While “Heat” took place in a coastal Miami-like city, “Unbound” moves to Lakeshore, an obvious proxy for Chicago. The downtown area of the map looks gorgeous, especially at night. Lit skyscrapers make up your horizon, and painted lanterns add characteristic flavor to the Chinatown area.
Occasionally, you’ll catch a beautiful sunset over Lakeshore’s harbor. It all blends perfectly with the Frostbite engine’s advanced lighting, and the presentation is wonderful. Forested areas, rock quarries, and driveable rain gutters add some more variety to the city’s outskirts.
In a gameplay context, the Lakeshore map isn’t very large, and this isn’t necessarily a problem. For instance, Criterion’s own “Burnout Paradise” crams a ton of action into its Paradise City map which would be considered tiny nowadays. However, Lakeshore doesn’t live up to that standard. Despite being small, it lacks variance in gameplay, and fairly recent titles like “The Crew 2” manage to outclass it in both map size and density.
There’s very little verticality while driving. I would’ve liked to see some under-construction skyscrapers that allow the player to drive up and through them, plus more opportunities for jumps. The rain gutter areas are some of the only places it felt like the designers really got creative. The environment in Unbound is one of the most beautiful I’ve seen, but the gameplay underneath is actually quite bland and by the numbers. It’s like cutting into an expensive multi-tiered cake only to realize that the batter underneath is dry and unflavored.