(PlayStation 4)

Need for Speed: Rivals (PlayStation 4)

Game Review

Need for Speed: Rivals Review

Europe PAL Version

Posted by Sammy Barker

Cops 'n' racers

Need for Speed: Rivals rarely wants you to take your foot off the accelerator. Swedish upstart Ghost Games’ debut arcade racer fuses the fast-paced police chases popularised by Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit with the open world pandemonium of Need for Speed: Most Wanted, and serves up an emergent online experience that ensures that you’re on the road as much as possible. There are speed bumps in its structure and game engine, but the experience is moreish enough to ensure that you’ll be outrunning the law for many hours before you swap your Enzo Ferrari for something a little more suitable for the school run.

There’s a civil war taking place in Redview County, and you hold the keys to both sides. Just like in Criterion Games’ abovementioned 2010 PlayStation 3 wreck-‘em-up, publisher EA Games’ latest automotive outing allows you to assume the role of both the free-spirited racers and commotion-averse cops. There’s a loose narrative thread packed with poetic commentary that makes neither side seem particularly endearing, but it basically boils down to hazy context for your on-road antics. Unsurprisingly, these comprise outrunning the police and t-boning the racers. Some things never change, huh?

Beneath this paper-thin premise, there’s a compelling hook. All of your actions in the PlayStation 4 racer are rewarded with Score Points, which essentially act as a fictional finance for buying new rides and upgrades. You’ll unlock this make-believe money by driving recklessly, loosely drifting around hazardous hairpins, and sending expensive sports cars to the scrapheap. A multiplier makes the cash easier to accrue as a racer, but as you move through the gears, you’ll become a higher-value target. Consequentially, if you get busted by a moustachioed undercover cop while casually soaking up your surroundings, your kitty will be snatched.

It creates a really clever dynamic that makes every session a game of cat-and-mouse. It’s harder to earn points if you’re not busting people as a cop, so you’ll need to be constantly on the lookout for high-value targets to boost your bank balance. Meanwhile, as a racer, you’ll feel the pressure as your accumulator increases, resulting in some white knuckle chases back to your base as you desperately attempt to stash any cash that you’ve earned while out on the road. It’s a simple idea, but it makes the conflict between the two factions much more meaningful, and it plays into the title’s online component.

This is a game that’s designed to be played while you’re connected to the ‘net. There’s no separate multiplayer progression – or even an introductory menu screen for that matter – as the single player campaign and competitive suite are one in the same. Each time that you boot up the title you’ll be filtered into a lobby filled with six other drivers. These will all be going about their own business, and your paths may not initially cross. However, there will inevitably be occasions where your actions overlap, and this is where the game really comes into its own.

Two racers, for example, may decide to work together to stave off a fleet of computer-controlled cops. Alternatively, you could be on the side of the law, and chasing down two wannabe Sebastian Vettel impersonators. You’ll play with or against each other until your pursuit concludes, and then you’ll end up going your separate ways until your paths cross again. It’s all completely seamless, and while the lobbies can feel empty due to the lack of players, it gives the game a real next-gen quality. After all, this is the vision that upcoming titles like Destiny and Watch Dogs have projected – but it’s already here, and working well.

Well, a vast majority of the time anyway, as there are niggles in the format that let it down. Occasionally, you’ll be minding your own business competing in a solo race when another player will disconnect, sending you to a host migration screen and forcing you to restart your event. You can default to single player if you want to avoid these intrusive hiccups, but it seems a bit of a shame to disregard one of the racer’s greatest assets just because the netcode isn’t quite up to snuff. We’re secretly hopeful that this is something that will be patched.

In fact, there are quite a few bugs and niggles that leave infuriating imperfections in the title’s otherwise exquisite paintwork. For the most part, the title runs at a silky smooth 30 frames-per-second, resulting in a slick sense of speed – but the engine will occasionally hick as you hit tight corners, causing you to misjudge the turn and knock milliseconds off your time. Moreover, there are moments where textures will flash from the screen, revealing luminescent wireframes behind the beautiful scenery. We’re not sure whether there’s some Matrix-esque metaphor embedded beneath the drudgery of the narrative, but it was lost on us. We think it’s just a glitch.

It’s a shame because the title looks rather stunning otherwise. You can see the current generation concessions in the picture’s aliasing, but you’ll still encounter some jaw-dropping moments throughout the release. Highlights include a fairly convincing day-and-night cycle, and thunder storms which change the entire complexion of the game. These happen dynamically, often without warning, and really transform the feel of some pursuits. Your adrenaline will already be higher than a teenager at a Justin Bieber concert when you’re trying to outpace the cops – but it’ll be doubled when you’re forced to navigate through overgrown environments during a twilight shower.

The way that the weather and lighting changes all adds to the appeal of the non-stop action that we alluded to a little earlier. Rather than select events from monotonous menus, you’re free to race around the world and initiate head-to-heads and time trials while on the road. Many of these will occur while you’re already being chased, and it results in a non-stop dynamic that keeps you behind-the-wheel as much as possible. The racer career is a bit more erratic due to the fact that you constantly have to bank your funds, but gambling with your multiplier is a big part of that campaign’s appeal.

Granted, the events themselves aren’t exactly groundbreaking. Playing as the police means that you’ll spend most of your time ramming into speedsters, though the implementation of car combat-esque power-ups add to the fun. EMP charges can be locked onto the bumpers of expensive vehicles, while you can drop spike strips to spin out those behind you and even call in roadblocks from your friends on the force. Racers have less room to customise in this area, but as most of the faction’s challenges revolve around outrunning the cops – and other drivers – you’ll be able to pour your cash into vehicle upgrades that improve the performance of your chosen ride.

Of course, the sandbox setup means that you’re never necessarily required to do anything if you don’t want to. The world is filled with speed cameras, jumps, and custom routes for you to explore – each packed with Autolog leaderboards based upon the performance of your PlayStation Network pals. This constant sense of competition extends to Speedwalls, too, which comprise the core of the campaign, and see you completing increasingly challenging objectives in order to improve your rank and unlock new vehicles. These do drag on a little, but they force you to explore different driving techniques, and give you something to focus on if you’re not a fan of the open world structure.

As you check off objectives, your endeavours will be backed by a trendy soundtrack that’s perhaps trying a little too hard to be hip. We daresay some will be fans of the four-to-the-floor dance rock that comes blaring out of your Ford GT’s subwoofer, but we opted to lower the music’s volume in favour of letting the vehicle’s raspy exhaust pipe pop. Fortunately, the engine sounds are generally exceptional, and a far-cry from the archaic audio production in PlayStation’s other big racer of the moment, Gran Turismo 6.


You certainly won’t find an enemy in Need for Speed: Rivals – even if it does have some infuriating issues that put a dent in its otherwise immaculate exterior. The clever competitive dynamic at the core of the open world excursion augments the experience with a white-knuckle tension which ensures that outrunning your opponents, either online or offline, is entertaining at all times. However, performance sputters and progression impeding connectivity problems scrape a layer of polish off the overall package. This is agonisingly close to being at the front of the pack, and is the best arcade racer on the PS4 by default, but its missteps mean that it’s a millisecond away from a podium place.

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User Comments (20)



Beaston61 said:

If a racing games isn't a sim, then the chances of me playing it is pretty slim.
Even if it is a next gen game, Need for Speed has always been lame.
Forza was the apple of my eye, but I am not going to buy an xbox one, Forza is gone.. goodbye.




I've been having a blast with Rivals. My only niggle is the connectivity. It's a great idea, that can be great fun and infuriating with randoms helping/hindering your game - but with another person as host ruins the experience when they disconnect and you have to migrate host. Sometimes ruining your progress.

But, as I say, it's a blast.

It's on the cards for a relatively easy platinum too. I've finished all of the Racer stuff and just started the cop side.



Wesker said:

I want this, but in a £20 kind of way. Not in a £50 kind of way.



Deadstanley said:

@KALofKRYPTON Oh that happened to me the other night... I had 57,000 / 60,000 speed points racked up for the mission and then I got migrated and had to start at 0!

I'm sure there are higher mission thresholds where I'd be even more pissed, but still, it burned.

There's a mode where you can go private and not have to deal with other players. I like that idea but I also like chasing down other players when I enter their AllDrive zone, though I've never actually caught a real player.



get2sammyb said:

@Deadstanley Yeah, that's the problem - the game makes you want to play online because it's awesome, but it's beyond irritating when you lose all of your progress due to the host migration issue.



Deadstanley said:

@get2sammyb I guess the game has its flaws. The other night when I had that host migration happen to me I ran into a ton of bugs.

I crashed at one point and got wedged between a side-rail and the mountain. I couldn't move and when I tried, I'd get the crash animation again and restart in the same position. I had to "Restart Event" to get out of it.

Then later, I was in a chase and this happened:

BTW, I do like this game. I take all these issues in stride but it would never deter me from playing.




Well, the cop stuff is a massive pain! ;-) nowhere near as fun as the Racer career.
Today, the game looks a bit of a mess. Loads of texture pop in, it's bizarre!

I only went single player for the 500k trophy. But that only actually took about 20 minutes of cop trolling! Near the bottom left (I think) of the map there's an interceptor event right next to a repair shop and not far from a hideout. Max level shockwave and esf and just let the cops keep coming, never get more than 100ft from the repair shop and it's really easy.



AlexStinton said:

Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit was one of my favourite games of the last generation and so far I'm disappointed with Need For Speed: Rivals.

The always on multiplayer just isn't clicking with me and that sucks. Maybe I'm part of a wider gaming problem.

I think I just wanted Hot Pursuit again but instead I got something new and innovative and I can't embrace it at all. I see this all the time in forums from gamer's that don't want change and I laugh and point at them for their inability embrace the new . How ironic that I was one of them all along.

Oh well I might go back and play Hot Pursuit ; )



PMasterTy9 said:

If they could make host migration seamless and in the background that would be awesome but I guess that would require dedicated servers. I wish there was a way to pause the game without being in a garage. Other than that I am having fun with the game and the companion app.




@get2sammyb I took a couple (four) days off work on launch weekend. Played Resogun and Killzone a fair bit, but Rivals sucked me in. It became apparent that it's actually a pretty easy Platinum. I'm no trophy hunter, but while it's still fun I might as well.
@AlexStinton you can set it to friends or private too, which I assume makes you host. Stick with it, it's every bit as good as Hot Pursuit. The last race is 28.1 miles!



Reverend_Skeeve said:

@KALofKRYPTON @Deadstanley @get2sammyb The migration thing seems to work better now after the patches...it still takes a few moments to migrate the host, but after it's complete, you are put back to exactly where you've been, with Speedpoints and everything.

Enjoying the game a lot, btw.



Deadstanley said:

@Reverend_Skeeve I was doing the Hot Pursuit for Grand Tour and got migrated twice. It sucked but I noticed that I came into the race fully repaired and some of the distant racers were removed (I went from 2/5 to 2/2).

A trick I use for Racer Interceptor is to get near a bend, drop a stun mine and do a 180. Cop should get hit and suck around the bend while you nitro or turbo away. I can usually get a 20 to 30 seconds completion time this way.

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