Genre Racing / Platforms PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PC
Developer Ghost / Publisher EA
Platform Played On Xbox 360
While artificial intelligence can be a suitable opponent in video games, it has never been nearly as unpredictable as human players, which is something Ghost Games clearly understands. One of the biggest selling points around this game is the seamless transition between single player and multiplayer using the game’s AllDrive system. It looks great on paper, but does the actual execution of this system meet its lofty goals?
The premise for Need For Speed Rivals is fairly simple; there are two sides to every story and in Rivals, you experience both the racer progression as well as the police progression through the same story. The careers are broken into several chapters, each focusing on the next stage in the story, with all of them coming together to provide a far more intriguing and thought-provoking plot than has ever been seen in a Need For Speed game before.
Most racing titles are content to place the player behind the wheel of a car and have them begin racing simply because it is fun or to prove that they are the best among a certain group of people, but this title wants to shatter that tradition. Rivals puts you in control of an infamous street racer named Zephyr as well as an unnamed police officer. Between chapters, you witness the changes occurring in their world and hear their inner dialogues, showing you the changes in their motivations for continuing to get behind the wheel.
As you perform various tasks as either a racer or a police officer, you are rewarded with speed points, the currency within the game. The primary sources of speed points are completing events and finishing speedlists. Speedlists are the tasks you must complete in order to achieve the next rank in your career and there are three branches for the racers as well as the police. While playing as a racer, you will have a multiplier which increases the amount of speed points you receive for performing tasks such as drifting or hitting other drivers with pursuit tech.
Generally, the increases will coincide fairly accurately with your “heat level” which represents how badly the police want to stop you. You can drive across the map with a high multiplier to maximize the points you receive, but there is a high likelihood that your heat level will be just as high and you will have a significant number of police officers trailing you and using a plethora of tactics to put a stop to your driving.
In order to actually use the speed points you’ve accumulated, you must enter a hideout or command center to bank them. If you are busted or wrecked before you can enter one, any speedpoints you had not banked up until then are lost, making prolonged stays on the roads an increasingly dangerous gamble. The police do not have multipliers which increase the number of points they receive, but they do share the speedpoints belonging to any racer they bust. Naturally this means that if a police officer notices a high heat level above a racer, they are likely going to try and stop that person with everything at their disposal. If your heat level gets high enough, it becomes near impossible to actually escape the police and instead, it merely becomes a race to the nearest safehouse, hoping to be able to bank the significant number of speed points you have accrued before you get stopped.
There are only a handful of areas on the map where you are free from the action, even in single player. For the racers, these locations are hideouts and for the police, they are command centers. You can enter these locations at any time, but you must slow down almost to a stop in order to gain access to them, leaving racers vulnerable if they choose to enter mid-pursuit. These hubs serve as your garage, allowing you to customize your vehicles, change the “pursuit tech” you have equipped, or change your vehicle altogether.
There are far more customization and modification options in the racer career, but that is to be expected since you likely do not see any police cars driving in your city with anything other than standard decals or paint jobs. Once you are outside of your hideout or command center, you are unable to pause the game. This inability to pause did frustrate at times, but in order to provide the kind of environment Ghost Games wanted to for this game, it is understandable. Your game may contain 5 other players and they may be in the middle of a tense pursuit when you decide to pause the game, leaving them unsure of when play will resume and breaking the immersion.
The inclusion of multiple players in the same game requires the use of AllDrive, the game mechanic which was touted as being able to blur the lines between single player and multiplayer. When you start your game, AllDrive immediately becomes active and it searches for an active game for you to join. If it is unable to place you in a game with multiple players, it will create a new session for you the default setting allows other players to join your game at any time. You are able to change these settings so that it is an invite-only session or to make it single player only, assuring that you will not have any unwanted visitors while you play. The search for a session can take quite some time if there are only a handful of players available, and it has been my experience that a session is created for you more often than not.
When you do get placed in a session with multiple other players, the game presents a very different experience, one with a greatly increased intensity level. There is no system to balance the number of racers and police officers in any given game, but there is usually at least one person in any group of players who wants to play as the police even if the rest choose to be racers. Since Rivals is an open world concept with no true pause feature, the police can begin chasing racers at any time, even if they are parked or have just finished evading the police. This constant threat of pursuit creates a level of tension that is rarely felt within the racing genre.
While you are able to open up your map at any time and see where each player is as well as which side of the law they happen to be on at that moment, you are incapable of driving or moving your car at all while the map is open. This means that once you have started an event or if you are in the middle of a pursuit, you are likely not going to touch the map to find out if there is another player waiting around the bend for you and instead you must rely on your small HUD map as well as your instincts.
One of the larger issues discovered within Need For Speed Rivals is what happens if the game host happens to leave. Unfortunately, it takes a minute or two to assign a new host and migrate all of the players. While this is occurring, you are forced to stare at a loading screen and when you return to the game, you will notice that any progress you had made in a pursuit, event, and even all of the speed points you had accumulated since the last time you entered a hideout or command center have disappeared.
In one instance I was pursuing another player, having spent several minutes utilizing my various pursuits techs against them, and with one more collision between our cars, they were going to be busted. Sadly, at this point the player who happened to be the host chose to leave the game and upon returning to the game, not only was the pursuit no longer engaged, but the racer was returned to full vehicle health. There are few things quite as enraging as watching all of your hard work go to waste, especially online against other people.
Need For Speed Rivals gives the player a variety of roads to drive and drift across ranging from narrow city streets to highways to dirt paths. There are jumps, shortcuts, and plenty of locations to use in an attempt to hide from the police or ambush racers. The title certainly succeeded in blurring the line between single player campaigns and online multiplayer but with mixed results. When there were other people to play with, it created a unique experience which was incredibly enjoyable. However, if you did not get placed in a game session with others, a significant amount of that experience disappeared, leaving the plot as the only feature separating the title from others in the racing genre.
With that being said, the story being told within Rivals is one of perception and how everything in life really does boil down to your point of view. A single event can be interpreted many different ways based on the environment you are in, your priorities will be vastly different, and how others perceive your own actions will be highly dependent on their own situation. While the game may not have been quite as revolutionary as initially suggested, it certainly manages to stand out within its genre as a title aspiring to provide more to the players.
+ Multiplayer integration makes the campaign more interesting
+ Plot is thought-provoking and gives context to entire game
+ Wide range of vehicles to unlock and modify
- Often given your own game session without other players
- Issues regarding game hosts and loss of speed points
The Score 8.4
Eric is an Xbox editor for Analog Addiction where you can find all the latest gaming news, previews, reviews, and everything else that rhymes with those words. ‘Like’ Analog Addiction on Facebook to receive all of the updates as they’re posted.