Need for Speed: Rivals Review (PS3)
Need for Speed: Rivals is the most recent iteration of the yearly racing game series developed by EA’s studios–on rotation between Criterion Games (Burnout), and numerous other studios. It’s the most successful racing game franchise; as such, expectations are high.
Despite being a follow-up of last year’s Need for Speed: Most Wanted (2012), Rivals has more in common with 2010′s iteration: Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit (2010). In this title, the player may assume the role of either a racer or a cop, progressing through the ranks in career mode via the completion of challenges. Through increasing the player rank for their respective faction, the player unlocks additional content, such as new vehicles or the ability to take advantage of weapons.
Rivals continues the recent trend of the Need for Speed franchise, featuring a sprawling, open-world environment. Players can visit specific locations to start an event, or take part in many of the “collectibles” on offer. The vast majority of the content perfectly adapts to an online multiplayer experience, too, as the online component has been integrated seamlessly into the entirety of the campaign. Upon starting the game, the player will automatically find themselves launched into a public session with other players; although, players may set their session to private to enjoy the game alone should that be preferred. As it stands, the campaign is an extension of the multiplayer gameplay, rather than a stand alone component.
Rather than just partaking in racers or pursuits, players may also challenge other players, compete for the fastest speed at a speed camera, or compete in a varied objection list from a set of three. These challenges all reward the player with new content, and a form of in-game currency which is exchanged for upgrades and aesthetic changes to vehicles. There’s a fair bit on offer, more so for the player willing to share their campaign online. Interestingly, this feels a lot like what one would expect a racing game in the style of an MMO would play like. Of course, this comes with flaws too: the game cannot be paused, which poses a problem when the player has acquired a wanted level. Even evading pursuit and hiding off-road will not always be safe, and taking too much damage or being busted by the cops will result in the loss of the currency obtained during that session. To take a break, no matter how brief, the player must first reach their hideout. This can occasionally be challenging in of itself at later stages of the game.
As a trend follower, Need for Speed: Rivals also befalls a similar fate as that of recent games also released on next-gen systems, or indeed, games that generally push the current generation of game consoles to their limits. It’s visually stunning, but it can also be a bit messy. Everything is just less smooth, and it can interfere with judging oncoming traffic on the odd occasion.
Speaking of trends, EA continues to include a soundtrack consisting of a number of licensed music tracks. Unfortunately, often times this music lacks any real sense of speed or thrill that should accompany a racing game, but it at least keeps up on the tempo well enough. Generally speaking, the soundtrack is a case of hit-or-miss, and for this reviewer it’s a bit of a miss. At least the game still sounds great as you whiz past racers and send them to a mighty crash–something you’ll expect to hear a lot as a consequence of the rubber-banding employed to substitute competent AI.
It should be worth noting that the physics is very well handled, quite literally too as car handling feels very real and responsive. Drifting has improved from Most Wanted (2012), in which the cars often felt like they were floating on air. Contrary to the abundance of high score tables, the gameplay feels much less arcade-esque.
Need for Speed: Rivals continues to gradually innovate the racing genre, pushing it in a direction still rarely explored by other developers. It is also rather successful in its execution, even if its soundtrack lacks any real flare to it. Needless to say, the direction EA continues to push their Need for Speed franchise in is quite an interesting one, and, despite the annual release cycle of the series, Rivals offers a surprisingly fresh flavour in comparison to its most recent predecessor. As such, even players who picked up the recently released Most Wanted (2012) might find enough on offer to justify such an early release.
4 Rivals out of 5