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Need for Speed and the crushing fear of my inevitable midlife crisis

Matt Martin plays the latest Need for Speed and can feel himself aging by the second.


Need for Speed was bewildering. Voice actors infinitely cooler and younger than I'll ever be called me "brother" and shouted "yo" at me. "The night's nearly over, brother". Alright! I felt a bit like a dad doing 'rap hands' when he hears someone mention Kanye West.

I raced an impossibly fast Porsche around the dark streets with cops on my tail. I was badass and a shit driver all at the same time. Hitting trashcans is fine, but I was steering head-on into a brick wall. I had no idea what I was doing.

I was earning Rep though. Rep! Fuckin-A I was. Haven't got a clue what I'm meant to be doing with it but I earned as shit-tonne in under seven minutes. Like, over 60,000 Rep points. I'll probably use it to impress lasses in a nightclub or something. Because I'm cool, yo.

I've only played Need for Speed for seven minutes. That's how long the demo lasted. I raced other people online. We crashed into each other. The Chemical Brothers were playing on the in-car gramophone. It's such a throwback to the heady days of Need for Speed Underground that it has an electronica soundtrack. Beside, electronica and The Chemical Brothers are still cool, aren't they? I don't know, but they remind me of the Sunday Social and poppers and Big Beat and shouting lager lager lager lager like it's the mid 90s. Fucking great times, man.

My history is completely out of alignment here. The best times I've had playing Need for Speed were during the Underground days and yet this latest version reminds me of 20 years ago when I was getting slapped around the face by girls in college and buying pills from a man down the snooker club. The memories that games spark in me are precious.


I mean I'm basically having a midlife crisis. I'm 41 and I write about video games for a living and it's great fun but I'm not sure how I'm going to keep getting away with it. Most other games journalists my age went on to work in PR or write actual games you've played, but I've never wanted to move into development. I enjoy writing and running and travelling and listening to hip-hop. So long as I can continue to do those things I'm happy. Life goals are over-rated.

I'm playing Need for Speed in a line of ten players and I'm clearly the oldest. Some of these guys have cool waxed hipster beards. I just have a stupid moustache growing above my lip. I look ridiculous. The guy to my left is wearing a baseball cap backwards. I wish I could get away with wearing a baseball cap backwards. Someone once said I look like a little boy trying to dress like his dad and that's never felt more true than at this moment. I am a randomised avatar.

I bought a skateboard the other month. I went down a steep hill on it and had to bail when I got a speed wobble. You'll probably see me soon with scabs and a limp and think "aah, he's had a fall." I'm basically Grandpa Simpson in a baseball cap. I don't want to die.

And I tell you what else is cool about Need for Speed but this is a daft thing to say because it's so obvious: it's fast! Like, fast as fuck. Blazingly fast. It's all the frames per second you could ask for. I customised a car too. Matte blue finish. Low air pressure in the rear tyres. A big ass spoiler on the back. I don't even drive in real life. What a chump.

But Need for Speed made me feel cool because I get into all of this for the escapism. What else are you going to do? We're all going to die. I'm already halfway there. I can hear my children in the future sighing when it's their turn to come and visit me. At some point a nurse will have to come and clean up my piss. Give me video games over that every day of the week. Take me away in your fast cars because no one here gets out alive.

After the Need for Speed demo I got a text message asking if I wanted to have a go on PlayStation VR. I thought Need for Speed made me feel old, but wait until I put a plastic helmet on my head and fight a 360-degree shark or whatever. If I die in the game I'll probably die in real life, right?

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