Twenty titles in a single franchise… Think about that for a minute. Could you imagine Uncharted 20, or twenty iterations of anything other than a sports related game? How do you keep a franchise fresh and new when you already have nineteen games in the franchise? Here are a few hints: new cars, new maps, new challenges, upgraded graphics.
The Need for Speed franchise started out back in 1994 while some of our readers weren’t even born yet, and here we are 19 years later, with a brand new generation of consoles and a brand new installment to the long-lived and fast-paced franchise. Developer Ghost Games, with help from Criterion, took a lot of elements from previous titles, added in some cool new features, and created a game suited to kick off the next generation in style.
The game gives you two full careers to race through, as it lets you play as both a cop and a mysterious racer named Zephyr. These are two separate and unique experiences, with their own cars (for the most part), their own game types, and each with their own progression and career level. Swapping between careers is as simple as getting to a hideout or a command post and selecting the opposite career from your menu. Playing through the tutorial for both before completely diving into one or the other is the best way to understand how to play the game and can help you get into the mindset of your opponent, AI or otherwise.
New cars are unlocked by completing a set of objectives called speedlists, and completing these speedlists earns you—wait for it—speedpoints. While new cars are given to the cops once they are unlocked, racers must use speedpoints to purchase cars once they unlock them. While that doesn’t exactly seem fair, we must assume that the taxpayers of Redview County are footing the bill, which in essence means it’s the racers that are helping the cops get better and faster cars (if they do happen to pay taxes).
NFS games can generally be split into two types of gameplay: simulation or arcade. Need for Speed Rivals is clearly an arcade racer when it comes to driving, but looks more like a sim when you check out the modeling, details and designs of the cars. These are real world machines with names like Bugatti, Aston Martin, Lamborghini, and the return of Ferrari, to name just a few. Now I’m not exactly sure how any police department in any country could afford a Bugatti Veyron cruiser, but the Redwood County PD seems to have figured out how to snag one. I’m thinking it must have been a drug related forfeiture.
Can a BMW M3 STS actually get away from a Bugatti Veyron cruiser in a high speed pursuit? That question can best be answered by looking at the available pursuit tech that both the racers and the cops have at their disposal. The weapons and or/devices available to you, once purchased, include EMP’s to stall cars out, a shock ram that pushes a car away from you while also inflicting damage, road blocks, spike strips, and even some nice defensive tools such as the electrostatic field which can ward off EMPs, a jammer which disables tech from other cars, and a turbo boost to help you elude those pesky black and whites.
These aren’t free for anyone so they will cost you some of those hard earned speedpoints, regardless of which career you are enjoying, but can be well worth the price if that Veyron has you in its sights or if that M3 is getting away from your Veyron. These are also upgradeable and well worth the speedpoints to level up. One key thing to remember, as a racer, if you get busted all of the speedpoints earned since the last time you checked into a hideout will be lost.
The line between the single-player and multiplayer experience has truly been blurred by the new AllDrive multiplayer system. You’ll be racing along, in the middle of an event, and out of nowhere here comes one of your buddies in a completely unrelated event—possibly taking out your competition and helping you win along the way. Sadly though, it’s a two way street, so if you’re in a high-speed pursuit of a racer, and one of your buddies comes along and smacks you in the butt with an EMP, they can help the bad guy get away while you are left licking your wounds and contemplating removing them from your friends list (well… maybe not that…. it is just a game).
When meeting up with others online, you can challenge them head-to-head for their current speedpoints, but beware, if you lose they get your current speedpoints. You can also work together, cooperatively, through the campaign, helping each other reach new levels, unlock new cars, and earn even more speedpoints. It’s an interesting system that can help you or hurt you, depending on how you use it. Either way you choose to approach the game, finding like-minded drivers will definitely work to your advantage.
One of the great things about past NFS titles that was removed for quite some time, was the ability to personalize a car and really make it your own. I am happy to welcome back car customization so I can now tell the difference between my Mustang GT and yours. This isn’t just a simple car color change, but a full on livery change where you can make your ‘Stang unique, even in a world full of ‘Stangs. The options for stripes, paint, and even wheel design and color, added to your personalized plate, truly make your racing car your own.
Cop cars on the other hand, come in three flavors. There’s your standard black and white Patrol car, your nondescript Undercover car, and your hardened body Enforcer model. Personalized plates are available for your cop cars, but not much else as far as customization. You can give each car its own loadout, so to speak, when it comes to pursuit tech, so there can be a method to your madness if you think about how each car handles, and which car is best suited for each assignment.
One very helpful addition to a game with this large of a map is the Easy Drive option available to you by the touch of your right D-Pad button. This can help you pinpoint the nearest hideout or PD compound, and set your way-point accordingly. It is also helpful in finding the available events or assignments and setting a way-point for that. All you have to do then is follow the mini-map in the lower left corner of your HUD and it will lead you in the right direction.
The Need for Speed series has always been a fun and exciting franchise for true fans of arcade racing, and this edition doesn’t disappoint on that level. Simulator fans will have to wait for a true next-gen sim racing game like Gran Turismo to come to the PS4, but Need for Speed Rivals should be more than enough to keep them busy driving real virtual cars around Redview County, even if they don’t exactly handle like their real world counterparts. If you are making the jump to next gen, and you enjoy racing games, this would be a perfect addition to your launch day library.
So, how do you make a series still feel fresh after twenty titles? By listening to your fans, knowing what works and what the fans want, and by delivering a game that’s more than just a seasonal refresher. Need for Speed Rivals is clearly ready for the next generation of gaming, and so are we.