The next generation of video game consoles is upon us, and one of the game comparisons I was most looking forward to was a head-to-head battle between EA's Need for Speed: Rivals and Ubisoft's The Crew. Unfortunately, the latter has been delayed to the late part of 2014, giving Rivals a chance to take the lead in the arcade racing genre for almost nine months before facing some serious competition. Developer Ghost now has the spotlight all to itself, begging the question, is their first game worthy enough to ride out those nine months?
The answer is a resounding yes.
It's worth noting that we have followed Criterion, developers of the fantastic Burnout franchise, as they moved into controlling the Need for Speed series of games. Both Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit and Need for Speed: Most Wanted were uniformly excellent, so Ghost has some very big shoes to fill.
AllDrive, All The Time
Need for Speed: Rivals reaches new speeds thanks to the brand-new AllDrive feature, which melds single-player and multiplayer into a single open world. This feature is seamless, allowing the game to feel alive, capturing the mood of games like Burnout Paradise which balanced single-player goals with multiplayer options in the same game mode.
If there's a drawback, it can be an annoying one, and that's griefing. Your races can be ruined at any moment by another player, but to be fair that can also happen thanks to crafty AI racers that appear when Rivals needs to populate the game world some more. Overall, the modes were fantastic fun, and we can recount a couple of choice memories.
For example, during a head-to-head race while I was playing a racing mode, I hit a hairpin turn at an unlawful speed only to catch a cop's attention. In Rivals, the police have EMPs and other devices designed to slow you down or force you completely off the road. All of a sudden, in that instant, the fastest path through the course was no longer the best option, and I kept to the harder turns and hidden paths that made the game much harder. However, when I won the race and lost the cop, it felt amazing.
The only problem with AllDrive is that the game doesn't pause, so once you're out of your garage and begin driving, the action keeps on going no matter what happens. When you need to pause the game, be prepared to head back to a garage or expect some ruffians to take you out. Thanks to AllDrive, the game is essentially an MMO, so just be careful.
Points Of Vroom
As you progress through the game you earn speed points, used to purchase upgrades. Cops can take points away by making you wreck, but you will earn plenty of points by winning and driving recklessly. Beware: racers will lose all of their points if they're busted, and this can be a minor annoyance or devastating loss. Protip: always head back to your hideout to bank your points if you want to get far in Rivals.
Need for Speed: Rivals is gorgeous on the PlayStation 4. It's bright, fast, and running at that full 1080p that will make any home theater owner swoon. Vehicles look true to life, even if they have a wet sheen to them as if they were just caught in a storm. It's an odd effect, but the overall game looks amazing.
Rivals surrounds everything by an overly-serious presentation that belies the arcade fun found during the game. The game's opening begins with a somber tradeoff of spoken word poetry about justice and freedom, and that mood is carried forward into the game and your different mission options. Each option has its own short phrase, delivered with all the macho bravado found in the "best" Michael Bay films. In the next game, we hope EA turns it down just a notch.
Next-gen racing has officially left the line, and Need for Speed: Rivals is off to a great start. This is well worth a purchase, no matter which platform you are using as your next generation vehicle.
GAME's Verdict - 9/10
- Absolutely gorgeous visuals are the perfect showcase for your next-gen console
- AllDrive is a mode that will please even the most hardcore Burnout fans
- The only game in town if you're looking for an arcade-style racer
- The game never pauses, so watch where you leave your unattended car
- Cars have a strange sheen to them, although they still look amazing
- The presentation can be a bit over-the-top and out of place