Centred on the blistering competition between law-breaking racers; and their law abiding captors, Need For Speed Rivals is a fitting title for the latest entry in the long running series. It’s also equally fitting considering the games release against Xbox One racer Forza Motorsport 5. With both titles vying to capture the attention of next-gen petrol heads, does EA’s nitrous fuelled outing speed past the competition?
While Burnout developer Criterion breathed new life into the veteran franchise with Hot Pursuit and Most Wanted, Rivals marks the debut of newly formed studio Ghost Games. With much of the development team having worked with Criterion, Rivals blends elements of its predecessors, ensuring that fans will know exactly what to expect. Much like Criterion’s fantastic Hot Pursuit, Rivals features an expansive open-world in which cops and racers clash with plenty of pent up road rage. But while previous games allowed you to simply select alternating events, Rivals grants both sides of the law its own career – each with unique challenges, special gadgets and unlockable vehicles.
As you shift between the duelling career paths of Cops and Racers you’ll progress by selecting and completing set lists of objectives known as Speed Lists & Assignments. Sorted into different brackets which emphasise different styles of play – from straight up racing to driving finesse – you’re given the chance to lean towards what you enjoy, rather than being forced to complete events you’d rather shun. While it can occasionally make the open-world feel more restricted by forcing you to select set menus of a la carte gameplay, it ensures that you’re free to customise how each career progresses.
So, Rivals takes new steps with its duelling careers and unique progression; but the racing itself stays true to the arcade ethos of the franchise. Forza 5 may have earned a badge of honour from Top Gear, but Rivals would be more likely to receive two thumbs up from Michael Bay. Here, cars drift around every corner, speed through intersections and smash into each other with visceral impact. Its adrenaline pumping stuff; and events are made all the more exciting thanks to the gadgets which can be used to bring down your foes. Police can set up roadblocks or spike strips, but their rivals are also kitted out with such toys as EMP shields and stun mines.