Reviewed on: Playstation 3
Also available on: Xbox 360, PC, Playstation 4, Xbox One
If we had to give it a numerical score: 7.9/10
The issue I seem to have with Need for Speed games is that, technically, they have not gone anywhere in a long time. Since the motor world has become obsessed with ‘drifting’, the Need for Speed series added the drifting mechanic, but it’s just so simple to do – deploy the handbrake until the car looses traction, and then it is easy as pie to control, even around the hairiest of corners at whatever speed. I get that the Need for Speed has always been an Arcade racer, but the physics just seem a little tired to me. We have seen Arcade racers implement a bit of simulation-type physics, and this seems to work. Rivals just feels like they always have, and when this was fresh, the ludicrous speed was awesome, it made the series. But for me the series needs something new technically to keep me hooked.
Don’t get me wrong, for what it is, a turbo-charged Arcade racer, that is all about dodging and manoeuvring to avoid or making massive crashes, Rivals does exactly what it should. I love the ability to fully play as a cop or a racer, not just every now and then as a bit of a change. Rivals offers some of the best activities or objectives the series has seen. The fully licensed, cream of the crop cars from the worthiest of stables are even fully customisable, something that has been a trump card in the series. And I absolutely love the cop component of it all. I love that not only do you unlock better and better cars, but as a cop you get three variants of that car. Either a traditional-looking car, an unmarked (stealthy) car or the ramming variant with oversized bull-bars, all for their specific advantages. I also like the levelling up side of things, despite it constraining me to carry out mini-objectives in order to progress. I enjoyed the whole progression of it all, working towards better cars if anything.
So I shouldn’t be slightly underwhelmed, but I am with Rivals. I mean you boot it up and the presentation, menus and HUD is quite a bit more impressive than the previous games, it looks and feels new. The “special effects” like the awesome rumbling camera work, vibrating as you take off for emphasis on power – all so well designed, exciting and pleasing on the eye. However once you’ve put in a few hours, it’s for the most part business as usual – a little too familiar, and in my opinion in need of something. The most joy for me was in the career, playing as a cop, but this component also has a shelf-life.
The developers clearly want to sell the multiplayer sides of things, and it is hear that I was so excited at first, but then left cold when it all seemed to fumble. If you are in any way connected, you are influenced into the social side of things. Information, information and more information, but trying to get on with it was a bit of a mission. What I did like was that I could completely concentrate on friends – what they are doing, racing or chasing and so forth. However, I found it all a little clumsy. Just driving around could be mayhem and feels a little random, which would be fine if this was a bombastic, top-down Arcade racer, but it’s not, Rivals is attempting to be a sophisticate Arcade racer, with so much to do as if the gaming’s world was an elite Car Club, but then all the versus stuff just feels a little random. Finding a race, working out if the other player, you may have managed to stay close enough to compete against, is actually doing the chasing or being chased, it all gets a little random. I love what Criterion was attempting here, but it seems to not execute as well as it was intended to do so. The online offerings, when you get it right and the competitors are on the same page, are engaging but not technically perfect.
As a reviewer, when you are playing game after game, it’s easy to pass judgement – “oh this is not as good, or that’s a little off.” But at the end of the Need for Speed Rivals for the most part was well designed. It definitely fumbles here and there technically, but for the most part, most people should thoroughly enjoy it. I suspect those that are new to the series will think Rivals is outrageously good fun. For me though, having played all the Need for Speed games, only the cop component stands out in this one. I can think of games in the series with a better gaming world and one with better multiplayer offering. Rivals could’ve been better, and while it is definitely still good fun, I really want something new from the series in the future – stick to what it does best, but add something… what exactly, I couldn’t tell you. Hopefully
Read about our ratings here.
What I liked
- Stunning visual effects and camera work
- Cop mode
- Cars on offer and variants in cop mode
- The cars’ sound and general sound effects
- Social information
Not so much
- Online a little confused
- Map not the best
- Physics and mechanics a little tired