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Need for Speed Payback is the 2017 iteration of Need for Speed, released for the Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and Windows PC. It is also a launch title of sorts for the Xbox One X.

The twenty-third installment in the Need for Speed franchise, Payback takes cues from the feedback Ghost Games has received from the 2015 reboot, which was met with incredibly mixed reception. It is a decidedly Darker and Edgier installment compared to its predecessor, and is far more story-driven, in a similar fashion to The Run.

The story starts with Tyler "Ty" Morgan, Sean "Mac" McAlister, Jessica "Jess" Miller, Ravindra "Rav" Chaudhry, and Lina Navarro, all setting up to steal the Koenigsegg Regera of Marcus Weir, a.k.a. The Gambler, from him during a race. However, Lina double-crosses the crew, knocks out Rav and reveals her true allegiance to the House, an all-powerful cartel that controls Fortune Valley and its casinos, criminals, and law enforcement, so much so it can alter a street race's outcome on a whim by bribing other racers with boatloads of cash and fame. Six months after the failed score, Tyler is a valet for Marcus, having allied with him to find the perfect moment to strike against the House. Therefore, he decides to get the crew back together to bring down the cartel, and exact revenge against Lina.

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An artist can turn a pile of tropes into a video game:

  • Alpha Bitch: Natalia Nova of the 1% Club is 101% this trope. She trash talks anyone who challenges her, especially Tyler, even when she's been bested by them before.
  • Aluminium Christmas Trees: One story mission requires the main characters to steal two cars: a Mercedes-AMG G 63 and a Lamborghini Aventador, both completely wrapped in gold, are part of The Collector's collection and have mysterious technology under their bonnets. These gold cars actually do exist in real life, albeit as a status symbol of the rich.
  • Always Night: Averted; unlike its predecessor, this game implements a day/night cycle.
  • Amazon Brigade: The Free Ember Militia are this - their members are all women. They avert Straw Feminist though - they don't reject a race with men, and are willing to help a male (Tyler) win the Outlaw's Rush.
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  • Arc Words: "I got this." Spoken mainly by Tyler at key moments during the plot as a show of confidence. Whether he's actually got this is up to the player.
  • Area 51: Airfield 73 is the defunct example of this. A former top-secret US Air Force base in the middle of the desert, Airfield 73 now serves as Rav's workshop and base of operations for Tyler's crew. It's also the namesake of League 73:
    Udo Roth: We used to sneak in there and scope the UFOs back when it was still a secret military base.
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: Tyler's Enemies List includes Navarro, for betraying him, Vasilev, for betraying him, and Mac, for borrowing his favorite wrench without permission once. He insists it counts as betraying him.
  • Back for the Finale: Every Street League except for Shift Lock shows up again during the Outlaw's Rush in some capacity: the bosses of the three House-aligned Leagues (Holtzman, Mitko Vasilev and Natalia Nova) are called in by Lina to take out Tyler in the first leg of the Rush, while League 73, the Free Ember Militia, Riot Club, Noise Bomb, Graveyard Shift and the Silver Six come to his aid during the second.
  • Bandito: The Graveyard Shift base themselves around the Mexican celebration Dia de los Muertos. Their cars are adorned with colourful skull patterns.
  • The Beautiful Elite: The One-Percent Club. Membership is restricted to rich kids, debutantes and Internet celebrities, and only supercars are allowed.
  • Brand X: The performance upgrade system replaces real-life manufacturers with unique ones which offer specific bonus when used in three or all six upgrade slots. Americana (red) increases Nitrous and Air, Carbon (green) increases Acceleration and Air, Chidori (pink) increases Acceleration and Brakes, Nextech (blue) increases Speed and Brakes, and Outlaw (orange) increases Speed and Nitrous.
  • The Bus Came Back:
    • Neon lights and tire smoke make a reappearance, albeit as cosmetic vanity items.
    • Aki Kimura, a boss character from ProStreet, reappears as a crew boss for Mac to encounter.
  • But Not Too Foreign: Ravindra Chaudhry is this, of the ethnically/culturally different variation. He was born to Bengali parents in Singapore, and moved to the US after a few years working for an East Asian Private Military Contractor.
  • The Cameo: YouTube personalities Jesse Wellensnote  and Jake Paul are in the game as roaming racers. Beating the former earns the player the "Pranked" achievement (a Shout-Out to his channel PrankvsPrank).
  • Captain Ersatz: Early in the game, a character by the name of HashTiger appears to be one for the many online personalities famous for their relevance to car culture in general.
  • The Cavalry: During the off-road leg of the Outlaw's Rush, Tyler ends up with the entire Fortune Valley police force chasing him. However, when he comes at the airfield, Udo Roth of League 73 and Faith Jones of Free Ember Militia break in and take down some of the police units, with Mac T-boning the remaining units with a semi-truck. After that, it is revealed that Graveyard Shift, Silver Six, Riot Club and Noise Bomb are also indirectly helping Tyler and the crew by distracting and taking down the other police officers in the other parts of Fortune Valley, preventing reinforcements from coming against Tyler.
  • Competitive Balance: There are six distinct car classes (five in the main game and one from an expansion), each built for certain tasks and driven by each of the three protagonists.
    • Race: The most straightforward car class, these cars are built for top-class racing performance, with great all-around performance. The Street Leagues that specialize in this class are Graveyard Shift, the Silver Six, and the One Percent Club. One of the two classes that Tyler drives.
    • Off-Road: Higher suspensions and better air-time means improved handling on dirt roads. League 73, Free Ember Militia and Hazard Company specialize in this class. One of the two classes that Mac drives in the main game.
    • Drift: These cars sacrifice top speed for superior drifting capabilities, and are used for setting high scores in Drift events. The Street leagues that specialize in this class are Shift Lock and Noise Bomb. The other main class Mac drives.
    • Drag: Straight-line speed, explosive acceleration, massive Nitrous tanks and wheelies are these cars' name of the game. They can't handle corners whatsoever though. The Street Leagues that specialize in this class are Riot Club and the Diamond Block. The other class Tyler drives.
    • Runner: The perfect anti-cops weapon, these cars have excellent stealth capabilities and can put up a good fight against even the toughest of enforcers. Understandably enough, this is the only car class to not have any specialized Street Leagues. The only class that Jess drives.
    • Speedcross: Made for precision handling and incredible stunts. Best described as a hybrid of the Off-Road and Drift classes. Naturally, Mac drives this class.
  • Chase Scene: A number of the missions involve fleeing from the cops and/or the House's thugs.
  • Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: After appearing in the 2015 reboot, Ferrari and Toyota are completely absent in Payback.
  • Conspicuous Consumption: The Collector. Not only does he have the aforementioned gold Mercedes-AMG G 63 and Lamborghini Aventador, he's even willing to blow them up in order to eliminate Tyler's crew.
  • Continuity Nod: At various points in the story, characters from previous Need for Speed games appear or are mentioned:
    • In one of Jess' Runner missions, she eavesdrops on a conversation with Cross from Most Wanted (2005), now a member of the Silver Rock PD. He expresses disgust with the flagrant level of corruption in the department, however, and vows to quit and return to Rockport.
    • Bull, also from Most Wanted, is one of the racers at the Outlaw's Rush.
    • During Tyler's livestreamed race against Natalia Nova, Natalia at one point reads a chat donation from a WolfTFK, one of the crew bosses in Carbon.
    • When Aki Kimura boasts that no one has ever beaten "The Drift King", Mac reminds him of his defeat at the hands of the ProStreet protagonist, Ryan Cooper. Aki is quick to assert that that was a long time ago and no one's done it since.
    • Cooper later joins the Outlaw's Rush as one of the participants, along with Nate Denver (the Speed King).
    • The Curator even states that those who committed great achievements in the Need for Speed universe, such as clearing out the Blacklist, beating the Showdown King (ProStreet, well, Cooper is there) and participating in the Run (The Run) are welcomed to the Outlaw's Rush.
  • Cool Car: It's Need for Speed, of course there's this trope aplenty. While sadly Payback doesn't feature Ferraris or Toyotas, it more than makes up with a robust selection of cars instantly familiar to anyone who's played/read/watched popular racing video games/manga/films, ranging from fan favourites such as the BMW E46 M3 (albeit not the GTR variant) and Lamborghini Diablo SV, awesome drift-capable imports like the Nissan Skyline GT-R BNR32, cool muscles such as the Dodge Charger R/T, powerful behemoths like the Koenigsegg Regera, and diamonds in the rough in the form of Derelict cars, which, fully upgraded, can even put the hypercars to shame.
  • Corrupt Hick: Holtzman of the Hazard Company is this. His members are all "rednecks who can't drive" with the gift of self-driving cars by the House, and he's rich enough to own Fortune Valley's solar power plant and be commissioned by the House to build the Ark tower, which, when completed, will be the tallest in the valley.
  • The Cracker: Shift Lock. An expy of Anonymous intent to bring down the House via technoanarchy and drifting. Their boss the Underground Soldier helps Jess with uncovering the House's plans.
  • Cut Lex Luthor a Check: The House has access to impressive technology, up to self-driving car technology that works both at high speeds and off-road, but never seems to do more than use it to rig street races being bet on. Of course, there's the fact that they're actually testing the cars for a larger organisation…
  • Cut the Juice: Fortune Valley Police Department Corvette Interceptors possess killswitches, which will disable any vehicle it targets. One is later fitted to a police helicopter during Operation Skyhammer. Rav developed the technology back when he worked in a defence company.
  • Darker and Edgier: Payback is arguably one of the darkest entries in the franchise so far (competing with Undercover and The Run), which is especially astonishing considering how light-hearted the 2015 reboot was. How dark? "The Syndicate having a firm grip on a Las Vegas expy with rigged races, self-driving cars and military-grade electromagnetic pulse killswitch technology supplied by a mysterious organisation"-dark. It's so dark, Cross couldn't stand working with the police (also under said syndicate's wing) and went back to Rockport.
  • Defeat Means Friendship: Upon the conclusion of a Street League's questline, Tyler or Mac will receive a phone call from the League's boss saying that they've earned their trust and will support them in their fight against the House, with the exception of the One Percent Club, Diamond Block and Hazard Company, the three Street Leagues that have connections to the House itself. During the second leg of the Outlaw's Rush, the leagues not affiliated with the House (with the exception of Shift Lock) even pull The Cavalry to keep the police off Tyler's six.
  • Developers' Foresight: Wheelie bars on Drag-class cars limit the angle at which the car wheelie. This depends on the wheelie bar's placement: the lower it is, the smaller the angle of the wheelie.
  • Dirty Cop: In a surprising first for the series, the cops here are explicitly noted to be villainous, with The House having most of the Fortune Valley Police Department on their payroll. The cops chase the protagonists solely on The House's orders on more than one occasion, and Navarro mentions having the Police Chief under her thumb at one point. Makes sense why there are no free roam pursuits in the game, now does it?
  • Disc-One Nuke: Eddie's Skyline, which the game outright gives you if you have a save from the previous game... The second you unlock the garage. It starts out with a performance level of 319 note .
  • Drives Like Crazy: A series staple since the 2015 reboot, the game encourages you to drive dangerously to earn REP.
  • Dummied Out: Six cars - the BMW M3 E30 Evolution, the Mazda RX-7 FD Spirit R, the Nissan Skyline 2000GT-R, the Plymouth Barracuda, the Volvo 242 and the Volvo Amazon P130 - were originally announced for the game, but aren't available to the player at launch. Ghost confirmed they withheld them from the full game due to bugs, and are releasing them once said bugs are sorted out as "Abandoned Cars", where players have a limited time to find them lying around in Fortune Valley and drive them back to the garage at Airfield 73 while being chased by the cops.
  • Even Evil Has Standards:
    • Cross, surprisingly. In a recorded conversation, he's so disturbed as to how the Dirty Cops of Fortune Valley are handling things concerning street racers, that he's resigned himself to going back to Rockport.
    • The FVPD may be on the House's payroll, but they're not insane enough to lock down one street racer and ignore the dozens more that are running rampage in the region (mainly to prevent the police from chasing the target).
  • Faux Affably Evil: Holtzman, the boss of Hazard Company. He acts cordial and respectful towards Mac, with none of the arrogance shown by Nova or Vasilev, and is remarkably frank about his illicit involvement with the House. It's all a front though, to convince Mac to join the House as a racer, and when Mac doesn't bite he turns nasty very quickly.
  • Fire-Forged Friends: The Silver 6. They were six rivaling leagues based in Silver Rock, until the House ousted them. They have since joined forces.
  • Freudian Trio: Payback's protagonist trio is set up as this.
  • Greater-Scope Villain: The Collector, the leader of the House - and Lina's employer - who has his hands on the entire Fortune Valley. Then Arkwright is introduced in the final cutscene, with both the Collector and Marcus Weir being revealed to be competing for a spot in the organization.
  • I Lied: During the final leg of the Outlaw's Rush, The Collector, realising that there is nothing Lina can do to stop Tyler from winning the race, calls Ty directly and offers riches and Lina's position in the House as a bribe to take a dive and let Lina win instead. If you actually take him up on it, you get a Non-Standard Game Over where he calls you an idiot for thinking he'd actually keep his end of the bargain.
  • I Know Mortal Kombat: After a very brief tutorial on drifting from Mac, HashTiger demands to be taken on a "real" drift run, confident that he can handle it because he's "played a lot of racing games." Naturally, he gets sick after only a few corners.
  • It's Personal with the Dragon: Initially, Tyler doesn't care at all about taking down the House, and only sees them as an obstacle towards settling his score with Lina, instead of the other way around. It takes "seeing her drive away after blowing his house up" to convince him to get into the plan. Even after the scope of The Collector's schemes are revealed, it's Navarro that the game sets up as the primary antagonist and Final Boss.
  • Lemming Cops: Police chases involve the cops trying to run the player off the road and into obstacles, and they show no regard for their own safety in doing so.
  • Lethal Joke Character: The Derelict Volkswagen Beetle in Race class. It's an old, unassuming junker of a car at first glance but when fully upgraded, it has explosive acceleration, nitrous power and cornering abilities on par with the Porsche 911 Carrera RSR, at the cost of unpredictable drifting physics. Even with this setback, if you put in the time to master the Beetle, you can put Regera and 911 RSR drivers to shame with it.
  • Lured into a Trap: Tyler's crew, thrice:
    • Lina set them up in the Prologue so that she can deliver the Regera to the Collector.
    • Lina sets the crew up once more via la Catrina (Ty), a member of L73 (Mac) and a client of Jess' so their cars can become test subjects of a helicopter-mounted EMP killswitch device.
    • Lina and the Collector lure them in again with two bomb-rigged gold cars as bait.Fortunately, the bombs are removable.
  • Magikarp Power: The Derelict cars obtainable in the game. Stock they are merely subpar, with at the very least 100 performance points. But they are the only vehicles that can be configured for all car classes, and with the right upgrades, can become borderline Game Breakers in the own right.
  • The Man Behind the Man: Mr. Kobashi, the supplier for the House's advanced performance technology. It's telling that The Collector refers to him as Kobashi-sama and demands that he be treated "greater than royalty."
  • My Name Is Not Durwood: Mac calls HashTiger "Hush Puppy", much to the latter's annoyance.
  • Nebulous Criminal Conspiracy: As Jess uncovers more of the House's operations in her Runner questline, it's revealed that the Houses schemes go far beyond rigging street races. In fact, the House are just pawns for a mysterious organization called Arkwright, who are using the House's fixed races as a test bed for the development of mass-produced autonomous vehicles controlled by them, using advanced tech hidden in aftermarket Chidori brand parts supplied by a Mr. Kobashi.
  • Never Trust a Trailer:
    • The gameplay trailer ends with Jess, driving Marcus' Koenigsegg Regera, facing an oncoming group of police cars and a helicopter after stealing it back from the House. In-game, if you're good enough, you won't have to tackle the cops in that mission.
    Mac: Jess, that's a hell lot of cops on your tail. You sure you can handle this?
    Jess: In this car? They'll never keep up.
    • The Gamescom trailer features Tyler being chased by the Fortune Valley PD after the conclusion of a street race. No such chase exists in the final product due to the lack of police presence in free roam.
  • Nice Guy: The bosses of the seven leagues that are not linked to the House. Unlike the three House-affiliated leagues who trashtalk Tyler, Mac and Jess on sight, these guys are cordial throughout with the crew, as well as voice, and later, lend their support to Tyler in the Outlaw's Rush. Expected in the case of Gallo of the Silver 6, who grew up with Tyler in the barrio and had several capers when they were young; but a good example is la Catrina of Graveyard Shift, who led Tyler into a House trap but was later forgiven.
  • Non-Idle Rich: Diamond Block, very dangerously. Rich foreigners who drag race with their supercars on the highways of Fortune Valley, often at the cost of the safety of other road users.
  • Otaku Surrogate: Riot Club, consisting of Korean-Americans, are fans of Korean pop culture. League leader Big Sister calls Tyler "Big Brother", and peppers her sentences with Korean slangs like "fighting" (in this sense the word is used to cheer on someone).
  • Police are Useless: Despite the main characters blatantly disregarding the speed limits, ploughing through street signs and fences, and basically violating every traffic law in the book, the police do not show up outside of scripted chase scenes, when they are sicced on the protagonists by the House.
  • Precision F-Strike: Downplayed. The F-word is absent, much like the rest of the NFS series, however:
    • Tyler almost blurts out "shit" when the House truck carrying Marcus' Regera his crew is retrieving goes on a rampage. Almost.
    • Natalia exclaims "Son of a bitch!" if Tyler challenges her to a race while roaming.
  • Punch-Clock Villain: The Fortune Valley Police Department. Sure they're in the Collector's pocket and frequently dispatched to deal with the racers, but at the end of the day these are just regular policemen doing their job.
  • Sequel Hook: In the final cutscene, a certain Kobashi calls Marcus and compliments him on his gamble against the House, and welcomes him to Arkwright.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Suddenly Voiced: Aki Kimura, the boss of the Tier 2 Drift League Noise Bomb. He never spoke a word in ProStreet, but in Payback, Kimura has plenty of dialogue.
  • Surrounded by Idiots: Rav almost completes the sentence when he realises the crew lose their original cars and asks them to get new cars from his garage.
  • The Syndicate: The House is a cartel that has seized control of and rigged Fortune Valley's street-racing scene, has the city's police force and politicians in its pocket, and is seeking to buy out and rig the casinos and establishing international criminal ties.
  • A Taste of Power: The game's first mission has Ty stealing a souped-up Koenigsegg Regera from casino owner Marcus Weir, and another mission involves him stealing it back from the House. The Regera puts every other car to shame in the speed department (except for a fully modified 911 RSR), and is only purchasable in the post-game. Tyler also gets to drive Marcus' Aston Martin DB11 (as a valet) and later a modified BMW M4 F82 GTS before they are unlocked.
  • Thrill Seeker: While this applies to pretty much every racer for why they do what they do:
    • Special mention goes to the Free Ember Militia, who live by the motto “It’s not racing if you’re not gripping the wheel for dear life.” Best shown when their leader, Faith Jones, informs Mac that one of her girls wiped out on a huge jump earlier "so we (the Militia plus Mac, that is) all gotta try it now."
    • The drag-racing League Diamond Block offers a darker take on this attitude. They are made up of bored rich assholes who care more about their own enjoyment than the lives and safety of anyone caught up in their reckless antics; their leader scoffs that pedestrians "will either get out of the way... or they won't" and makes it clear that he doesn't care either way.
    • Jess is revealed to enjoy police chases. Her first such thrill was stealing a police car and getting on the business end of a 20-car pursuit. She just turned nineteen on that day. And she was in the police academy.
  • Uncertain Doom: After the Outlaw's Rush, Lina Navarro threatens to expose the Collector's dark secrets if he ditches her. She promptly finds herself surrounded by House thugs with no way out, but the cutscene ends before it's revealed what they do to her.
  • Vanity License Plate: Just like the previous game, Payback allows the thorough customization of license plates for every car owned. Along with the plate designs that debuted in Rivals and the frames from the 2015 reboot, this game also introduces designs based on the covers of those two games along with the default Fortune Valley design.
  • Variable Mix: Like with Rivals and the 2015 reboot, the playable songs switch according to your current activity, but it goes much deeper than that: the type of music you hear doesn't just switch in between different game modes, but they also switch according to your current location and the time of day.
  • Villain Ball: In the hands of the Collector. Rigging two expensive gold-wrapped cars he knows will be stolen with removable bombs, trying to bribe the person who's about to defeat his racer even though he knows that person wouldn't budge, seriously.
  • Viva Las Vegas!: The game's fictitious Nevadan region called Fortune Valley, which includes Silver Rock City and is evocative of the usual Nevada settings (a glitzy, neon-lit city of gambling and high stakes). Beyond the casinos lie vast regions of deserts and canyonlands in the surrounding area, including expies of the Hoover Dam and Area 51.
  • The Xenophile: League 73. Back when Airfield 73 was still Area 51 by any other name they used to sneak in to look for Flying Saucers. It was this activity that inspired their name.
  • You Have Researched Breathing: After two full online-only installments lacking this feature, Payback finally brought back the ability to pause the game in its entirety. Helps that the game is not online-only.

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