To Serve and Protect

Criterion’s involvement in the recent re-imagination of Most Wanted has questioned my thoughts about the series direction as it was pushing more into the boundaries of Burnout rather than classic Need for Speed. It needed to do more and it was up to the new studio, Ghost Games with the collaboration of Criterion to finally create the Need for Speed worth chasing for.

The open world of Redview County is your new stomping ground as the new Frostbite Engine seamlessly brings the environment to life as you slam down the straight with speeds exceeding 350km/h in your Ferrari 458. The elements of Most Wanted appear to have returned in Rivals as you seek out multiple races and time trials as you please, but there’s more than just your usual racing outings. Redview County is a war ground, the battlefield of two opposing factions. No guns or ammunition involved, just fast cars, fuel and a whole lot of aggressive driving maneuvers. It’s cops versus racers and the decision on whom to fight for lays in your hands.

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Rivals intends to create just that – rivalry between the two factions and it completely succeeds. Playing as the cops is a completely asshole class to utilize – you have the power and right to remove the racers off the road using everything at your disposal. Equipped with stronger cars, the cops can ram off the racers easily without taking too much damage. Cops get rewarded easily in terms of car upgrades as they are completely free as you progress through your career. New class, new car and you’ll be breaking limits in a C63 AMG in no time. If your sole purpose in racing games is to take other people out and drive in the wrong direction slamming into them – the cop class is most definitely for you.

“No guns or ammunition involved, just fast cars, fuel and a whole lot of aggressive driving manoeuvres.”

Fancy a challenge and hate cops? Well the Racer class could be for you as taking risks and pushing the limits is what it’s all about. As a racer, you’ll run the town seeking races to earn the in-game currency (speed points). The more races/tasks you do – the more you gather. The risky part of playing as a racer is that the speed points you’ve gathered can be taken by the cops if you’re busted before you are able to bank them at your hideout. Racers also take more damage than cops meaning that you’ll always have to watch out for your damage meter and hit a repair drive-thru before your car blows up Michael Bay style all over the street. Cars require purchasing as well, so speed points do play a more vital role in this class than the cops – where cars are given. You’ll still need to unlock them through leveling but make sure you have some speed points in your bank if you want that Gallardo.

The two classes provide variations in gameplay from the same situation but Ghost Games wanted to take this further than the Player v.s AI module – they wanted the world to be more alive than it looks and that’s making a huge focus on Multiplayer. Need for Speed Rivals drops you into the world of other players as real players, either cops or racers, vie to take each other out. There’s only a limited amount of players allowed to play in a certain game and it mixes in a number of AI to populate it even more. The world is live and another player possibly a cop CAN take you out. This is what makes Rivals even more fun than the base game. It’s made for competition and throwing in a mix of real players just makes it even more challenging than it is.

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Cops are fun in this area as you can stalk and tailgate real racers without them even knowing. My usual setup for taking the racers down is to ambush them with a surprise rear slam or even shock them with the EMP. Sometimes you’ll even see racers parked (possibly looking at the menu for things to do) and you can be that guy who slams them into the wall. The freedom of creating your own gameplay makes Rivals one of the stand out racing titles I’ve seen in a while.

Having an online focused game can be frustrating however especially when living in a country like Australia. It could also be the game’s fault for not chucking you into the right region games as most times I was thrown into US games. While tolerable, it showed signs of rubber banding and disappearing cars. You can play in an offline mode but it reduces that extra layer of possibilities that could happen with real players – like them swearing at you as you bank their speed points. “Uh hello good sir, I appreciate the comments – just to let you know your Kinect is left on”.

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The other problem is the lack of dedicated servers which could greatly help the game. Peer to peer just won’t cut it as host migration is incredibly frustrating  if you’re mid racing. Losing connection to a host is also problematic as you’ll get thrown out of the game straight away losing ALL your speed points and current progress. Most of the time I just find myself playing offline because of the host issues.

Need for Speed Rivals is one of the best racing games I’ve played recently and most likely the best I’ve played since the Hot Pursuit days. However the lack of support in the multiplayer component of the game that greatly focuses on that area is what brings the game to a total halt. Sad but I’ve found it disrupting my enjoyment of the game. In saying that, the core of the game is still incredible offline and should satisfy anyone looking for a top quality racer for their new console this holidays.

Developer: Ghost Games with Criterion Games
Publisher: EA Games
Platforms: PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, PC

Need for Speed Rivals Review
90%Overall Score