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Need for Speed (NFS) is a racing video game franchise published by Electronic Arts and developed by Ghost Games. The series centers around illicit street racing and in general tasks players to complete various types of races while evading the local law enforcement in police pursuits. The series released its first title, The Need for Speed in 1994. The most recent game, Need for Speed Payback, was released on November 10, 2017.

The series has been overseen and had games developed by multiple notable teams over the years including EA Black Box and Criterion Games, the developers of Burnout. The franchise has been critically well received and is one of the most successful video game franchises of all time, selling over 150 million copies of games. Due to its strong sales, the franchise has expanded into other forms of media including a film adaptation and licensed Hot Wheels toys.

Almost all of the games in the NFS series employ the same fundamental rules and similar mechanics: the player controls a race car in a variety of races, the goal being to win the race. In the tournament/career mode, the player must win a series of races in order to unlock vehicles and tracks. Before each race, the player chooses a vehicle and has the option of selecting either an automatic or manual transmission. All games in the series have some form of multiplayer mode allowing players to race one another via a split screen, a LAN or the Internet. Since Need for Speed: High Stakes, the series has also integrated car body customization into gameplay.

Although the games share the same name, their tone and focus can vary significantly. For example, in some games the cars can suffer mechanical and visual damage, while in other games the cars cannot be damaged at all; in some games, the software simulates real-car behavior (physics), while in others there are more forgiving physics.

With the release of Need for Speed: Underground, the series shifted from racing sports cars on scenic point-to-point tracks to an import/tuner subculture involving street racing in an urban setting. To date, this theme has remained prevalent in most of the following games.

Need for Speed: Shift and its sequel took a simulator approach to racing, featuring closed-circuit racing on real tracks like the N?rburgring and the Laguna Seca, and fictional street circuits in cities like London and Chicago. The car lists include a combination of exotics, sports cars, and tuners in addition to special race cars.

Most of the games in the franchise include police pursuits in some form or other. In some of the games featuring police pursuit (e.g. Need for Speed III: Hot Pursuit), the player can play as either the felon or the cop. The concepts of drifting and dragging were introduced in Need for Speed: Underground. These new mechanics are included in the tournament/career mode aside from the regular street races. Drift races, in games like Need for Speed: Underground and Need for Speed (2015), the player must defeat other racers by totaling the most points, earned by the length and timing of the drift made by the player's vehicle.[5] In drag races, the player must finish first to win the race, though if the player crashes into an obstacle or wall, the race ends. In the recent game Need for Speed: Payback, the player has to earn a certain amount of points to win; increase their multiplier based on how many points they get, whist passing through a limited amount of checkpoints.

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