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Under the Hood: The Handling Model

Under the Hood is back and this time we’re driving deep into the Handling model in Need for Speed™ and how it has evolved for NFS Heat.

The handling model in the NFS series has always been aimed more towards an arcade style driving, with the exception of the Shift series. 

At the core of the handling model has been the ability to pull off huge drifts at high speeds, while also battling with cops, outrunning your opponents and constantly having to avoid oncoming traffic.

One particular side effect of allowing vehicles to pull off drifts is that this also becomes the only way to negotiate corners if you want to set the fastest time on an event, which is of course not how real life racing works.

Even though this handling model has generally been received very well among a large part of our audience, at Ghost we have always felt there was room for improvement.

This was tackled in a number of ways for NFS Heat. 

We’ve exposed more of the core handling system to allow players to build and modify their cars in more detail. This will allow a vehicle to have an asymmetric and 'non-optimal'(but fun to drive) handling set up. For example, having a powerful engine while still having stock tires or gearbox.

This also allows players to tune their cars away from the more balanced stock handling, which skilled players might find too easy and 'arcade', towards a more realistic grip handling or drift handling depending on which you prefer.

We have also worked with the drifting mechanic and especially the so called brake-to-drift mechanic side effect.

We wanted to allow experienced and dedicated players to be able to build a car, tuning it closer to real world expectations, and be able to beat someone who has left their car remain at stock handling. This meant that we have had to work with exposing and balancing everything from steering, differential, clutch, brake bias, all the way to the tire model itself.

Drifting has also been reworked to allow players to use the power of the engine to get the car into a drift or power slide. Simply stabbing the throttle while steering hard will make the tires lose enough grip to allow it to drift.

Tuning of the brake bias can also be done to allow the brakes to transfer weight to the front wheels, causing the rear wheels to lose grip and enter a drift. A third option to enter drift is to use the handbrake, which is preferably used in tighter corners and hairpins.

With the speeds while drifting severely reduced we have been hard at work as a team to improve the sense of speed. This is something that is usually hard to communicate in a video game due to the lack of forces acting on your body. Much like handling itself, sense of speed is something you experience and we are confident this is something that will come across when you hit the streets of Palm City later this year.

The Archetypes concept from NFS Payback has also been removed and with the above components exposed we transitioned into creating a new way of tuning the car.

In NFS Heat you can apply several parts in 3 distinct categories that change the handling performance: Suspension, Differential and Tires.

Each of these items will move the cars handling style towards either Race, Drift, Offroad or Road. More on all the other types of Performance Customization in the next Under The Hood, where we'll explain how the car needs to have a synergy between power (from the engine), grip (from the tires) and the gearbox to maximize the performance.

The type of drivetrain that the vehicles have will also affect how the vehicle drives and reacts to the different handling styles. 

You can turn all types of vehicles into capable drift machines but the drift angles they can achieve and the manner in how you control them differ depending on which wheels are driven on the vehicles. It is possible to use all types of drivetrain for all types of events but they are suited differently to each individual style.

Race will increase the grip of the car and make the car corner better. Extreme levels of race tuning will make the car corner faster and better. Race is all about throttle and brake control, finding the perfect line around the corner without drifting.

Tuning the car towards Drift will make the car easier to enter drifts and allows the car to create much deeper and wider angles of drift. Extreme levels of Drift tuning will allow the car to enter into a drift just by steering - no ‘Clutch Kick’ or hand brake required. 

We have evolved the drift mechanics to make use of the player's skill and control even further for drift builds with the addition of ‘Throttle-controlled Drift’. For the first time in NFS history, players can control the angle of the drift via the throttle. 

If the throttle is pushed all the way down while in a drift it will cause the car to spin out. In order to maintain a perfect drift the player needs to feather the throttle (apply partial pressure). This opens up new levels of mastery to the drifting in NFS. 

Offroad will make the car accelerate faster and corner better on rough terrain. Road will give the same advantages but on tarmac.

Race and Drift control the way the car handles. Offroad and Road controls on what surface you want to have an advantage. 

We have tested and tuned a lot to get to where we are now. We wanted to have a Race handling style that is faster in corners, satisfying, and feels amazing while also creating a new way of initiating drift with multiple layers of mastery. We are really happy with the results and we hope that you will enjoy it too.

Tune in next time to hear about the new performance customization (no speed cards!), handling parts, exhaust tuning and engine swaps!

Stay Tuned
Ghost Driving Experience Team

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