Need For Speed: Rivals takes place in a world where the most controversial crime a person could commit is break the speed limit. Illegal street racers become superstars through social media and cops have spared no expense into stopping the rich and reckless from turning the streets of Redview City into a high speed playground. Need for Speed: Rivals puts you on the driver seat of both racer and cop for one of most thrilling rides you’ve ever been on.
Rivals is about two things. Chasing and being chased. The open world of Redview City lets you play hunter and hunted in a variety of environments and winding roads. The best part? This massive race-scape can be populated with up to 8 players along with a ton of AI cops and racers.
There isn’t really a campaign to speak of, as the city of Redview is littered with hundreds of challenges–all of the speedster variety. The interesting thing is how these challenges and races all blend neatly with the online component. Simply by getting close enough, you can challenge any of the other racers for a head to head speed dash. Anything and everything could happen while you’re online, which is both exciting and terrifying.
Most races have you bobbing and weaving through traffic at over 150 mph, avoiding obstacles and the pesky law enforcement officer. Being pursued by the law is one of the most exhilarating moments of Rivals. Much like the title, the chase is instant, bitter and terrible fun between players.
Being a cop is by far the most fun I’ve had playing a racing a game. Your one job is simply just to bust other Racers. By bust, I mean crashing your justice dispensing vehicle right into other cars. Good thing even though the cops don’t have as much customization options as the racers, they have access to some pretty bad-ass vehicles. There are also undercover cars that allow cops to get the jump on unsuspecting street racers. There are some time trials you can run which is as boring as it sounds.
The Need for Speed games love keeping stats for everything and Rivals is no different. The AllDrive system basically tallies everything you do and displays it for the rest of the world to see. If your best friend gets massive hang time on a jump, the system will notify you. This game is about bragging rights. Bragging how you won a race in record time or just narrowly passed a well planted police roadblock.
The preferred way to play Rivals is online. The seamless nature of players popping in and out of your games as racers or cops is impressive and novel. It’s pretty spectacular to see two player cops chasing down a bunch of racers with a fleet AI cop cars providing support. However, there have been a handful of moments when I would just lose my connection, losing any progress on my speedwall (a checklist of objectives). You can play by yourself if you can’t get online, just be warned that game does get rather dull racing against inhuman racers; avoiding cops becomes pretty easy as simply doing a sharp turn.
So what’s the point of all this racing? Let’s forget that the story is pretty much nonexistent. The jist of it is that Racers wanna race and the cops strongly disagree. The whole story really is forgettable and told in short cut-scenes that are super dull. This game clearly just wants to put you in a car and let you go drive fast.
So why race? For all the Speed Points, obviously. You get SP for just about everything–the more risky the driving the higher the points. Racers need SP in order to upgrade or customize their supercars. For instance, the Panda decal that decorates the hood of my Aston Martin Vanquish shows that I have a sensitive side. One important thing about Speed Points for Racers is to make sure you often bank your SP at your hideout. If you get busted by the cops, the 75,000 SP you’ve accumulated by winning races and being a speeding bad-ass will be lost.
SP can also be used to buy Pursuit Techs. Pursuit Techs are James Bond-esque gadgets that you can equipped on one of two slots slots. Racers gadgets are meant to evade and confuse, such as the EMP mine which knocks out the electronics of any would be pursuers. Cops have the best toys. Speeding ahead and dropping spikes will blow out tires leaves your prey vulnerable. My favorite has been road blocks, which consist of a barricade of cop cars and spike traps. All your goodies are limited use, though, and have cooldowns which can all be refilled by zipping through a gas station.
Racers also generate something called Heat. The more challenges you complete and the more cops you avoid increases your Heat level–basically its a multiplier for any SP you earn for doing cool things. For example, 5 Heat multiplies any SP by 5. The only drawback with high Heat is you become a target for any and all player cops in your game.
The Frostbite 3 engine makes this title one of the best looking games for the current generation. The cars look like they came from a Fast and the Furious set. They are loud and gorgeous. Driving a Lamborgini Undercover car will make you feel like a badass as you creep up on some fool who pimped out his Shelby Cobra in tribal flames.
The environments are varied and have a life of their own. It’s tough to appreciate how good the games looks since you’re driving so damn fast. One minute you’re chasing a guys through a lovely beach town then the next through forest with trees so high only fragments of light can peek in. I’m curious to see how things like dynamic weather will look like on PS4 and Xbox One.
At its core, Rivals is doing multiplayer right. There’s no lobby or waiting around to start a race. Pick a side and let the hijinx ensue. Yeah, the story is kinda dumb and you’ll occasionally be kicked from games for no reason, but you’ll shout in excitement when you t-bone your first Racer as a cop. Trash talking over captures and escapes are part of the game and have a way of instilling rivalries with strangers for hours.
If you’re looking for a challenging game of cat and mouse with exotic supercars and a gorgeous back drop, Need for Speed: Rivals is what you’re looking for in spades. Think fast, drive faster. Going slow is for chumps and old people.