‘Need for Speed: Rivals’ lends more structure to the series’ emergent worlds

need for speed rivals lends more structure to its emergent world bugatti veyron alldrive2 web

The promise in Need for Speed: Rivals is miles-high, even if it’s tough to really get a sense of that in a preview setting. This first series effort for Ghost Games – and first project overall for the relatively young studio formerly known as EA Gothenburg – appears to fit the mold of past games in the series while reinventing a few ideas, with the aim of delivering a more structured racing experience that still has the breathing room to allow for emergent excitement. The preview setting is less-than-ideal for showcasing Rivals due to the game’s focus on incidental multiplayer showdowns, but the promise of what’s in place here is impossible to overlook.

Story/Concept

Cops and crooks. The Rivals in the title refers to the principle push and pull between speedsters and the long arm of the law. Players follow a path of their own choosing through the game, whether you hit the road as a cop or a law-breaking street racer. There isn’t a traditional narrative like there was in Need for Speed: Undercover, but your progress through the game is marked by chapters, and you choose between three branching upgrade paths with each new step you take.

Cops, for example, must consider whether to go with Patrol, Undercover, or Enforcer. Your choice influences how your selection of cars develops (chapters can also be replayed, for those that want to unlock all the cars). The Patrol path strikes a balance between speed and strength; you don’t have quite as much zip as the fastest rides out there, but you can absorb more damage than those turbocharged speed demons as well. Undercover sacrifices toughness for speed, the po-po version of a proper sports car. And Enforcer… well… take a guess. Ramming speed, go.

Porsche_alldrive1_web

An emergent world. Sitting alongside the chapter-driven structure in Need for Speed: Rivals is a wide open world that populates with fellow human players. While you have the option of turning all of that off if all you want to do is cruise through the campaign, doing so threatens to cut out roughly half the experience. In our increasingly always-connected gaming world, the presence of other humans in your game world – whether they’re helping or hindering you – works to lend fresh wrinkles to long-familiar play.

This is where the preview session has difficulty capturing what the post-release game will feel like, but if our limited time on the map in a LAN party with three other players is any indication, the most enjoyable stories that you walk away from Rivals with will be the ones that other players help you write. Even the spectacular failures, such as one moment during our demo when, after pursuing a speedster for a good five minutes, another cop player came barreling through an intersection in a completely different pursuit… and immediately T-boned our own ride. Frustrating? Perhaps. But the ever-present drip-feed of Speed Points, a holdover from 2012’s NFS: Most Wanted, helps to stem the disappointment.

Gameplay

Car on a mission. Each chapter presents players with a new series of objectives that need to be completed out in the open world. So an early cop chapter, for example, might ask you to earn 5,000 Speed Points (SP) in one session, score a bronze medal on a Rapid Response (an A-to-B pursuit of a scofflaw street racer), and pay a visit to a repair shop. Complete the objectives in a chapter and return to your faction hub – Command Post for cops and Hideout for crooks – and you get to move on to the next chapter.

Of course, while you’re in pursuit of specific objectives in the open world, any number of other things could happen. You might be drawn into a race with another player. Or you’ll spot a nearby event that has nothing to do with current objectives, but seems worth trying. There’s an element of risk/reward in this. The longer you stay away from your Command Post/Hideout, the more SP you accrue. Earned SP isn’t “banked” until you return to one of your faction hubs, but the longer you stay out on the road, the more unfriendly attention you attract (much like the wanted levels of the Grand Theft Auto games). If your car is wrecked before you can get back to a hub with your precious SP, those earned points are lost forever.

Porsche_alldrive2_web

Eye in the sky. Need for Speed: Rivals‘ launch will be accompanied by a second screen app called Overwatch. This tool is helpful for solo players, but the real intent is to bring a second human participant into the game in a sort of couch co-op arrangement. Overwatch presents the user with a top-down map of the world – the same one that players see in the pause menu – that is updated in real time. You can use it to track where a car is at any given moment, and then directly interact with the world in a number of ways.

This might involve giving your friend (or your own car, in solo situations) a nitro or health boost, or it might involve laying down a spike strip ahead of whichever car you may be pursuing as a cop. We didn’t get to try the app ourselves, but we did enjoy the benefit of having someone else use it as we raced. The potential seems high for Rivals to offer a new take on our traditional notion of couch co-op play.

Presentation

Frostbitten. That Frostbite 3 engine, amirite? Need for Speed: Rivals is a sharp-looking game, just like Need for Speed: Most Wanted before it. We sampled it on both a PlayStation 4 and a PC, and it delivered an admirable picture of the world on both platforms. The fantastic sense of speed that comes from the world blurring out around you keeps your attention locked on the stretch of road right in front of you and the ridiculously detailed cars gleam from every angle as the sun brushes across their gloss-painted bodies. There’s an added layer of sharpness in the next-gen version of the game that was only evident in the PC version of Most Wanted. In the early days of the new consoles, expect Rivals to be one of those singled out for its exceptionally delicious eye candy.

Takeaway

Where Criterion Games leaned toward its roots with the Burnout series in 2012’s NFS: Most Wanted, newcomer Ghost Games pushes outward with some fresh ideas in Rivals. There’s no way to be sure of how successful the central online-connected mode will play out post-release, but the promise is certainly there. Look for Need for Speed: Rivals in stores for PC, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360 on November 19 and for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One on November 22.

Gaming

Latest ‘Fortnite’ update channels Halo with a scoped revolver

The latest update for Fortnite, update 7.20, is now available, and it brings a new Scoped Revolver weapon to the game alongside the returning Glider item and a limited-time Snipers-only mode.
Gaming

Everything we know about 'Red Dead Online', including the new mode Gun Rush

Red Dead Online will gradually rolled out to Red Dead Redemption 2 players via a beta. We've got all the details about the beta's suite of competitive and cooperative modes, as well as what to expect going forward.
Gaming

Find all of the secret exits and world skips in 'New Super Luigi U Deluxe'

Just like all other 2D Mario games, New Super Mario Bros. Deluxe includes secret exits and world skips. In this guide, we'll show you how to get to all 12 secret exits in New Super Luigi U.
Gaming

Here's everything you need to know to trade in 'Pokémon Go'

After literally years of waiting, Pokémon Go finally gives trainers the option to trade Pokémon with others. It's not easy, though, and the cost is quite high if you try trading with strangers.
Gaming

Find all of the secret exits and world skips in 'New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe'

New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe has two distinct Mario experiences in one package. In this guide, we'll show you how to find all of the secret exits in New Super Mario Bros. U, that lead to hidden levels and let you skip worlds.
Gaming

For Netflix, ‘Fortnite’ on YouTube is a bigger threat than HBO

In a letter to shareholders, Netflix explained that it views the video game Fortnite as bigger competition than HBO, with YouTube videos of the game drawing viewers away from the streaming platform.
Computing

You could be gaming on AMD’s Navi graphics card before the end of the summer

If you're waiting for a new graphics card from AMD that doesn't cost $700, you may have to wait for Navi. But that card may not be far away, with new rumors suggesting we could see a July launch.
Gaming

Take a trip to a new virtual world with one of these awesome HTC Vive games

So you’re considering an HTC Vive, but don't know which games to get? Our list of 25 of the best HTC Vive games will help you out, whether you're into rhythm-based gaming, interstellar dogfights, or something else entirely.
Gaming

Here's where Xur is and what he has for wares this week in 'Destiny 2: Forsaken'

The weekly vendor in Destiny 2: Forsaken always brings Exotic weapons and armor, some of the toughest loot to find in the game. Here's everything you need to know to track down Xur: Where he is, when he shows up, and what he's stocking.
Gaming

Sharing your best gameplay moments is quick and easy on the Xbox One

The current generation of consoles make it easier than ever to share your gaming highlights with the world. Here's a quick guide on how you can record a gameplay video on Xbox One.
Gaming

Blizzard’s latest hiring spree is likely for the unannounced ‘Diablo 4’

Activision Blizzard is hiring for more than a dozen positions on unannounced Diablo projects. Some of the roles are likely for the unannounced Diablo 4, the next mainline entry in the series.
Gaming

Xbox One X vs. PS4 Pro: Which console is more powerful?

Far from cooling down, the console wars are only getting more intense. We compare Microsoft's Xbox One X to Sony's PlayStation 4 Pro to help you decide which premium console is right for you.
Gaming

Fortnite V-Bucks being used by criminals for money laundering on dark web

Criminals are using Fortnite's V-Bucks for money laundering schemes on the dark web. Epic Games, apparently, is not doing enough to prevent the game from being used for the illegal activity.
Gaming

Relive the 8-bit gaming era with the best NES emulators for Android and PC

For years prior to the release of the NES Classic, emulators have offered a means to every NES game ever created without needing the console. Here are the best NES emulators for Android and PC.