By randomizing the selection of available upgrades, Payback radically alters the structure of a Need for Speed game by compelling players to dutifully check tune-up shops to browse the latest supply of speed cards as stock is refreshed every ten minutes (originally a whopping thirty minutes before criticism). In previous games, players typically upgrade their vehicles intermittently, usually at the moment when their car can no longer keep up with increasingly demanding competitors. In Payback, Ghost Games interweaves the economic logic of artificial scarcity into gameplay so that the experience of play is one of anticipating shop restocks like scalpers queuing up for concert tickets or designer sneakers, knowing that supply is limited. As speed cards can only be purchased at one of four shops peppered throughout an expansive map, a fair portion of the game must be spent running these errands to keep up with the demands of player progression through the campaign. By forcing players to make this long drive out to one of a handful of shops, Payback conceals the irritating, ten-minute restock times by positioning the player behind the wheel rather than counting down the clock within a menu screen.
Read the full column at Haywire Magazine.