Need for Speed™ Rivals
Need For Speed: Rivals leaves the gritty urban environments of Fairhaven behind for the altogether more scenic Redview County. Like its predecessor, Most Wanted, it’s an open-world title but thankfully one that is a little less tedious. This time the game can be enjoyed from both sides of the law as players pick between racers and cops before taking to the streets. The rivalry between these two factions are played up using some dramatic voice overs and quick cut-scenes, which although very cheesy, are not as over the top as some of the more story-heavy entries in the series.
After a quick introduction to the two factions, Rivals leaves players alone to enjoy the game in whatever way they want. Rivals is divided into chapters, with each consisting of so-called speed lists for racers and assignments for cops. Each one is filled with several objectives and players can choose whichever one aligns more with their chosen playstyle or mood. For example, when playing as a racer players can choose a speed list that focuses purely on winning races and beating other racers or one that is geared more towards outrunning the cops and causing them damage. The third speed list is for players who enjoy the open-world aspect of the game more than the racing and might feature objectives like performing long drifts, reaching certain speeds, or jumping specified distances. Completing a chapter rewards players with things like new cars, performance upgrades, liveries, and so on. While it might sound very simple, it’s quite effective and strikes a decent balance between having goals while still experiencing the freedom to do what you want.
True to its name Rivals is geared heavily towards multiplayer, so much so that the game attempts to throw players straight into the online mode at startup. It is possible to opt out of this and play on your own, but strangely enough, the game still doesn’t allow players to pause. We do not doubt that some players will enjoy the multiplayer aspect of the game, it felt a little underwhelming to us. Not only does the game only allow six players per session, but other players tend to either drive around and do their own thing or attempt to smash your car to pieces instead of racing. Attempting to get everyone together in one race is also a futile experience unless playing with friends.
Fortunately, even when playing solo, the game is a much better effort than Most Wanted. The events are all fun and driving through the beautiful and varied scenery is a lot more exhilarating than the claustrophobic streets of Most Wanted. The game also features a new risk and reward element in the form of speed points. For racers, this is the in-game currency that can be used on everything from new cars to performance upgrades, gadgets, and customization.
Speed points are earned by driving around and completing events while building up a multiplier. The catch is that if the cops bust you before you reach a hideout and bank your speed points you will lose everything. It’s tempting to build up your multiplier and watch the points roll in, but doing so will bring more cops down on you. This already makes the police chases a lot more fun than the boring ones in Most Wanted.
Things work a little different when playing as a cop as you don’t have to pay for vehicles. Instead of earning speed points through your driving skills, you take them away from the racers who you bust. These points can then be spent on new gadgets, but unlike racers, you cannot upgrade your vehicles. Speaking of the gadgets, each side of the law has access to their own ones that range from EMPs and shockwaves to spike strips, roadblocks, and more. In total there are eleven upgradeable gadgets at your disposal, but you can only equip two at a time. Cars now have health bars that can be depleted using these gadgets or by crashing into them. However, the repair shops that dot the roads can be used to quickly repair your vehicle, even in the middle of an event. Events can also be started any time you pull up to them, even if you already have a trail of cops chasing you. Spotting any racer, either player or AI, also allows you to instantly challenge them to a head to head race, which is neat. Also, the game delights in constantly highlighting the best times or fastest speeds of your friends to encourage you to beat them. The only thing that Rivals is lacking is the billboards and other things to smash through, but we can’t say that we exactly missed them.
Need For Speed; Rivals makes use of the Frostbite 3 engine, which means it looks better than ever before. The cars are all insanely detailed, but it’s a pity that customization is reserved to paint jobs, decals, liveries, and license plates. The game does feature the usual assortment of exotic brands, including vehicles by Audi, Porsche, Mercedes-Benz, Chevrolet, BMW, Aston Martin, Ferrari, Lamborghini, and more. The only odd thing about the cars is that even with the dynamic weather in the game they are always dripping with moisture, which looks rather odd at times. Redview County is one of the most scenic open-world locations in the series with sprawling roads that cover everything from snowy mountains and arid deserts to beach-side towns and forests. There’s also plenty of destructible scenery to crash through to add to the excitement. While there’s not exactly a wealth of options to tweak for the PC version, players can adjust the resolution, select the quality level of things like lighting, reflections and effects as well as tweak the ambient occlusion. Motion blur and headlight shadows can also be toggled on or off. We do have a couple of issues, though, such as the fact that the game only has two camera views; third person and bumper view. Even worse, the frame rate is locked to 30 frames per second, which is a travesty for a PC title. Using command-line options we were able to set it to a more acceptable 60 frames per second, but this caused issues with some of the races. For a lot of players, the low frame rate will be a deal-breaker and we doubt that we would have been able to play through the game were it not for the workaround.
The soundtrack for Rivals is not as strong as previous entries but does feature tracks from Linkin Park, Bastille, and Gary Numan to name a few. There’s also the overly dramatic voice-overs we mentioned, which ramble on about pushing limits and forging rivalries. These are different for the racers and the police, but make both sides sound equally unhinged. We played Rivals using a controller and had no issues getting the cars to go where we wanted them to go. The handling is very arcade oriented as players don’t even have the option to switch to manual gears. The crashes have also been toned down considerably compared to Most Wanted and thankfully there are no more ten-second cut-scenes after lightly scraping a barrier. Autolog does make a return, so it’s easy to find events or locations the safe houses takes some of the tedium out of evading the cops.
Overall Need for Speed: Rivals is far from perfect, but it is a big step up from Most Wanted and has a lot more in common with Hot Pursuit. It is certainly a way more accessible entry in the series and gives players more freedom to play the game the way that they want to play. The ability to play as racers or cops adds some longevity and players can also go back and complete the other objectives after finishing the final chapter in the game. We would have liked to see the frame rate issue being addressed instead of leaving it up to players to fiddle with command-line settings, though. Besides, with a game that focuses so heavily on the online aspect, it’s a bit baffling that the number of players and events are so limited compared to previous entries. However, by mixing the best elements of Hot Pursuit and Most Wanted this game is a big step in the right direction for the franchise.
- OS: Windows 7 (Service Pack 2) 32-Bit
- Processor: Intel 2.4 GHz Core 2 Duo or AMD 2.8 GHz Athlon X2
- Memory: 4 GB RAM
- Graphics: AMD Radeon 3870 512 MB or higher performance; NVIDIA GeForce 8800 GT or higher performance; Intel HD 4000 Integrated 512 MB or higher performance
- Network: Broadband Internet connection
- Storage: 30 GB available space
- Sound Card: DirectX compatible
- OS: Windows 7 (Service Pack 2)
- Processor: Intel Quad-Core CPU or AMD Six Core CPU
- Memory: 8 GB RAM
- Graphics: AMD Radeon 7870 3GB or higher performance; NVIDIA GeForce GT660 3GB or higher performance
- Network: Broadband Internet connection
- Storage: 30 GB available space
- Sound Card: DirectX 11 compatible