begin with your Heat level at 0. This means that so long as you don’t attempt events that specifically increase Heat gain, you won’t aggro the cops unless you provoke them.
Even if you engage in pursuit with patrol cruisers, if your current heat level is at 1 for example, it won’t ever get any higher no matter how long it persists or how many cop cars you take out. You never have to worry about a pursuit spiraling out of control unless you’ve completed enough races to the point where the default Heat level is at 5. Your heat won’t go down until you complete a calendar day, but it will only increase after each race.
AS IT TURNS OUT, your Heat rating can increase during a pursuit albeit temporarily! If you're giving the boys in blue a hard time they'll send in reinforcements. Every time reinforcements are called, it'll increase the heat meter by 0.5 up to the maximum level if it goes on long enough. To prevent this, either escape or eliminate all cops before the reinforcements arrive. Doing so will reset the heat level to what it was before you entered the pursuit.
The second most important detail about the cops is that they can be used as a source of burst nitrous. Sure, you can slipstream behind them as you would a rival racer. But you can also immobilize them and take them out by ramming them off the road. Doing this on an average car is more troublesome than it’s worth unless you make an investment in an important item. The Damage Increase Auxiliary will be your secret weapon to use in pursuits.
Auxiliaries are modifiers that give extra abilities to your cars, whether it’s an increase in nitrous from certain actions, reducing the damage taken from other vehicles, or even an emergency repair kit. Damage Increase, well, increases the damage dealt to vehicles by ramming into them. Without it, you’re barely causing a dent in a cruiser. However, with the aux you can instantly disable a patrol cruiser in lower heat levels, giving you a full level 3 Burst Gauge.
While it may not OHKO an AWD patrol car all the time, it will do enough damage to two-shot it if need be. The only issue is when it comes to the SWAT trucks but that’s during Level 5 so the idea should be to escape pursuit ASAP. This aux is super powerful early game as your car will not be fast enough to outrace the cops, but you can put up a fight and knock ‘em out.
Remember, your Heat level doesn’t rise outside of races so clipping everyone off means you’re bound to escape. Just be mindful of your remaining car’s HP. Running through gas stations will not only refill your nitrous but repair your car every four minutes.
That’s about all I have as far as the early game while I still play through Story mode myself. Most of the things I’ve mentioned are topics the game grazes the surface on, but they aren’t “by the book.” These are just advice that worked for me, and that could also work for other players as well. If there are more nuances in the following weeks, I’ll make follow-up parts to this.
Enjoy the race and good luck making it to The Grand!
Need For Speed Unbound is now available on the PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X/S, and PC.