|System: Xbox 360, PS3, PC, PS4*, Xbox One|
|Dev: Ghost Games|
|Pub: Electronic Arts|
|Release: November 19, 2013|
|Players: 1 (2+ Online)|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p||Mild Violence|
by Joshua Bruce
I’ve never been a huge racing game fan. Sure, they’re fun enough to play for a little while, but I have found myself getting bored of them pretty quickly in the past. The typical circuit of race tracks that you blindly traverse to unlock new cars, modes, and other tracks holds little appeal for me, outside of the occasional living-room showdown with a buddy. But, in recent years, a new racing game formula has emerged, one I find much more engaging–open-world racing. These racing games, such as Need for Speed: Rivals, let you loose on the roads of a dynamic map that leaves the decisions of what, when, and how you do something up to you. This is the type of gameplay I want in a racing game.
At the core of Need for Speed: Rivals, you have a choice–Cop or Racer. Which one you choose is entirely up to you, but it will determine how you play the game, so choose wisely. As you would imagine, both paths tell different stories, but this doesn’t necessarily add up to two different experiences. While there are differences in the gameplay of each side, the game feels largely the same as you play through either mode. The major differences are in how you play, not what you play. For instance, as a Cop, you can engage in pursuits of Racers, in which you have to wreck the Racer to bust them. As a racer, you must evade and escape from the Cops. So, even though you are taking part in the same event, the two sides take on different roles, which makes for interesting and diverse gameplay within the same event. But, if you are worried about being stuck on one side of the law or the other, don’t be, you can switch between Cops and Racers at any time via the pause menu. The game will save your progress in each, so you won’t miss any gameplay in either mode.
As the fuzz, you can take part in time trials that test your response time, scripted pursuits, or you can just drive around Redview County looking for Racers to bust, delivering your own brand of wheeled justice. As a Racer, you can participate in time trials as well, and of course races, during which your reckless driving antics will raise your heat level. Your heat level determines how big of a Cop-magnet you are, similar to the wanted level of a Grand Theft Auto game. The persistence of the heat level carries over into races and time trials as well, so it is possible (and probable) that you will be involved in a high-speed chase while in the middle of another event, which makes for some seriously epic driving. At the core of the game, you have to make one major decision–do you want to be the hunter or the prey? Being a Cop pretty much gives you free reign on the streets of Redview, while being a Racer will cause you to continually look over your shoulder and evade the smell of crispy bacon.
Game progression is a fairly simple process, complete milestones in the game to raise your level and unlock new cars. They are simple in the beginning, such as placing bronze in an event or scoring a certain amount of credit, but they become increasingly more difficult as time progresses. Unlocking new cars as you go makes your life a little easier, since new cars typically bring a little more to the table as you move on. The “story” (if you want to call it that) is little more than a collection of cutscenes that give a little background to rivalry that has been brewing in Redview County, and you never truly take on the role of a character, which is probably a good thing. Racing games aren’t made for stories, and taking on the role of a character would probably have felt generic, off-putting, and half-baked. Who plays racing games for the story, right?
Then, there’s Alldrive. Alldrive breaks down the multiplayer barrier by integrating it seamlessly into the single-player mode. Your friends will populate the game world with their own adventures, simply by playing, giving you the opportunity to interact with them at any given time. Of course, if you want to keep others out, that option is available to you, but Alldrive adds another layer to an already polished racing game that creates unique experiences that you couldn’t have otherwise.
The control scheme of Need for Speed: Rivals is tight and refined, complex enough to remain interesting and simple enough for almost anyone to pick up and play. I found drifting in corners to be especially clean, something that can be a serious pain in some racers. Every car feels at least slightly different, and upgrades change how your car handles, as it should. On each car, you have two slots for pursuit tech (which are mapped to the face buttons) that give you an edge against any opponent you might find yourself flying down the highway with.