Need For Speed Rivals
Need for Speed: Rivals is the first arcade racer available on the PS4 at launch, and it looks gorgeous in full HD. It’s the first AAA title I’ve played on the PS4 that hints at what visual treats we might see in future, fully next-gen titles. As an early adopter of the PS4 it is very comforting to see how much better Rivals looks on the PS4, compared to the PS3 version. The world is noticeably richer and more vibrant because of the better texturing, and also more populated with detail in general. The atmospheric, weather and day/night effects are also great to look at, and really add to the game, as you can get hit with sun-strike at dawn and it can be very challenging racing at night. The cars also look marvellous and have all sorts of lighting and particle effects applied to them, as well as a damage and road dirt which adds to the realism. The full speed car crashes in particular are great to watch as bits of car and rubber fly everywhere.
The good news is that Rivals isn’t just a pretty face, it’s also a solid arcade racer with two separate careers paths to play through: either as a Racer or a Police officer. There’s some vague story attached to both careers which you’ll probably find yourself skipping through just to get back to the racing. Apparently the Racers are socially irresponsible, while the Police are corrupt and heavy handed with their authority, so no surprises there. You’re not locked into a career either as you can freely swap at any time during play.
Both careers will have you racing through the roads of Redview county, which luckily includes a mix of environments and road types, from a mesa surrounded desert highway with dirt side trails, to a series of switchback roads and tunnels climbing into an alpine area, to a nice scenic drive on narrow country roads through a redwood forest, down to the coast to travel across a series of bridges, as well as multi-lane freeways and riverside urban areas. Plus there’s jumps scattered through the county, all of which are great fun to hit.
You advance your career by completing a short list of challenges for each rank, which you pick from a small set of options. There’s 21 ranks and each rank completed unlocks a new car and various other bits and pieces depending on your career type. As you race to rank up you’ll earn ‘speed points’ which are the currency used by both classes to purchase things your rank has unlocked. The Police career gives you the cars free of charge (I guess Redview county foots the bill), but you can still buy a variety of ‘pursuit technologies’ which help catch Racers, while the Racers can purchase ‘anti-pursuit technologies’ to aid in escape. The Racers have to buy their cars once unlocked and also seem to have more things to spend their currency on too as they can improve their vehicles’ performance various ways and also customise their appearance with fancy paint jobs, decals and rims. This does seem to make the Racer career more fun to play, but there is a certain grim satisfaction to be had catching those pesky Racers as a cop.
Redview is filled with a variety of fixed events for both careers, with further events unlocked as you rank up. There’s the usual fare of races, pursuits and time trials you’d expect. The difficulty curve for the events ramps up nicely and you should be reasonably challenged by the courses and the AI cars which generally drive well, and at higher ranks will happily use the various technologies you can unlock against you.
As well as the fixed events, you can easily start a race or pursuit simply by finding an opponent on the roads while driving around. For a Racer the Police in the world can be particularly bothersome, happily giving pursuit while you’re busy trying to complete some other race. Racers are obliged to return to their hideouts regularly to cash in their ‘speed points’ and reduce the ‘heat level’ they have. As a Racer your heat level (and a speed point multiplier) basically just creeps up as you drive around Redview, getting into races and being spotted by cops and speed cameras.
You can do all of this in single player, and then Rivals adds an interesting multiplayer mode called ‘AllDrive’. In AllDrive mode you’re playing exactly the same game as single player, expect you’re playing in a multiplayer world with up to six players in total. Having some people in the world with you adds a new element to the game, as people naturally drive more aggressively and intelligently than the AI. AllDrive, when it works is great fun and adds some excellent replayability to Rivals, as there’s nothing more satisfying than racing against (or busting) other people.
Unfortunately AllDrive has a few downsides: Redview is pretty large so it can be hard engaging with the other people in the game, particularly since there’s only six of you at most. I assume this low count is because AllDrive is hosted, rather than using dedicated servers. As it’s hosted you will also occasionally be interrupted by the dread ‘host migrating’ screen. The other concern with AllDrive is the matchmaking sometimes seems a bit lopsided. You might find yourself in a game with some people who have a considerably higher rank than you which will make races or pursuits against them rather challenging (to put it politely). Fortunately it’s easy to find a new session, or abandon AllDrive and return to single play if you find this happening.
All up though, Rivals is great arcade racer as you’d expect from the Need for Speed pedigree. It looks fantastic on the PS4, as a next-gen title should, plays enjoyably and while not deep, is very addictive. Single player is great fun and AllDrive adds some legs to the life of the game by letting you create your own ‘Rival moments’ with other players.
Rating: PG Mild themes and violence.
Available on: Xbox One, XBox 360, PS3, PS4, PC. Reviewed on: PS4