Ever since the Need for Speed franchise was put in the very capable hands of Criterion, the games have delivered a very awesome mash-up of NFS and Burnout. Brought to us by a new developer, Ghost Games, comprised of both EA and Criterion members, does Rivals carry on that tradition?
Where Most Wanted gave players a city which transformed into a high speed playground, Rivals shifts back to the style of Hot Pursuit, which presents a large county to drive across comprised of highways and winding roads along mountain and forest paths. It's only slightly disappointing if you were looking for an experience similar to Burnout. With that said, Redview County still gives players a lot of open road to take on the competition in blistering high speed.
Cop or Racer, the choice is yours
Rivals gives you the option to switch back and forth between campaigns of either racing against the law or for it. Each campaign comes with a set of challenges and unlock progressions. Each chapter allows the player to pick a certain Speedlist challenge. As a cop, you can choose between Patrol, Enforcer and Undercover. Each one of these will come with a different set of objectives, like taking down a set amount of racers, or earning Speed Points. Racer challenges revolve more around speed and driving dangerously, like completing a long single drift or driving in the opposite lane
Each time a Speedlist Challenge is complete, you advance to the next, unlocking the ability to purchase new cars and mods as a racer, or free cars as a cop. The better you do ties into how many Speed Points you earn, which is the game's main form of currency.
A little dash of Mario Kart
Both racers and cops get access to various gadgets called Pursuit Tech. These upgradeable items can be equipped to better handle the competition. Why just pass your opponents when you can take them down with a well timed EMP blast? Maybe a bunch of racers are giving you trouble and you're having a hard time bringing them to justice. Lay down a spike strip or call in a road block to take them down.
The reward is in the risk
Each time you set out to complete a Speedlist as a racer, you run the risk of being busted and losing all your hard earned Speed Points. However, the more dangerously you drive, the higher the multiplier runs, which can result in a hefty reward.
It's all about risk and reward. Do you drive back to your hideout after completing your objectives to bank your Speed Points, or do you put them on the line and keep on driving in hopes to increase your multiplier and score a higher reward to buy new upgrades and cars. This risk system is a wonderful way to keep you on edge.
Bringing people together with Alldrive
A new feature found first in Rivals is the games answer to an always-on, seamless multiplayer experience, which actually sounds a lot better on paper than it works in execution. As soon as you boot up the game, it will attempt to put you in a lobby with other players. However the player count is rather limited. Capped out at six, with three being racers and three cops, it's not always easy to find one another.
When you do though, the result is fantastic. It's one thing going up against a skilled AI opponent, but another entirely when taking on another player. Going head to head as another player tries to bust you as a cop is easily one of the more exhilarating experiences. The game also constantly works at trying to make sure the world is always populated, in case someone drops out.
It's a shame that Ghost Games couldn't figure out a way to increase the player count, as having the entire map populated with other players would have certainly been more interesting.
The car list is rather limited
Ferrari fans can rejoice since this is the first time the maker will be in a NFS game since 2002. However, the car count is really low. At just over 50 cars for racers and cops (cops get more because of multiple versions of each car), that's a rather disappointing amount. At least all of them are actually cars I want to drive. You'll get behind the wheels of cars like the 2011 Ferrari 458 Spider, 2013 McLaren P1, and 2014 Porsche 918 Spyder. There most likely won't be a car you won't want to try out at least once.
Redview County has a slight case of deja vu
If you've played Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit, then you might find yourself slightly disappointed with Rivals' Redview County. Not only is it roughly the same size, it's really not all that different. The reason Most Wanted was so refreshing, at least for the Need for Speed franchise, is because it offered gamers a playground of possibilities, very much like Burnout Paradise. Redview lacks this variety and really offers nothing more than scattered speed traps and jumps.
Even so, the map is littered with races and challenges to take on, as well as tons of other racers which can be challenged with a single button press for an impromptu race. Rest assured that you won't run out of things to do in Redview.
The devil's in the details
Redview County has to be one of the most humid places in Need for Speed history. Every car, no matter it's location, glistens with droplets of water, as if each car was sweating from exhaustion. This is no doubt to showcase the game's attention to detail, not to mention the raw power of next-gen consoles, but it's somewhat weird your car is never fully dry. Ever.
Racing games always put emphasis on the cars first and environment second, but Ghost Games outdid themselves with both the environments and weather effects. Driving through the forest draped in large trees as leaves are blowing by you and the sun glistening through the branches is truly a sight to behold. Add in a thunderstorm and you'll truly be wowed by the game's weather effects. The wind is almost tangible as it throws various debris across the the road, and the rain pounds the road, creating reflective puddles. Out of all the games I've played on next-gen consoles, Rivals is easily one of the more impressive ones.
For a game that touts speed in its name, Need for Speed: Rivals delivers on every front. It's gorgeous, fast and definitely furious.
[Reviewed on PlayStation 4]
*The game was reviewed with the DualShock 4. It is important to note that NFS Rivals does not support any wheel peripherals.