The Need For Speed...Points.
Published by Brandyn
Need For Speed: Rivals
Release Year: 2013
Platforms: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC, Xbox One, PlayStation 4
Alot of longtime Need For Speed vets feel Burned Out by the direction the franchise has recently taken. It seems that the developers have taken this to heart, and so Rivals is something closer to the franchise's roots, bringing back the cops vs. racer dynamic from Hot Pursuit.
The game is split into two campaigns, the racer campaign and the cop campaign. You can freely switch between the two. If it isn't already self explanitory, your goal as a racer is to win races and time trials, etc. and as a cop it is your job to stop the racers. The game takes place within an open world in the fictional county of Redview.
However, EA decided to take an interesting direction with the open world. They have introduced a new social structure called All Drive, which they tout as eliminating the line between single player and multiplayer. You see, you are not the only human player on the map. What happens is, you are placed into a session where you share the map with five other human players. As you free-roam around it completing events, you might cross paths with them. If you are a racer, you can challenge your fellow racers to a one on one race. If you are a cop, you simply turn on your lights to engage them in a pursuit. Or if you can team up with them if they are a fellow cop.
This MMO-esque setup definately shakes things up and makes it especially fun when your opponent human, though there are AI racers and cops sprinkled in as well. Rivals also allows racers and cops to use "Pursuit Tech" to battle opponents with. Pursuit Tech is essentially power ups you can equip your ride with and makes vehicular combat more strategic and interesting. Each car can be equipped with two Pursuit Tech weapons. There is offensive and defensive Pursuit Tech and using these during high speed races and chases can really make for some amazing battles on the road. You also have the option to play offline with no one else in your World, for those times when you just want to progress through the campaign without other players messing with you.
Where it really gets interesting is the way that they have implemented Speed Points in this game. Speed Points are the game's currency, and they are used to buy things such as performance upgrades, new cars, and pursuit tech. You earn speed points by winning events, outrunning the cops during pursuits, pulling off long drifts, and other tricks and things you do on the road. However, you can only keep them if you drive back to a Hideout/Police Station and bank them. If you get totaled, or busted by the cops, you lose all of them. Of course, the developers have included an incentive to keep you from hauling it back to a Hideout or Police Station everytime you so much as stick a toe outside; the more events you win and pursuits you escape in a row, the more speed points you earn, thanks to SP Multipliers you get after every successive event that goes all the way up to x10.
Basically, the longer you stay out, the more SP you earn. So while you very well could run back to one of these buildings to bank your speed points after every single event, you earn much more by completing successive objectives and pursuits. But again, you lose it all if you are wrecked or defeated by the cops. And nothing beats that smug feeling you get inside when you are playing as a cop and you take down a human racer, knowing that you have stripped him of his hard earned speed points.
But as I said the game isn't perfect. I think the biggest flaws might be in the graphics department. The graphics look fantastic, not to mention the amazing weather effects, but don't always function good. There are some occasional framerate drops and stutters here and there. The pop-ups can also be pretty bad sometimes. Generally I don't make a big deal out of pop-ups but at the same time this is a 2013 game. Sometimes, objects don't appear on screen until the last second, and in a racing game that's not good. When I'm going 90 or more in a high speed chase to outrun the cops, I shouldn't crash into traffic or hard obstacles that didn't pop-up until I was practically kissing it. Also there are some bugs and glitches. They don't occur too often, at least not for me, but they're there and happen often enough to be worth mentioning. Things such as respawning in dead zones, falling through the ground after a jump off a ramp, or the game bugging out and freezing when entering a Hideout.
If you are reading this some months or so down the road perhaps EA will have patched these glitches but in its current state at the time of this writing I would say expect some bugs here and there. And given EA's recent track record of releasing ineffective patches and then just saying "screw it" and leaving the game as is (*cough* Battlefield 4 *cough*) who knows if this will be remedied. But again mostly minor, nothing of Arkham Origins-proportions, just stuff that should have been polished a bit more before release. We as gamers shouldn't have to "expect bugs at launch" I think for our hard earned $60 we have the right to demand a product complete and polished out of the box but that's just not how it works these days sadly. But since the game just came out in mid-November we will see what the future holds.
I imagine it's better on the next-gen consoles and from what I hear this is indeed the case, my experience is with the PlayStation 3 version. Rivals is available on PC and every current console except Wii U (sigh). Also, you cannot pause, not even when playing offline. So if something comes up that you have to do real quick better drive to a Hideout or Command Post.
My last complaint, though this is arguably more of a personal issue, is the physics engine. In my opinion it is a step backwards because drifting just felt much smoother and better in the last game. Not to mention the load times. So many loading screens. And every time you crash hard enough to trigger a "CRASHED!" cutscene, the respawn time is atrocious. If you are a cop pursuing a racer and you crash like that, he will be long gone by the time you respawn and get back on the trail. Or if you are a racer who has just gotten away the cops will be right back on your ass when you respawn. The layout of the map doesn't help either as it is essentially a series of long corridors that are connected at few points and this can often drag out pursuits and make them much longer than they really need to be.
So all things considered what's my verdict on Rivals? It's worth a try regardless of your opinions of last year's installment and at the core, it really is a great game that is fun as hell at its highest. Nothing beats the adrenaline rush of trying to hightail it back to your hideout with a horde of cops and a helicopter on your tail so you can bank all those Speed Points. Playing cop is also fun as hell because it's fun to rain on the parade of other players who need to bank their speed points and using strategy and pursuit tech to take them down. The only thing that makes me hesitant about reccommending the game at full price is the inherent lack of polish, as I said there are some bugs and performance issues here and there. At least on PS3 and 360, it's reportedly better on next gen consoles. But for the most part it the cars are cool, All-Drive is a pretty good social system, and playing as the cops is also a blast. The risk/reward system ups the ante and the use of Pursuit Tech puts a refreshing spin on the combat. So if you have the means to pick it up now and you are a racing fan, you should have a good time but if you'd rather wait until this one finds its way in the bargain bin, that certainly would not be a bad idea either.