Having had a chance to play Need for Speed: Rivals at a press event a few weeks before the game’s official release, I was pretty impressed with what I saw and found myself having a good time with the game. Now that the game is out in the wild, I’ve put in countless hours into the latest Need for Speed and I continue to enjoy what Ghost Games has put into the game.
As someone who’s played quite a few NFS titles, I found Rivals to be a nice combination of two particular games – Most Wanted, in the sense that it’s a bit of an open world environment, and Hot Pursuit, namely because you do engage in cops vs. racer, which works quite well as a total package. The game takes place in Redview County, which offers up roads up mountains, in urban areas and also along the coastline, which is a good amount of variety, and gives racers a good amount of options when trying to outrun the fuzz.
And while making a run for it with the cops on your tail, it really comes down to trying to outrace them, as Rivals doesn’t exactly have a myriad of labyrinths in which to hide. So what you’ll see is that sometimes it can be difficult to make your escape as the cops seem to have a pretty good eye on you at all times, so it takes some fancy driving to get away, as opposed to finding hidden areas in which to chill out, while the heat dies off. This resulted in a few irritating moments when I would seemingly be out of harm’s way, only to find the cops on my tail once again out of nowhere.
Once you find your way out onto the streets, you’ll have quick access to your map, which lets you find a whole heap of challenges, which include time trials, races, one-on-one showdowns, cop chases and more. Something that I enjoyed just as much as jumping into a challenge, is simply driving around as Need for Speed Rivals looks really sexy on the Xbox One and PlayStation 4. There is some very realistic lighting and highly detailed environments and the weather effects are really cool, while cars look photorealistic, including the damage they can take over time. The weather, aside from looking pretty, also has an effect on your driving, since the change in conditions do make a difference with how your ride performs. You’ll see rain drops all over the car, as well as on your window, which can affect your vision, while the sun’s illumination looks superb on roads and off your hood.
With the game having a story, it should be noted that there isn’t much to it, and it’s almost just a throw in, though you can go through each chapter as either the cop or racer. Regardless of which side you plan on playing as, you’ll be given a speed list, which is essentially just a checklist of stuff you need to complete, before moving on to the next one.
Though races, either against a couple of other racers or in a one-on-one setup, and time trials are cool ways to get you moving around the city, hot pursuits are easily the best of the lot, as they can be pretty intense and have a higher level of replayability in my opinion. While playing, you’ll not only get to upgrade each individual car that you own (which you can purchase using the game’s currency), but also add weapons, such as EMPs, that can debilitate other racers or the cops.
Probably most important of all, is that Need for Speed Rivals handles well, with each car, whether it’s a muscle car or something more sexy like a Ferrari, having a distinct feel, but all of them being more or less accessible. When trying to upgrade your vehicles, as previously mentioned, you use the game’s currency, and you can add to your score multiplier by continuing to play, but if you get busted by the cops before you end up in a hideout, you’ll lose everything. It’s very rewarding to keep going but can be extremely rage-inducing when you get caught, so players will want to be strategic with their timing.
As I put in quite a few hours as both the racer and the cop, I enjoyed being a racer much more as there seemed to be more things to do, and being a cop was perhaps a better proposition when you were chasing down friends. The cool thing is that the game allows other players to essentially invade your single player experience, as you can race them or chase them at the same time. They can be racers or join you as the police to chase AI racers, or really can just drive around in your world, since there is no specific structure. That in itself was cool, as I would randomly run into some of my friends and was able to start up a random race or chase them down.
Though the game lacks major depth, it’s still fun to play, and great to look at. It’s the kind of game that might not get a lot of play down the line, but as a launch game, is one of the better games of the lot and is just as enjoyable to simply drive around with no goals, as it is to put in time with single or multiplayer.
Final Score: 4 out of 5