Welcome back to Redview County. Those of us who played Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit back in 2010 should already be familiar with the core concept and topography of Rivals, as it is essentially a sequel to Hot Pursuit. In NFS Rivals, players assume either the role of a racer, converting speed and fuel into adrenaline, or a cop, whose sole purpose in Redview County is to bust racers by any means possible. Let the conflict begin.
Why Redview County?
Due to its unusual variety of environments, Redview County has become a haven of street racing and speeding. Environments range from snowy mountain roads, sun-baked rock and desert, winding coastal parkways, forested drives, four lane freeways that lend themselves to top-end speed, and a smattering of small towns. A new racer, who calls himself Zephyr, arrived on the Redview scene and cranked it up a notch. The police, in turn, respond by escalating their efforts, causing the racers to respond in kind. Regardless of which side the player is on, game progression unlocks faster cars and better weaponry, known as pursuit tech, and progresses the ridiculous storyline.
My Life As An Outlaw Racer
Naturally, I chose to start the game as a racer. Racers are given the choice of a couple of basic cars from which to choose. I chose the Porsche Cayman over the Mustang GT mainly because it was the same car I started Hot Pursuit with, and I never regretted my choice. Through the course of my racer career I unlocked several cars, but relied heavily on my Cayman, the Mustang GT, Mercedes SLS, Enzo Ferrari, and Pagani Huayra. Other cars available to racers are: Aston Martin Vanquish, Audi R8, BMW M3, 2013 Vette, Dodge Challenger SRT8 392, Ferrari 458 Spyder, Ferrari 599 GTO, Ferrari F12 Berlinetta, Ford GT, Lamborghini Aventador, Lamborghini Gallardo LP 570-4, Lamborghini Veneno, Maserati GT MC Stradale, McLaren 12C Spyder, McLaren P1, Porsche 911 GT3, Porsche 918 Spyder, and the Viper TA. Racers earn speed points more quickly than cops, but racers must buy their own cars and pay for upgrades, which meant that I didn’t receive the achievement for ten cars in my racer garage until I completed the racer career. Cars are upgradeable, but not tuneable, as is the case with nearly every NFS title. Racers can upgrade up to five levels in five categories: durability, toughness, control, acceleration, and top speed. Pursuit tech options include Electrostatic Field, EMP, Jammer, Shockwave, Stun Mine, and Turbo-all of which give the game a Mario Kart feel.
Racers are tasked with completing objectives to progress in level. Completing races, participating in head-to-head races against a single racer, hot pursuits, interceptor challenges, and banking speed points and utilizing weaponry are all alternately required to progress.
The currency, used to buy upgrades, cars and pursuit tech, are called speed points. Points are gained by driving dangerously: drifting, driving into oncoming traffic, high speed, jumps, and near misses. The more of a traffic menace the player becomes, the bigger the paycheck. However, cops will steal your speed points if you get busted, so bank them at a hideout before that happens. Wanted levels act as speed point multipliers, so the higher your wanted level, the more speed points you earn, but this also makes you a more tempting target for the fuzz. Driving as a pack will also increase your income, so buddy up and take on a lobby as a team.
I Am The Law
Playing as a police officer gives players the chance to run down their friends and steal their speedpoints. Cops are tasked with busting racers, single-car interceptor events, running down multiple racers in hot pursuit events, and being first on the scene in rapid response events in order to progress their careers. Cops do not have to purchase their vehicles or performance upgrades, but they must spend speed points to purchase and upgrade their pursuit tech. Available 5-0 vehicles are: Aston Martin Vanquish, Aston Martin One-77, Bentley Continental GT, BMW M6 Coupe, Bugatti Veyron SS, Chevy Camaro ZL1, Ferrari 458 Italia, Ferrari FF, Ford Mustang Gt 500, Hennessey Venom GT, Koenigsegg Agera R, Lamborghini Aventador LP 700-4, Lamborghini Gallardo LP 560-4, Lamborghini Murcielago LP 670-4, Lexus LFA, Marussia B2, McLaren 12C, McLaren F1 LM, Mercedes C63 AMG Black, Nissan GT-R Black, Porsche 911 Turbo, Porsche Carrera GT, and the Viper GTS.
Pursuit tech options are a bit different for police. Cops do not have all the pursuit tech options that the racers do, such as Turbo, Shockwave, Jammer and Shock Mines. Instead, they gain the Shock Ram, Spike Strips, Roadblocks, and the ability to call a helicopter to lay down spike strips in front of their prey. Cops also have access to the EMP and Electrostatic Field.
Most of the lower level police cars are utter shit, and I found myself sticking to single player until I was able to acquire the One-77, at which point I unleashed the unholy fury of Redview County’s finest onto an unsuspecting multiplayer lobby and started stealing speed points from my whining, helpless prey. This is no racing sim and there are no bonuses for driving clean. Rivals is a full contact vehicular beatdown. Drive accordingly.
Has EA Learned Its Lesson?
NFS Rivals was developed by Ghost, in association with Criterion, and published by EA games. Downloadable content, in the form of car packs and in-game currency, was available almost immediately, so expect to be out some cash in the future if you want to keep your garage current with your rivals. If the player does not change the settings to a single-player game, then NFS Rivals will be an always-online experience, complete with the server issues that EA players are all too familiar with: host migration, lost connections, slow loading, and endless searching for someone to play with. Many times I sat through lengthy loading screens and ended up in a room by myself anyway. Rivals, naturally, is at its best with friends in the room, some playing as cops and some as racers.
I played both the 360 and XB1 versions. I found the XB1 version looks better while the competition on the 360 is better skilled: I can run over players all day on the XB1, as either a cop or racer, without losing speed points while the players on the 360 gave me a run for my money. The environments are full of drifts, jumps, and places to wreck out. It’s a nice change of pace from my typical sim racing but the cars felt arcadey and artificial, and using the brake instead of the e-brake to initiate a drift was kind of hokey. Apparently, the e-brake is dedicated to 360 degree turns. I was a little disappointed with the lack of old school muscle on the roster, but the game doesn’t suffer much from their absence, as the cars on the list are insane and fun as hell to drive.
My biggest complaint with NFS Rivals is pop-up. It’s annoying when this happens in any game, but when you’re driving 200 mph and a minivan materializes 50 feet in front of your Veyron SS you’re going to crash. Then you’re going to struggle to find appropriately vile profanity, because not any old cuss word is going to work in that situation. Play something else if folks in the house are trying to sleep. Pop-up occurred more frequently on the 360 than the XB1, so next-gen has the advantage there. However, the game sometimes pauses itself on the XB1, which has the same effect that pausing does in every driving game in a multiplayer lobby, you drive off the road. Sometimes it would also spin the view of the car, like jamming the thumbstick to one side would do. I don’t know if this was my Day One controller going weird on me, or if it was the game, but it didn’t happen on the 360.
Need For Speed Rivals is a fun arcade-style racing experience that is best when played with friends. Nothing has more potential for fun than an hour or two of cops and robbers with some buddies. When it fires on all cylinders, it’s every bit as good as NFS: Hot Pursuit. The glitches, multiplayer issues, general EA shittiness, and monotonous single player, however, are enough to lose a full star from the final rating. Need For Speed Rivals is available on the PC, PS3, PS4, XBox 360, and XBox One. Pick it up on sale.