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Need for Speed Rivals

By CameronW02-12-2013
StuntmanLT (editor)
Bobfish (editor)
Need for Speed Rivals

The Defence

Criterion Games / Ghost Games
Electronic Arts
Release Date:
US 19-11-2013
EU 22-11-2013

The Prosecution

Intel Quad-Core
AMD equivalent
Nvidia GeForce GTX 660
AMD Radeon HD 7870
8 GB
30 GB
10, 11

The Case

Going against the grain in the latest surge of simulation-style driving games Need for Speed Rivals goes all in by delivering a fast paced arcade styled world of cops n' robbers with crazy gadgets from stun mines to EMP blasts. Spicing up what could have been a standard racing game and turning it into Burnout Takedown fused with Mario Kart in a seamless online world where you pick a side and make life hell for the other. Sounds good on paper, but can Criterion and Swedish developer Ghost Games deliver? Kinda.

The Trial

The big attraction to the latest Need for Speed title is its seamless online world, where the game will throw other players into your game and they'll either race you, try to bust you, or most frequently do their own thing on the other side of the massive map and pay no attention to you. And that's the biggest problem with NFS Rivals, it's supposed to be this online playground of player interaction and it ends up feeling empty and lifeless because it does little to nothing to actually push players into interacting with each other. The issue is only furthered by the fact that you can only have 6 players in a game at any given time, which simply isn't enough for the scale of the game map.

Wiping someone out is just as satisfying as the Burnout days.

Wiping someone out is just as satisfying as the Burnout days.

In the ideal online situation, there are 6 players driving around doing the same thing, half of them being police officers and the other half being racers working together to bust/escape the others. This never happens. The games objectives are delivered in a sort of checklist of objectives for you to do called "speedlists". While interacting with other players does give you a good amount of points win or lose, the most efficient way is to stay as far away from other players as possible and finish your objectives to get the next cinematic in the story.

The story is pretty inconsequential with it all pretty much boiling down to a bunch of psychopathic cops fighting a bunch of dopey hot-headed street racers going at it by driving around country roads throwing lightning at each other and posting YouTube videos about how the man is keeping them down by upholding traffic laws by crashing everyone into people’s houses.

When you first launch the game you're forced through a couple tutorials for playing as a cop, and playing as a racer, you're then given a choice between the two and can switch back and forth at any point in your progression if you get bored and want to switch things up. Playing as a racer you accumulate speedpoints by doing random events, finishing your speedlists, and challenging other players to races. As a cop you earn no points on your own, but have to get them from crashing other racers either by knocking them out with your gadgets, or doing the dirty work yourself and slamming them into a wall Burnout style.

Need for Speed Rivals has a great sense of speed.

Need for Speed Rivals has a great sense of speed.

The progression is nice, it doesn't feel tacked on and you aren't flooded with points, nor are you starved for them. Racers get to spend their points on unlocking more vehicles and upgrading the performance of the cars they already have, or they have the choice to spend it on more situational tools like nitrous boosts to escape the cops. Police officers get all their vehicles for free, but they cannot upgrade their performance leaving it largely up to your gadgets to stop higher end racers who've spent their mountains of Speedpoints on beefing up their cars. As a result cops get more exotic choices in weapons like stun mines and the like.

Naturally the most important aspect of any driving game is if it's any fun to play, and Need for Speed Rivals indeed is. The handling is responsive and careful use of turning and manipulating the handbrake will have you flying around corners in no time. The game has a great sense of speed and the visual and sound design does a lot to lend to it with the satisfying roar of the engines and the small touches to the scenery like leaves flying up in your car's wake when you drive along the orchard roads.

Need for Speed Rivals biggest problem in the visual department is that the PC version is locked to 30 FPS along with the console versions, a bit lower than most would want out of a racing game that involves a lot of threading the needle through traffic and hairpin turns. Disappointing as that is, it's a very stable, well optimised game that looks incredible even if it is occasionally bogged down with loading times or restrained framerates.

While not extremely in depth, you have enough options to make your cars your own.

While not extremely in depth, you have enough options to make your cars your own.

I personally found the game controlling best with my Xbox 360 controlled plugged into my PC due to handling with the analogue sticks, but the keyboard controls are customizable and while not the ultimate way to play, it's certainly an option.

The Verdict

The solid gameplay, good soundtrack and great visuals only make the game's shortcomings that much more disappointing. Need for Speed Rivals is right on the edge of being an amazing game but unfortunately falls a little flat when you're left driving around alone in a world you should be having more fun in. If you have a bunch of friends that all picked up the game it should be a blast, but the lack of being able to enter matchmaking for any of the events will leave you trying to convince strangers to come race you over your headset more than you'll actually be racing them, which is a shame.

Case Review

  • Exciting Handling: The game plays just how you want an arcade racing game to play, its tight while still being loose, and rubs in all the right ways.
  • Great Audio & Visual Design: A solid soundtrack and some killer visuals leave a good impression.
  • Sensible Progression: While random events and finishing speedlists do all of the heavy lifting the progression system does well to back it up.
  • Not Much of a Story: While not having much of an impact on the game, NFS Rival's story drops you off at "Racers want to race, Cops don't like that" and calls it a day.
  • No Matchmaking: Need for Speed Rivals leaves you with your hands tied behind your back at the mercy of other players when it comes to wanting to put together some actual multiplayer.
Score: 4/5
Oozing potential, still a great time with friends.
Comments (4)
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Posts: 1548

So basically nothing new with the online side. If I remember correctly there was an NFS game few years back that tried to do the same thing but it failed as well...or is it just me having a deja vu moment?

Posts: 3290
Posts: 341



Posts: 3290

Love the license plate