Need for Speed: Rivals


By: Joel Lauterbach    On: Xbox 360
Published: Monday 2 Dec 2013 5:08 PM
 
 
 
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It’s hard to believe, but the Need for Speed franchise is celebrating twenty installments with the arrival of Need for Speed Rivals. The illustrious series has had its ups and downs over the years, but in recent times it has really found its feet.

Need for Speed Rivals was developed by the new (Need for Speed dedicated) studio Ghost Games, with support from racing powerhouse Criterion Studios - the brains behind Burnout Paradise - and boy does it show. This is great news for gamers who are interested in a racer that takes itself less seriously than the more conservative Forza Motorsport series, for example, and as a result Rivals will appeal to motorheads and casual racers alike.

In Need for Speed Rivals, the police have been brought into the fold in a meaningful way, thanks to the inclusion of two separate campaigns. You alternate between playing as a local Police officer (either undercover or highway patrol - whichever you prefer), and illegal street racer. It’s a stretch to really call these modes a “career”, because the story is sparse and largely uninteresting, but they are both very unique and require a different playing style to be successful.

With regard to the setting of Need for Speed Rivals, it’s a wonderful open world with a diverse landscape of coastal and inland roads. The coast is dramatic and windswept, and this has been captured well. It’s not huge, but it’s very much fit for purpose. Traffic is pretty sparse, but given the speed and that there is no lack of cops trying to take you down or other racers trying to edge ahead, this is a good thing.

The career mode guides you through various challenges and rewards you by levelling up and unlocking new rides. Goals such as side-slamming racers, rear ending someone, or using your Pursuit Tech (weapons) are just some of those you'll encounter. Some new cars will come easily, while others you will really have to work for. The rides to unlock include some amazing vehicles from Ferrari, Porsche, Audi, BMW, Chevrolet, and more. It’s not a huge list, excluding the Police range - but that’s not what Need for Speed is about.

A great feature of the career mode is simply that the cars you're unlocking aren’t necessarily always better, so at times you might rather invest your coins in upgrading your current ride than cast it aside for something new. You won’t just be tweaking performance; Police and racers both have a bunch of upgradeable Pursuit Tech weapons installed in their vehicles which you can use while out on the road to take down other cars.

In the Police career don’t expect other drivers to pull over when you put your lights on - Need for Speed Rivals is about trading paint, and hard-hitting body slams. Using Pursuit Tech effectively is key to being a successful racer, but it's even more important when getting crucial takedowns as a cop. If you are racing as an undercover cop, you can blend with other racers until the opportune moment and then shut them down; you'll also get some support from the AI controlled Police force.

Pursuit Tech examples include the Electrostatic Field (which shuts down another racer's power) and the Shockwave (which blasts nearby cars into the barrier). Upgrades improve their impact, but they do need to be applied with some skill; timing and placement is everything. A total of eleven weapons means there is a fair bit of diversity on offer.

Need for Speed Rivals uses something called "Speed Points" as currency. Speed Points are earned for almost any action - powersliding, driving into on-coming traffic, using Pursuit Tech, destroying other racers, and - of course - winning events.

As a racer, you increase your wanted level (which doubles as a points multiplier) as time passes, which means the longer you stay active in the open world without returning to your garage, the more points you earn.

The Police, however, are onto this, and - as you increase your multiplier - they crank up their efforts to take you out. Get taken out, and you'll lose all of your unbanked Speed Points. This mechanic is a great way to add intensity to the game, and the “just one more race” mentality takes over as you put more and more at risk.

The world is well designed with shortcuts and alternative routes, which is easy enough to follow visually. Graphically, it looks great, and the frame-rate runs smoothly for the most part, with 30 frames-per-second having been the goal across all platforms. For current-gen the developers have done well to eke every inch of power out of the Xbox 360. The dynamic weather system changes things up from time to time, which adds a spark of unpredictability.

Gameplay is true Need for Speed style - arcade to the core. You can easily drift corners simply by tweaking the accelerator and the brake in combination - something that would have been impossible in a realistic simulation. I’m okay with that, because it’s just so damn awesome. It really makes Need for Speed a viable pick-up-and-play racer, but it still has the depth to satisfy those that want a bit more.

One of the newest - and possibly biggest - features of Need for Speed Rivals is the AllDrive feature. AllDrive allows you to seamlessly transition from a totally singleplayer experience to full-on multiplayer. Every time you play (while connected) you're launched into an online instance in which five other players are also racing around on the same map. You can opt out, but why would you? Each can do their own thing, only occasionally bumping into each other. Otherwise, someone playing as a cop can decide he wants to mix things up as you grease past him doing 200+km/h and engage in a chase.

While I love the idea, and I think it’s great to have a more living open world, the player cap is set at six - far too small a number to really feel immersively multiplayer on a map of this scale. I also did encounter some significant frame-rate and lag issues on occasion, possibly depending on who I was connected to as host, which made the game crawl at one stage for over a minute, which makes me wonder if the experience might be better on next-gen consoles.

Need for Speed Rivals is undoubtedly an impressive effort from Ghost Games. Creating an immersive open world racer with two distinct careers, and the even more ambitious AllDrive feature wouldn’t have been easy, and overall it works very well. The small player cap is disappointing in this day and age, but AllDrive shows real potential. The frame-rate issues I encountered were a downer on an otherwise impressive arcade racing game.


The Score

Need for Speed Rivals
"A great racer hindered by limited multiplayer"
7.5
Good
Rating: PG   Difficulty: Medium   Learning Curve: 5 Min

 

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Comments (18)

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whataboutki NZGamer.com VIP VIP
On Monday 2 Dec 2013 7:21 PM Posted by whataboutki
I've found myself becoming more and more complacent with Need for Speed games.
 
 
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SupTory88
On Monday 2 Dec 2013 9:03 PM Posted by SupTory88
ive started to like need for speed even more with each new game
 
 
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Vicx NZGamer.com VIP VIP Bronze
On Monday 2 Dec 2013 9:30 PM Posted by Vicx
to me NFS is simply "drive fast on straight long roads" and it's the same game every year. They never come close to Burnout so it's no surprise the best NFS yet was last year's Most Wanted which was developed by Criterion. Til then, bring on Drive Club.
 
 
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kiwiatlarge NZGamer.com VIP VIP Bronze
On Monday 2 Dec 2013 9:36 PM Posted by kiwiatlarge
I'd consider this if the price is right on PS4, but really I'm not looking at buying any cross gen games for PS3..
 
 
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daveyoc
On Monday 2 Dec 2013 10:19 PM Posted by daveyoc
Does anyone have any experience and impressions playing the Need For Speed games with a wheel, assuming they're even compatible? Got a G27 but only used it for GT5 and keen to try something different.
 
 
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guido NZGamer.com VIP VIP Bronze
On Monday 2 Dec 2013 10:43 PM Posted by guido
I hope we get a new Burnout Paradise this gen. It is still one of my favorite games of the last gen. Still one of the earliest and best examples of how to do DLC (they built great anticipation for Big Surf Island with in game announcements over the radio and visible construction going on before its release) and one the best examples of how to do online play and asynchronous competition/leader boarding. And an impressive open world to race in. Great game all round!
 
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Buckchoi NZGamer.com VIP VIP
On Tuesday 3 Dec 2013 12:13 AM Posted by Buckchoi
2 December 2013, 10:43 PM Reply to guido
I hope we get a new Burnout Paradise this gen. It is still one of my favorite games of the last gen. Still one of the earliest and best examples of how to do DLC (they built great anticipation for Big Surf Island with in game announcements over the radio and visible construction going on before its release) and one the best examples of how to do online play and asynchronous competition/leader boarding. And an impressive open world to race in. Great game all round!
It's a damn shame that they never released the island DLC for the PC version.
 
 
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Goonertron NZGamer.com VIP VIP Bronze
On Tuesday 3 Dec 2013 5:26 AM Posted by Goonertron
How am I supposed to feel the Need for Speed at 30fps?
 
 
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LeftoversNZ NZGamer.com VIP VIP Bronze
On Tuesday 3 Dec 2013 9:24 AM Posted by LeftoversNZ
It's been a while since I played a need for speed game, by all accounts Rivals sounds like good one to come back to, although I will be waiting till I get a new console rather than playing on the 360 so still a few months away yet.
 
 
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ReaperCrew NZGamer.com VIP VIP Bronze
On Tuesday 3 Dec 2013 9:38 AM Posted by ReaperCrew
Slightly disappointed with the apparent lack of depth available in the game and limited diversity, however suspect that once online in multiplayer I won't really care that much.
 
 
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nimrod76 NZGamer.com VIP VIP Gold
On Tuesday 3 Dec 2013 10:10 AM Posted by nimrod76
What I have seen of this reminds me of Hot Pursuit and that can't be a bad thing, but I'm kind of over NFS getting my hopes up and dumping on me. I'll pick this up later when it hits that comfortable $40 mark.
 
 
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reavers NZGamer.com VIP VIP
On Tuesday 3 Dec 2013 12:28 PM Posted by reavers
Seems like a great pick up when I get my PS4 :)
 
 
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Gadgetgamers
On Tuesday 3 Dec 2013 6:48 PM Posted by Gadgetgamers
I so love the Need for Speed games, police giving pursuit full of fun just there
 
 
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aPerson
On Tuesday 3 Dec 2013 10:06 PM Posted by aPerson
I enjoyed the last four Need for Speed games and Rivals looks like it will be just as fun, if not more.
 
 
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fatbot
On Wednesday 4 Dec 2013 5:10 PM Posted by fatbot
I think this game is a bit of a swing and a miss. The racers vs cops thing could have been integrated more in the gameplay to get people chasing each other in events rather than cops trying to hunt down people on the map just to start a pursuit with them
 
 
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Goonertron NZGamer.com VIP VIP Bronze
On Wednesday 4 Dec 2013 8:27 PM Posted by Goonertron
Still having trouble getting into it with the frame rate. I turned on my TV's motion frame creater or whatever it's called and it seems alot smoother now.
 
 
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Mockstar
On Wednesday 11 Dec 2013 3:22 PM Posted by Mockstar
I haven't played NFS since Hot Pursuit (showing my age), but I just found out that I won a copy from this very site so I'm looking forward to getting back in the drivers seat!
 
 
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Mockstar
On Wednesday 11 Dec 2013 3:36 PM Posted by Mockstar
11 December 2013, 03:22 PM Reply to Mockstar
I haven't played NFS since Hot Pursuit (showing my age), but I just found out that I won a copy from this very site so I'm looking forward to getting back in the drivers seat!
uhh I meant Most Wanted
 
 
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