Need For Speed: Rivals review

15 Nov, 2013 5:26pm Jamie Fretwell

We review Need For Speed: Rivals, the 20th Need for Speed racing game from EA

Need for Speed: Rivals is the 20th title in the franchise, and it’s one of the first racing games that we’ve had the chance to try on a next-generation console. We reviewed it on the Playstation 4, but it’s also available for the upcoming Xbox One, as well as the PC, PS3 and Xbox 360. So how does the latest version of cops and robbers fare?

You’ll be pleased to know that you race supercars instead of the Vauxhall Insignia cars used by British police, and the action takes place in the fictional environment of Red View County, which is based on Southern California instead of sunny Slough.

Watch the gameplay video below to get an idea of the game's style, and then read on for our full Need for Speed: Rivals review.

Need for Speed: Rivals - New Features

The big new innovation is ALLDRIVE – a feature which EA calls ‘mingleplayer’. That basically means that at one moment, you can be playing the game’s campaign mode, on your own; then the next, you can join up with your friends online and race – all without having to connect to a server and wait. It can be distracting when you’re in the middle of completing an objective, but we eventually got used to it.

ALLDRIVE also means you can complete the game on your own, or with help from a friend. Sadly, there’s no split-screen multiplayer mode for racing a friend when they come round your house – though you can use the Overwatch iPad app to help or hinder one of your mates.

Need for Speed: Rivals – Gameplay

You can choose to be a racer or a cop (and switch regularly) and then earn points for completing objectives. However, you have to ‘bank’ these points regularly by returning to your hideout or command centre – failure to do so means that if you’re busted or wreck your car, you lose them. As a cop, you win points by busting racers, responding quickly to alerts, and driving without crashing. As a racer, it’s all about beating other drivers, dodging the police and staying close to your car’s top speed.

The graphics are what set this game apart – the gameplay is in 1080p quality as standard, and the way the lights reflect off rain drops and how windows shatter after an impact is very impressive. This is still an arcade game, though, and we were disappointed that there are only two camera views – a bonnet cam, and behind the car. We’d like to have seen a cockpit view, which would add to the realism.

Need for Speed: Rivals - Cars

There are plenty of licenced cars in the game, including models from Pagani, and, after an 11-year hiatus, Ferrari. We tried the Porsche Cayman, Mercedes C63 AMG, Aston Martin Vanquish, Marussia B2 and Chevrolet Camaro, and each not only looked great, but sounded great, too. Each has a nitrous boost, and there’s the option to upgrade the strength, durability, acceleration, top speed and control using points earned in races.

Whether you’re a cop or a racer, you can equip your car with Pursuit tech to use in races. Cop cars can get electromagnetic pulses to disable racers’ cars, while racers can get an added turbo boost and police jammer to evade capture.

There are ways to personalise your car as a racer, too. You can change the colour of the bodywork and wheels, or add decals, wraps and custom numberplates. This makes it a lot easier for your car to stand out from other racers in the online environment, but police cars don’t have the same level of customisation. You’re only allowed to pick between the standard car, an undercover model (with fewer decals) or an enforcer version (with bull bars).

Need for Speed: Rivals - Handling

Once again, we should stress that Need for Speed is an arcade game, so if you’re looking for super-realistic cars with precise handling, this isn’t the game for you. The cars tend to be drift happy, and have an interesting traction control set-up that seems to kill power but still lets you skid.

However, there’s a real difference between models, too – the Vanquish was keen to understeer, while the Cayman beautifully balanced. The steering is consistent, and the way the handling changes according to different surfaces (wet roads, dirt tracks) and your car’s state (like after your tyres have been spiked) is fairly impressive. Fortunately, you can drive through a petrol station during a race to repair your car, and top up its Pursuit Tech.

Need for Speed: Rivals - Verdict

The huge, open-world environment, wide variety of cars, superb graphics, life-like weather and damage effects make Need for Speed: Rivals incredibly fun - we could happily play this game for hours at a time. However, the lack of split-screen multiplayer and a cockpit view seem like missed opportunities, and those who prefer more linear gameplay should look elsewhere.

Need for Speed: Rivals launches on 19 November on PC, PS3 and Xbox 360, and 22 November on PS4 and Xbox One.

Price: £39.99 (PC, PS3, Xbox 360); £49.99 (PS4, Xbox One)
Age Rating: PEGI 7+
Formats: PS4, Xbox One, PC, Xbox 360, PS3
Rating: Four out of five