Need For Speed Rivals is a brand new title from EA that brings the NFS title racing into the “next-gen” era. We sat down with the PC version to have a look at what this latest installment in the hugely successful Need For Speed series.
Rivals is undoubtedly a paired down more focused iteration of the Need For Speed series. EA have boiled the game down to focus purely on the battle between Racers and Cops. While the game is 90% focused on the open world arcade gameplay there is a hint of a story. Throughout your progression through the game your relationship with your Rivals does too. The cut scenes showcase the battle behind the scenes as both teams gear up to take down their opposite number. The cut scenes are very weak and don’t add much to the game, I understand the reason they are there (to highlight the rising levels of competitiveness between the two rival factions), but they feel really lacklustre. The use of “online video” and social media in the cutscenes doesn’t work nearly as well as other games that have done the same (DiRT 3 or GRID 2).
As you fire up the game you are forced to go through a tutorial that really slowly spells out each part of the game. This frustrated me quite a bit as I was dying to put rubber on the road and feel the wind through my hair. Just when you think the tutorial is done you discover that you are forced to do it again for the other faction (cops/racer). This means that you have to sit through another nearly identical tutorial even if you never plan to play as the second faction. A very annoying start to the game that holds you back from getting stuck into some of the amazing gameplay.
In terms of unlockable content; there are a limited amount of cars (23 for racers and 24 for cops) that unlock fairly quickly, a selection of artwork, logos, paints and liveries to unlock as well as various technologies such as EMP guns and performance upgrades. However it’s not a huge amount of content and significantly less than previous NFS games.
This is really what Rivals is all about; harnessing the speed of a thoroughbred performance car and dicing through twisting roads and obstacles. Rivals takes EA’s Alldrive system to a new level providing an open world that always exists online. When you drop into a map you have a certain amount of AI controlled vehicles as well as a bunch of other real world players. While driving around you have the option of challenging any of these racer to a head-to-head race at the touch of a button.
Pull up together at an event starting point and you join it together. The beauty of this system is that is totally removes the concept of single player vs multiplayer and integrates the two into one world, one game. No more matchmaking or waiting while trying to find someone to race against. In fact 90% of the time it’s a split second decision made at breakneck speed as another racer flies up alongside you – “Yeah, why not…”
It’s not without glitches, as you would expect with an always online world you do have the problem of some cars popping in or out at stages or a server disconnect dropping you out of the game. These are not regular occurrences fortunately and I never lost any progression because of these errors which take s a lot of the would be frustration away.
Rivals works on a checkpoint based system, you leave your garage and go out into the world to earn points and tick off objectives laid out for you, once you have earned/done enough your return to your nearest garage to check in and save your earnings. If you get arrested or write your car off before you do so you lose what you have earned on that excursion. It adds a nice element of risk vs reward as you build your multiplayer and rack up points so does your heat level and the chance that you may lose everything.
The driving mechanics feel just like previous NFS games, a very arcade like experience that is not too challenging in itself, however the speeds that you can reach with the range of flying cop cars, other races, traffic and back routes mean that you always need to stay on your toes. THe cars handle beautifully and each have their own distinct feel and engine sound.
Need For Speed Rivals looks amazing. It is a beautiful game that is optimised exceptionally well for PC. My ageing GTX460 managed 30 FPS at 1920×1080 on Ultra settings (which proved perfectly playable) or 60 FPS on High settings.
The graphics as you can see in the screenshots are really impressive. The blur effects at high speed, the droplets of water on your car and even the swirling winds blowing autumn leaves across the road really make the game stand out from other racers.
While I have no doubt that Rivals will look gorgeous on both PS4 and Xbox One the fact of the matter is that the arcade style gameplay will make the game a great amount of fun even on the PS3 or Xbox 360. The game also has some very good audio effects, the sounds of the engines really provide some great realism while the soundtrack adds some punch to the experience and helps keep your foot on the accelerator.
Need For Speed Rivals was developed by Ghost Games and Criterion Games and was published by Electronic Arts. Our review is based on the PC version (also available on PS3, Xbox 360, WiiU, PS4 and Xbox One)