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Need for Speed: Rivals is a perfectly fun game

November 30, 2013 10:25 IST

Need for Speed: Rivals is a perfectly fun game

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Murali Venukumar

But it’s a little disappointing that the game doesn’t try harder to freshen up the genre, writes Murali Venukumar

Platforms: Xbox 360 / PlayStation 3 / PC

Price:  Rs. 3499

Developer: Ghost Games

Publisher: Electronic Arts

Distributor: Milestone Interactive Pvt. Ltd.

Genre: Arcade Racing

Age Rating: 7+

Another year, another Need for Speed title makes its way to store shelves. Developed by Ghost games, a new studio formed by a chosen super-team of DICE and Criterion folks, Rivals stick very close to what’s worked before while tweaking and tuning select gameplay elements. It’s a fair approach and, for better or worse, one that shows in the quality of the game. The games it bears the most resemblance to are 2010’s Hot Pursuit and last years’ Most Wanted.

Set in an ambiguous region on the west coast called Redwood County, it combines Hot Pursuit’s love for point-to-point races across sweeping coastal roads with the immediacy of the Autodrive feature from Most Wanted. Autodrive being the in-game menu you toggle with the d-pad, eliminating the need to pause the game and go into a menu in order to sift through options.

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Photographs: Ghost Games/Electronic Arts

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Murali Venukumar

There are separate cop and racer careers, and they’re both bookended by really cheesy videos that are supposed to make up a sort of story. It’s hilariously corny and the game could have done without them. Hot Pursuit and Most Wanted did well enough without them in any case. Both cops and racers have special tech upgrades that you unlock via speed points that let them either capture suspects or evade the law.

You get speed points from almost every activity in the game, from winning events to just driving a certain way. Racers can build up speed points as much as they want but will need to bank them at the nearest hideout or garage, which is easier said than done when you have a swarm of cops looking to ram you off the road.

It’s a risk/reward mechanic. Do you want to stay on the road and gather more speed points (and heat in the process) or do you want to bank them after each event. It’s an interesting mechanic, although spoilt a tad thanks to the erratic behaviour of the AI police who aren’t balanced as well as they could be.

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Photographs: Ghost Games/Electronic Arts
Tags: AI

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Need for Speed: Rivals is a perfectly fun game

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Murali Venukumar

Nitrous is still a thing, and there’s something to be said about reaching the finish line with less than seconds to spare. Sadly, there are only two views to view the action from, neither of which is ideal. And even if deploying spike strips and EMPing cars is still fun, there’s a nagging feeling that not much has changed from Most Wanted and Hot Pursuit. Even the race/game types aren’t very different from what we’ve seen before.

The change in engine hasn’t really benefitted either, especially as the older Criterion games still look downright gorgeous. The new Frostbite 3 tech is certainly better than its last showing in Need for Speed: The Run, but it’s pretty obvious that it’ll need a lot more work done before it’s able to convincingly power a racing game. The game does alright visually though, especially notable with the dynamic weather and the floating leaves. The roster of supercars (including the cop versions of them) feel weighty enough, but sometimes excessively so. You feel like you’re labouring, and that’s never a good sign for an arcade racer.

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Photographs: Ghost Games/Electronic Arts
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Need for Speed: Rivals is a perfectly fun game

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Murali Venukumar

What does set Rivals apart from past games is the inclusion of seamless, pervasive multiplayer. Should you be online when you start the game, you’re game will automatically be populated with real world players - either racers or cops. This leads to a ton of unpredictability, with human cops and racers participating (and sometimes interfering) in your playthrough. Griefing is a real problem sometimes, but it can be remedied by playing with your friends instead of randoms.

If online isn’t your thing, you can turn off the feature and the game will populate the world with AI instead. It’s nice to have the option to do this, as there may be times when you just feel like playing on your lonesome with just the AI. And they’re alright for the most part, except for the conspicuous rubberbanding. Cops will catch up to you in seconds while racers will slow down when you fall behind. 

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Photographs: Ghost Games/Electronic Arts
Tags: AI

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Need for Speed: Rivals is a perfectly fun game

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Murali Venukumar

Need for Speed: Rivals, while being a perfectly fun and serviceable game, doesn’t do anything especially different aside from its always-online option. Other games have done this before though (most notably the Test Drive Unlimited series), so it’s a little disappointing that the game doesn’t try harder to freshen up the genre.

The series needs a shakeup and perhaps it’ll take moving beyond a yearly release cycle to brainstorm an evolution.

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Photographs: Ghost Games/Electronic Arts
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