Need For Speed Rivals box art I don't remember the exact phrasing, but my first encounter with the loading screen of Ghost Games' Need For Speed Rivals told me all I really needed to know about the latest title in the venerable series. The gist of that loading screen tip? "Drifting refills nitrous." A thinking man's racing game this would not be.

And frankly, that's okay. In a world where the video game racing genre is dominated by Forza Motorsports and Gran Turismo, Rivals is a breath of fresh air. It doesn't take itself too seriously, and while this is both to its gain and detriment, it's this characteristic that I was reminded of each time I began to get angry over a gameplay fault. It was also this frustration that ended up ruining what, at first, looked like a solid title.

As the Need For Speed series seems to be constantly evolving with new set pieces and perspectives in each title, it's important to point out what Rivals is - namely, it feels like a spiritual successor to Need For Speed 3: Hot Pursuit, allowing gamers to take on the role of either a police officer or a street racer. That's really all you need to know, as the few, limited elements of Rivals' story have all the depth and gravitas of Steven Seagal doing Hamlet.

If you're a racer, you just want your freedom, which consists of driving a supercar like a clown. If you're a cop, you want to make the average citizen feel safe, which is done by attempting to wreck other drivers. There's no real extrapolation of these two ideas throughout the title, so it's best just to forget about them completely and focus on the game itself.
Need For Speed RivalsNeed For Speed RivalsNeed For Speed Rivals

The mist from waterfalls, the omnipresent swirling of leaves and the sheer variety of locales made for a vibrant and entertaining world.

And what a pretty game it is. I tested it on the Xbox 360, and even on 'obsolete' technology, Rivals is visually striking. Based on reviews I've read from other, video-game specific publications, those who pick up NFSR for a Playstation 4 or Xbox One are in for a real treat. On the 360, vehicle modeling was slightly under par relative to Forza 4 and GT5, but it made up for this with beautiful, dynamic vistas that were easily the equal of (or better than) Forza Horizon. The mist from waterfalls, the omnipresent swirling of leaves (really, it's cool at first but feels overdone after a few hours of gameplay) and the sheer variety of locales made for a vibrant and entertaining world to look at while traveling at 120 miles per hour (or more).

But much like that very pretty girl in high school who was a few cards short of a full deck, Rivals' good looks belie a variety of gameplay issues that keep it from being as entertaining as it should be.

A racing game needs to walk a thin line between being accessible for new players, challenging for more advanced gamers and entertaining for all. Rivals suffers from being too accessible. Gameplay features that have been adjustable in racing titles for years, such as the ability to choose between an automatic and manual gearbox or whether to run with stability and traction control on or off are inexplicably unavailable in Rivals. The computer will shift gears at all times - even when it leaves you flat-footed in the middle of a pursuit.

Need For Speed Rivals

In general, the physics are far more Cruisin' USA than iRacing.

This isn't a bad feature for the seven-year-old gamer who hasn't figured out that the brake pedal is there to make you go faster, not slow you down, but it's a chronically frustrating issue that left me shaking my head on nearly every play-through. The other downside of keeping all the cars hemmed in without tweakable nannies and gearbox choices is that a lot of them feel the same.

I didn't unlock the entire bevy of cars available (the selection is meaty and full of high-dollar entries), but when I went from a BMW M3 GTS racer to a Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 police cruiser and wasn't really able to tell a difference (aside from the sound and appearance), it cheapened the overall experience of the game.

Handling is largely predictable, with an elementary approach to understeer and oversteer. Pitch a car into a corner at a reasonable pace, tap the brakes and turn the 'wheel' hard enough, and the car drifts, no questions asked. Understeer doesn't really crop up unless you're going far too fast for a turn. There's no sense of feedback, although as the cars aren't difficult to handle, there doesn't need to be. Sure, you can be a bit of a tool with the gas pedal and get the car to misbehave, but in general, the physics are far more Cruisin' USA than iRacing.

Need For Speed RivalsNeed For Speed RivalsNeed For Speed Rivals

Strike two against Rivals are the events. Set at all corners of the open-world map, the series of pursuits, time trials, races and other events are good for a little while, but grow repetitive rather quickly. A similar argument could be made against any racing game, but many other titles back up repetitive gameplay with other factors like accurate physics and a clever AI that make each race, while mostly identical to the last, challenging in some new and different way. Rivals lacks those factors, and left me feeling a bit bored after running yet another Interceptor or Rapid Response mission.

There might always be a sociopathic 12-year-old who wants to do nothing more than smash into you.

A big qualm with NFSR is its always-online nature. This seems to be a trend in video games, although this is the first racer I can recall that used it as a major part of the game, although there may be a reason for that. For example, because it's always online, there's no way to pause a game of Rivals unless you make it back to one of the Hideouts or Command Posts scattered across the map. The other thing about always-online games is that you're stuck playing with other gamers. That means there might always be a sociopathic 12-year-old who wants to do nothing more than smash into you. You can go offline and play, but you'll miss out on those times when being online really clicks.

For example, I found myself fleeing a rather sizable group of 5-0, when I came upon another racer who laid down some cover with his Pursuit Tech, allowing us both to race off into the distance and escape the pursuing cops. It's even easier when playing as a cop, as you're able to hop into anyone's pursuit and lend a hand in apprehending a suspect. When online play works, it works quite well. There are still issues - we had trouble staying connected - but we suspect it'll be some time before server and host migrations are eradicated from gaming.

Need For Speed Rivals
Need For Speed RivalsNeed For Speed Rivals

The problem with NSFR is that server migrations can really mess things up. If it happens mid-event, you're forced to restart from the beginning. If you're running from the cops with a load of Speedpoints (the in-game currency) in your possession and end up getting busted because the internet has a hiccup, there's not a lot you can do there, either.

Pursuit Techs are one of the highlights to Rivals incessant game of cat and mouse.

Speaking of those Speedpoints, they're the way racers buy all their shiny new cars, upgrades, decals and Pursuit Techs. Racers acquire them by generally being a maniac on the roads - drifting, driving too close to other cars and what not. Cops, meanwhile, earn Speedpoints by busting racers. And by "busting," we mean viciously running into them until their car's health gauge runs dry, at which point the cop snags all the racer's cash. And while it seems easier to earn Speedpoints as a cop, they're far less useful. All the cop cars are provided once you've completed the requisite Speedboard, leaving a heaping helping of currency that can only buy Pursuit Tech.

Those Pursuit Techs are one of the highlights to Rivals incessant game of cat and mouse, allowing both cops and racers to mess with their opponents with things like EMPs and tire spikes. There's few things as satisfying as playing as a cop and using the game's Shock Ram to run a racer off the road or to use an EMP on a cop. It feels a lot like calling in an air strike in Call of Duty, giving you that feeling that you're winning.

Need For Speed Rivals, Pursuit

Put simply, there are other racing titles we'd pick up before buying Need For Speed Rivals. While it is a graphically beautiful game, its gameplay issues and repetitive nature make it a difficult game to burn hours playing.

When Seyth Miersma reviewed Forza Motorsport 5, he remarked that, "I've had it for two weeks and I can't stop playing it." While playing Rivals, I never had that feeling. I found myself playing in spurts rather than binges, and it's that fact alone that makes this a difficult game to recommend.

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    • 1 Second Ago
      Robert Markoš
      • 1 Year Ago
      This game is so unbelievably boring I got tired of it 20 minutes in. Granted, online races might improve things quite a bit... but man... it's an arcade game - ruined. What a shame and what a waste.
      • 1 Year Ago
      I have to say as a long time Need for Speed fan, I think this might be the least enjoyable NFS game I have ever played, And that is counting the bug in NFS Most Wanted where after winning a race the opponents car may not show up for the Take down race, this happened to me on the final race, and EA's "fix" was to delete all your save data and start over, it is "unlikely" to happen a second time, a response that resulted in me swearing never to buy another EA product, something that didn't even last a year. In the racer career it always feels like the game is working against you and that just takes the fun out of it, oh you were about to bank your points, here have a cop car come out of nowhere and T-Bone you for an instant bust, oh you were heading back to bank your points, guess what random cop's everywhere will stop you, the aggressive way the cops try to bust you on sight even if your not breaking any laws is a serious put off.
        • 1 Year Ago
        The series as a whole has gone downhill since Criterion took over. The series was originally a decent balance between arcade and sim, (probably a 60/40 split) and since it's become NFS Burnout it's more like 80/20. I was a huge fan of the NFS series and I appreciated their sim efforts with the NFS Shift games, but they've gone too far towards the likes of Ridge Racer, IMO.
      • 1 Year Ago
      Honestly I hate that you can't pause the game even when playing in offline single player it's frustrating. Also I can never truly roam freely as a racer because there is always a pursuit going on and the cops never actually leave you alone and that's annoying. The visuals are great on ps4 though and the loading times are fast
      • 1 Year Ago
      What the NFS series need is consistency. From 1-6 it was all about exotics and cop chases. Underground existed because of the trend at that time, it was well executed nonetheless. Most Wanted was mentally good as they added cops into the mix. When they released Prostreet it was an appalling title. The controls were really bad. I just didn't believe that the later titles managed to supersede its 'badness'. Shift 2 was an exception because it was so well refined after Shift 1. They try too hard to keep reinventing the wheel all the time. They just need to stay at one style and stick to it. The trouble I have with this title is that the cars are very heavy and every car just handles like a truck. Every speedlist takes no time to complete. Better cars are too easy to come by. It lacks depth to say the least. Most Wanted 2012 was better though it could be even better if the cars weren't also easy to come by.
      • 1 Year Ago
      When I bought NFS Hot Pursuit for the Xbox 360 when it came out and discovered that there isn't a manual transmission option anymore, I just about threw my controller at my TV. I hear all the new NFS games are Automatic trans only and I refuse to drive my digital cars that way. I ALWAYS choose manual in a car game.
      • 1 Year Ago
      Miguro Takahashi
      • 1 Year Ago
      NFS games are frustrating nowadays. When they are announcing a title with initial gameplay, it always looks promising. But then when you get the actual game and play it, after an hour, you're sitting there like, "That's it?" As good as the graphics are, if the gameplay sucks, it's not gonna mean much in the end. If you want a solid racing game Forza or GT for sure. With all the silly boost nitrous by drifting crap in NFS, you'd probably be better off watching an FF movie.
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Miguro Takahashi
      • 1 Year Ago
      its an arcade racing game and it accels at that. And that's why i love it.
      Isha Khanna
      • 1 Year Ago
      pilizz visit ...
      • 1 Year Ago
      That's the thing about the NFS series. They are so heavily arcade. They like that anyone can pick it up. EA loves the money, too. But I won't not recommend it based on that. They have their charm, just like Midnight Club or Burnout. They are just fun, do as you please games. It's why I like Most Wanted (2010) as much as I do. Play in some top tier cars immediately and just drive about, p***ing around. Yeah, the lack of a manual sucks, but the other stuff would hinder what NFS is there for. Trust me, I LOVE Forza, iRacing, and GT as much as the next guy. Hell, I race in the real world as a competitive driver. But, I will say this, I don't need it all the time, and that's what Need For Speed can do. Make it just fun for the reasons for that which the series has become. Sure, I'd like to see another Shift to have a stronger competitive edge, but their market is a bit younger than the simulators. And I still play them like I did when I was younger, playing NFS III: Hot Pursuit, like the kid in me. (Kids these days are why I don't play too much online with NFS). I know my opinion is more than likely unpopular, but hey, what do I care for likes or dislikes. I dig the game, because I get what it is, and will play it for just that.
      • 5 Months Ago
      The need for speed series went to **** little by little every year. I used to love the Underground series. I used to love this game for the cool cinematic story lines and feeling like you're having some sense of progress and accomplishment by buying parts for your car and making it better bit by bit as you win races and earn money, earning fame with it as well. Not this right-off-the-bat-$1-million-sports-cars-avaliable-at-your-disposal bullshit. EA, you done ****** it up. NFS Rivals free activation keys
      • 1 Year Ago
      The next gen games are very disappointing for me. I reserved and purchased the Xbox One and PS4. I've played both, neither blow me away. On the racers, instead of focusing on the cars they focused on the scenery. The actual cars and replays don't look much better than the previous gen to me.
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