Need For Speed: Rivals is the latest instalment into the Need for Speed franchise hoping to offer a more two-sided affair to the once racer focused title. Choose to be a racer, or stick with the good guy and become a cop, and that’s not the only choice you get to make. Rivals is a gorgeous open-world affair filled with gorgeous mountainside forests, cold snowy peaks, and harsh dry deserts, environments alone, does the freedom to do what you want how you want change the way the game is played for the better or are things better left the way they were?
I’m writing this review based on the Xbox 360 version of the title, but I will also include some thoughts from our Xbox One reviewer throughout.
Need for Speed: Rivals at a glance is your usual affair of obnoxious head thumping music, roaring engines, screeching tires, and pulsing sirens but once you look past all of that it actually begins to open up to a more in-depth beautiful looking game. Developed by Ghost Games, Rivals looks magnificent. Ghost has made Redview County seamlessly blend all seasons into one seemingly gigantic map where you’ll be battling with the elements at one point, then next you’ll be kicking up dust in the driest of deserts.
That is after you’ve completed a fairly lengthy and tedious introduction/tutorial which aims to show you the ropes of the game.
When beginning a race you’re not met with some overly built up introduction then thrown onto the starting grid; depending on your choice of allegiance you’ll begin outside your Hideout (Racer) or Command Post (Cop) with a sort of cinematic camera which slowly lifts and morphs into the chase cam we’re all used to. We’re then prompted whether to begin the race we spawned on or to just drive away and find out own races.
Throughout most of my Need for Speed: Rivals career I chose to be on the wrong side of the law, that’s right, I was a drum and bass loving Racer for the majority of the game during which time I completed several racing challenges as well as challenges set to me by competing racers in the game. In fact, most of the races I completed were ones I was challenged to by the huge population of AI racers found in Need for Speed: Rivals.
In Rivals, Ghost has tried to seamlessly blend the Multiplayer aspect of the game in with the single player which means whenever you play Need for Speed: Rivals and have an internet connection, chances are you’re joined by five other racers in your little version of Redview County. Most of the time they stick to their own careers but, lie we’ve learned with GTA Online, people love to cause trouble and that’s what I found with Rivals. As soon as I came across another player and the AllPlay icon appeared, I was in for a rough ride.. And there’s me thinking we were all on the same team?
The Multiplayer on the Xbox One is plagued with issues too. It’s fairly difficult to get into an online session and when you do, you’ll most likely get booted at some point too.
Sadly there’s no Local Multiplayer either which means if you’re planning to play Need for Speed: Rivals with multiple people, you’ll be swapping the controller fairly often, unless of course they own the game and an Xbox 360/One.
Ultimately in Rivals, you choose your own career by choosing from three different assignments which, apparently, determine the type of Racer or Cop that you are. These assignments often contain challenges such as Drift X amount of yards, Slam a Cop, Slam a Racer, Earn X amount of SP and once completed and you return to your respective safe houses you’re rewarded, usually with a ton of SP and a brand new car to buy.
Need for Speed: Rivals throws away the usual story-based gameplay that I’m used to in certain Need for Speed titles, in fact, I found little to no story other than some random cut scenes which consisted of an inner monologue of a Racer or a Cop. I also found that no matter which assignment you chose, you ultimately ended up at the same point which felt as if the choices I’d made were a little void.
If you hadn’t already guessed SP is the currency used to purchase things such as Pursuit Tech, Decals, Liveries, and Upgrades which can be earned by completing assignments, smashing through speedwall challenges, and various other mini missions. SP isn’t too difficult to acquire so when it comes to upgrading your car you’ll usually have the required points.
While we’re on the subject of assignments, once completed you’ll usually find yourself with some form of Heat Level thanks to the many crimes you have committed, this usually means you’re set upon by a more powerful police force that begin to use Pursuit Tech against you as well as setting up road blocks which in the end make it fairly difficult to escape, that is unless you come across one of the biggest cop-outs in the game – A Hideout. You could have a Heat Level of 10 and have a team of six Cops on your tail, but if you reach a Hideout and press RB quick enough, you’re home safe, your Heat Level disappears, and you’re SP is banked.
Visually, Need for Speed: Rivals is gorgeous to look at even on the Xbox 360, which I guess is now considered as last generation. The way the chase camera reacts to the way you drive, bumps and crashes, and even weather, adds more immersion to the game which I found really enjoyable. There were also a few points in the game which made me second-look the environments and perhaps take a more leisurely drive so I could take it all in.
The cars themselves are visually stunning also, even more so on the Xbox One, from the reflections on the paintwork to the way the light dances off of the body, I’ve never seen a car look so good. Sadly this isn’t so much the case on the Xbox 360 as the cars look a little dull and lack the certain appeal that the Xbox One offers.
However visually pleasing this game is the same can’t be said for the overly repeated soundtrack which blurts the latest dubstep renditions of that popular song everyone knows, throw in the same movie-like soundtrack every time you enter a race or pursuit then you’ve got the overall idea of what the games sound track offers. The cars however are a different story. Each car has its own distinct hum, roar, splurt, and rev that would get any petrol head hot under the collar, which I suppose redeems the sound slightly.
Taking a look at the games center point, Redview County, sadly it doesn’t offer much in the way of diversity. By that I mean that once you progress quite far into the game it starts to feel a lot smaller than it began, you’ll also find that most races utilise the same roads and you’ll often find yourself back where you started more than once.
Whether you choose Cops or Racers you’ll more or less be doing the same sorts of assignments and for those that want to try the Cop campaign but are too addicted to races, don’t worry, Need for Speed: Rivals has disguised a sort-of time trial race within the Cop Career under the guise of Rapid Response.
Overall Need for Speed: Rivals is visually pleasing and at first quite fun. There’s nothing better than racing at 170 mph+ lightly tapping the break and drifting around the massive bends found throughout Redview County. Sadly however the game does begin to get a little tedious. With no real sense of progression through the sparse narrative and with the choice of assignments ultimately leading to the same goal, Need for Speed: Rivals is a real disappointment.