The Need for Speed franchise has had plenty of ups and downs over the years, ranging from absolutely brilliant entries in the franchise to some truly terrible racing games. The series saw an uptick in quality when Criterion took it over, and now newcomer developer Ghost Games is taking a crack at the series with Need for Speed: Rivals on the PlayStation 4. Does this new entry cross the finish line in first place or is it not even worth entering the car?
Returning To What Works
Need for Speed: Rivals returns to what works, placing the emphasis back on racers vs. cops. As a racer, you'll be racing against other high-speed vehicles and as a cop, you'll be attempting to take down the racers. Both factions play differently enough from each other that essentially, you're playing two games in one! When you get bored of straight racing, switch over to the cop career and show those racers who's the boss with a full compliment of gadgets and Burnout-like events. While the events on either side are limited, always defaulting to either racing, outrunning the cops or busting the racers, the action never gets old.
Part of the reason is due to the gambling aspect occurring in the background at all times. As you complete events, your multiplier increases, increasing the amount of points you receive for each event. However, there's a catch: if you get busted before returning to your base, you lose all accumulated points. Thus, the game becomes a constant gamble – do you risk it all for a massive amount of points? Can you outrun the police just one more time? This high-stakes gambling aspect of the game adds an interesting twist to the Need for Speed formula.
The open world format of games such as Need for Speed: Most Wanted returns, with plenty of speed cameras and jumps for you to discover as you drive from objective to objective. If you loved Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit or Most Wanted, Rivals is the next step in that gameplay format and a worthy successor.
Not Just Playing Against The Computer
Risking your points against the artificial intelligence would end up being a no-brainer, as eventually you would learn the A.I patterns and how to reliably win every time. This is where Need for Speed: Rivals switches it up, with online multiplayer built into the single player mode. As you play in single player, other players enter and exit your game at all times. That cop on the corner? That could be another player. It's a clever and inventive way to tie both single and multiplayer together in a seamless way. It's something we're going to see a lot more of this generation, if games like Destiny are any indication.
However, if you're the type of player who just prefers playing against the computer, you can turn the online multiplayer features off. It's a win / win for both camps.
The PlayStation 4 Advantage
Need for Speed: Rivals only takes advantage of the PlayStation 4 in one area: graphics. Better textures, better environments, better weather effects; the game definitely looks improved on the PlayStation 4 compared to the PlayStation 3. However, the game's last generation roots are still visible, especially compared to games such as Killzone and Knack, and we pine for a true Need for Speed built solely for next generation consoles.
The game also suffers from some framerate issues, generally when a large amount of cops and racers are onscreen at one time. It's very rare that it happens, but it does happen.
As mentioned earlier, Need for Speed: Rivals follows the same path set by Hot Pursuit and Most Wanted, perfecting what came before it. If you loved those two entries, Rivals should be a definite purchase for you. If you're looking for an arcade racer, Rivals is your only choice on the PlayStation 4 and luckily, it's a great choice. It should definitely tide you over until Drive Club releases sometime in 2014.
Final Score: 9/10
Game Category: Driving / Racing
Article by - Joshua Phillips
Insert Date: 1/4/2014
Missed out on Rivals the first time? Electronic Arts has you covered with "The Complete Edition," launching on October 21st, 2014. In addition to the full game, you'll also get all six downloadable content packs.
No price has yet been revealed for this version of the game.