EA’s new Need for Speed leaks, looks full-on anime

An anime-style male racer wearing a blue jacket and beanie stands in front of a heavily decorated car in a screenshot from Need for Speed Unbound
Image: Criterion/Electronic Arts

Listing suggests it’s a new-generation console launch only

The next Need for Speed will lean hard into an anime aesthetic, if the screens from an overseas product listing are any indication.

On Wednesday, members of the Need for Speed subreddit spotted the leaked listing for Need For Speed Unbound via Japanese retailer Neowing. The listing says the new game will launch in December. Electronic Arts has an announcement coming Thursday at 11 a.m. EDT, when it will reveal more about the next game.

The Neowing site included five screenshots, watermarked NFS Unbound, showing a variety of tuned-up vehicles, presented realistically, but with cel-shaded, anime-style drivers and other NPCs in the frame. In one screen, a street racer throws hand-drawn, star-shaped sparks and its tires leave a two-dimensional smoke trail as it takes a corner.

According to a machine-translated product description of Need for Speed Unbound, the game will feature music (and an in-game appearance) from rapper A$AP Rocky, with a soundtrack produced by Brodinski, a French composer and DJ.

A cartoonish version of rapper A$AP Rocky leans on a customized street car, with A$AP and AWGE branded stickers, on a slick city street.
Image: Criterion/Electronic Arts
Rapper A$AP Rocky will apparently appear in NFS Unbound

“Bringing graffiti to life in a completely new visual style, merging the latest street art with the most realistic cars in Need for Speed ​​history,” the description says, explaining the unorthodox visual style.

“Go to meetups and show off your style with many items, including limited edition gear, from the world’s latest fashion,” the listing adds. “Then add the finishing touches to your car’s style, transforming it with unique wraps and cut-out items to match your legendary custom car, and take the lead in races and put your winning pose above the competition.”

Neowing’s page lists only PlayStation 5 for Need for Speed Unbound, which suggests the game might be a new-generation launch only. Every mainline Need For Speed game, going back to the series’ beginning in 1994, has launched on Windows PC, too. Polygon on Tuesday reached out to an Electronic Arts representative for more details on the next Need for Speed, but the publisher declined to comment, other than mentioning the countdown to Thursday’s reveal.

The leaked screens confirm that the game is developed by Criterion Games (which includes Codemasters Cheshire, which EA acquired in 2021). Criterion’s latest Need for Speed originally targeted a 2021 launch, until EA assigned Criterion to support EA DICE with last November’s Battlefield 2042.

A promotional screenshot for Need For Speed Unbound shows a street racer against a blurred background, with hand-drawn star shapes over its spinning wheels
Image: Criterion/Electronic Arts
This image from a Japanese retailer’s early product listing shows the merging of realistic vehicles’ presentation with anime-style highlights and accents in ‘Need For Speed Unbound’

Still, until Tuesday’s teaser tweet, EA made no announcement about the next Need for Speed title other than telling investors one was coming by the end of 2022.

The Need for Speed franchise was sent back to Criterion Games after , the last of three titles developed by the now-dissolved Ghost Games. None of the three generated the kind of critical or commercial reception that Criterion’s Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit (in 2010) or 2012’s Need for Speed: Most Wanted delivered.

Over the past 10 years, Criterion Games has mainly been known for supporting DICE on Battlefield 5, Battlefield 2042 andStar Wars Battlefront 2. Its most recent racing titles were the 2018 remaster of the open-world classic Burnout Paradise, and a 2020 remaster of Hot Pursuit.