While a lot of buzz surrounding this year’s E3 has been on the next generation of gaming, that doesn’t mean this current generation is ready to go out with nothing more than a whimper. While the latest game in the Need for Speed series, titled Need for Speed: Rivals, will be making an appearance on PS4 and Xbox One later this year, it will first make its debut on the PS3, Xbox 360, and PC on November 19. The game itself contains an incredible amount of depth and content, and Rivals should be able to satisfy anyone who loves high adrenaline, slick racing games (and people who just like to drool over cars).
A major theme in Need for Speed: Rivals is the concept of rivalries. These rivalries manifest themselves not only in terms of the racers in the game against the cops, but also in rivalries formed between different players. You can assume the role of either a racer or a cop, with a full career path existing for each path. The ability exists to jump back and forth between each if you are the indecisive sort, with each having their own objectives and goals. Both paths have you complete goals like drifting for 30 seconds, but while racers might need to complete a race, the cops will need to wreck a racer. Objectives update live as you progress through them, telling you how long you have drifted and how much longer you have to go. Those familiar with the series should be able to pick up on all the basics here really quickly, as Rivals uses a lot of the same things that made the previous games so fun to play.
Evading cops and winning races unlocks speed points (SP), which can be used to purchase upgrades for your car or buy weapons like EMPs that can give you an advantage when racing opponents. However, speed points aren’t immediately accessible as you have to bank them first by going to specific areas. Banking your points allows you to use them, but also resets your multiplier, which grows the longer you stay out. Players are then left with a decision — do you bank your points now and play it safe or do you head out again, only to curse yourself later when you get wrecked and lose all the SP you have saved up. Playing as a cop simplifies things a bit. You still have speed points but there is no multiplier system, and the focus is more on teaming up to knock out those no good law breaking racers. If you do get caught, you get sent back to the warehouse where you can choose to immediately jump back out on the road or change the map if you’re getting tired of being busted in the same location.
The big new innovation that the team behind Rivals was most excited for was their AllDrive feature, something they hope will redefine the way you play multiplayer games. AllDrive doesn’t just blur the line between single player and multiplayer, it destroys it completely allowing you to have one cohesive and immersive experience without having to jump out into a lobby for match making. Friends can join your game and either help as a fellow racer, or impede your progress as a cop, without having to wait at a loading screen or for a match to be made. Of course, there will be plenty of A.I. to race against or challenge, but the developers were proud of the fact that you wouldn’t always be able to tell when another actual person had joined your game as they progress through their own single player campaign. The demo at E3 already showed off up to six players on the same map, with different starting points, A.I. competitors, and goals, and the whole thing flowed together seamlessly. And we do mean truly seamlessly; at one point in the demo they showed off an individual who was already in the midst of a chase with an A.I. cop, and a player could either join the chase as a cop or start a race as a racer. The line between A.I. and player control character is difficult to distinguish in the midst of an intense chase, which seems to be their entire goal. The final build of the game might allow for even more people on the same map, and six is sort of the minimum at this point.
Perhaps the most striking feature about the game is just how beautiful the whole thing is. Need for Speed: Rivals looks absolutely amazing, a standout in a series that is known for looking absolutely amazing. The game borders on car porn, with close ups and action shots of all the sexy, sleek cars you could possibly ever want. The cars are amazingly detailed, and all the little effects from the lighting to the way water splashes off your car are incredibly impressive. The level of detail in Rivals surpasses anything that was done previously in the series, with things like realistic and dynamic weather effects making the game feel more alive. Environments are well varied and look great and you can be race through sandy deserts or lusher, greener scenery that might end up getting obscured by rain or fog.
Everything in the game is meant to harness and utilize the power of the next generation of consoles in a way that simply hasn’t been done before in racing games. This doesn’t mean that its iterations on the current generation are going to be disappointing, but you do get the sense that it will feel like the little brother to the versions you can find on the PS4 and Xbox One. Speaking to Eurogamer, Rivals producer Marcus Nillson noted that, “You’ll be able to play this on current gen consoles but on a more minor scale. There’s going to be a bigger experience on the new consoles, simply down to the fact that there’s more computational power — there’ll be more players and so on that you can support.” However, even a watered down version of this game is worth looking into, and Need for Speed: Rivals is a game that every racing enthusiast should be eagerly anticipating.