Need For Speed: Rivals Review 
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Stephen Snook
November 22, 2013 at 3:30 pm

Need For Speed: Rivals on the PC is a mixed bag. It seems for every good thing about the game, there’s some other problem hindering it. Over the last few days playing it, I kept leaving the game more conflicted about whether or not I was actually having fun, and whether or not I wanted to return.

NFS14 2013-11-21 00-41-47-16

The game is split up into two careers, cop, or racer. As a racer you compete in races and time trials while outrunning the omnipresent police force. Driving dangerously and causing trouble earns you speed points, or SP. You can use SP to buy and upgrade new cars as you unlock them by completing speed lists. Speed lists are a set of three goal sheets you can choose from depending on what you want to do. The lists seem pretty arbitrary since if you keep yourself busy you’ll naturally complete them just playing normally. Some are more tedious, like slipstreaming for 60 seconds.

As a cop, you play as the chaser. You chase racers down and earn an amount of SP depending on their heat level. You unlock new cars by completing a different set of speed lists relating to catching racers and rapid response missions, which is like time trials, but collisions result in a time penalty. Cops cannot upgrade their vehicles, but they have access to ‘pursuit tech’ to counteract that.

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The more you drive around before going back to your hideout to bank your SP, the higher your ‘heat’ goes up. Heat is the amount of police attention you have. The higher the heat, the more police resistance you’ll face. This part of the game is done really well. If there was anything that captured what made 2005 Most Wanted so popular, this is it. Police will deploy roadblocks, spike strips, helicopters and power-ups called ‘pursuit tech’. These range from EMP mines and fields to shockwaves and turbo boosts. They can be used by both racers and cops, making it the main way to take out other drivers. Getting hit by spike strips isn’t a game over because after a little while your tires re-inflate, which shows they put thought into the power ups.

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Ramming other players is rewarded with SP, but rather confusingly, they’ve opted for a damage meter, which even with full durability upgrades, depletes rather quickly. It makes sense design wise, because players as cops can more easily immobilise racers and vice versa, without having to bring them to a standstill. But it makes no sense to reward ramming with SP when it damages your car.

Earning SP as part of progression seems largely unbalanced, especially as a racer. If you keep racing in a session long enough, eventually you’ll have a ton of points. Of course, the police are supposed to stop you before you can bank your points, but it’s not until the very high heat levels when they actually become a problem. Pursuits start the moment you drive past a cop, so you’re constantly escaping from police and levelling up your heat.

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As far as progression through the career goes, the speed lists is it. Once you’ve completed nine or ten chapters of speed lists, you’ve unlocked every car. You can keep playing to unlock ‘elite’ upgrades, but I wasn’t particularly compelled to. Because the computer opponents scale with what car you have, you can complete the entire game with the first car if you really wanted. Which I like because if you really happen to like one of the starter cars, you can essentially beat the game with it if you upgrade its performance.

Rivals’ ‘story’ is really just an outline to set up the cop and racer rivalry. The cheesiest voice acting ensues. If I hear one more thing about ‘the limit’ I’ll cry. There’s no characters because your rivals are your friends you play online with. It’s nice to see they didn’t try and shoehorn a story where it didn’t need one. 

The selection of cars is almost exclusively exotic sports cars and hyper-cars, straying from the familiar tuners and muscle cars. It harks back to the original hot pursuit where all the cars were very exclusive and expensive. There’s not many however, only 23 for racer cars and 24 cop cars if you don’t count the undercover variants. There’s a nice range though, all modelled very faithfully.

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One of the biggest disappointments in Rivals is the lack of visual modifications for your car. You’re limited to paints in the common variants of gloss, metallic, matte, colour shift and so on.  There’s a very limited selection of rim paints, stripes, vinyl wraps and licence plates, but other than that, there’s not much to differentiate yourself from the crowd. As an aspect of racing games that is universally desired, it’s a shame that it’s missing in Rivals.

 As far as driving games go, both simulation and arcade, I’m a huge fan. Rivals has stuck to the plan of being predominantly arcade with very few simulation elements. The first sign; no manual transmission, which (if I may break into rhyme for a moment) felt like an odd omission .For the bulk of the experience you’re braking and accelerating before a corner to drift around it, similar to a burnout game. It’s a satisfying driving feel, but I can’t help but feel that your hand is being held a little too tight.

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There’s not much challenge to manoeuvring your vehicle, to the point that the counter steer while drifting is done automatically with little need for correction on your part. The handbrake is used for quick 180 turns which is immensely useful, both racer and cop. There are only two cameras, 3rd person and bumper view. I preferred the bumper view but both are totally serviceable. Nonetheless, every car is fun to drive and slightly different in characteristics, and that’s the most important part. It’s a solid feel so no real complaints that don’t transcend my personal preference.

The map is decently large and offers some nice driving roads. They range from highways, to mountain passes, dirt, and narrow country roads. The many ramps and jump opportunities and destructible scenery keep you busy.

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Rivals looks fantastic in the Frostbite 3 engine. Cars are lovingly detailed and always wet! No, I’m serious, I took all these screenshots myself. Try and pick one out where a car is dry. They really like the rainwater dripping effect, it does look great admittedly. Speaking of weather effects, the dynamic weather and time cycle is really well done. The weather conditions don’t affect gameplay, but it’s a nice touch to make the landscape more varied. Glowing brake discs and punchy exhaust notes is where Rivals really shines. The damage model is limited to bumpers falling off, scrapes and dirt, but crashes at high speeds are still spectacular.

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The sense of speed is in the subtle things. The camera shake when someone roars past, to the dip in the camera under heavy braking.  Unfortunately, all versions of Rivals are stuck at 30fps, which doesn’t ruin it in any way, but the higher frame rate for a racer especially on PC would have been preferred.

But with PC ports come glitches, tons of glitches. Some are funny, some are just weird visual quirks and artefacts. There was nothing that stopped progress so it’s not a huge deal. Just a tiny blemish on an otherwise beautiful game.

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One of the cardinal sins of gaming is not being able to pause – and I regret to inform you that Rivals does indeed not have a pause menu. Which would make sense for online, but even in the single player, there is no way to pause! I understand they are trying to incentivise rushing back to your hideout or station to bank your SP, but  it’s just inconvenient. My ‘seamless’ multiplayer experience isn’t so seamless when I need to empty my bowels and can’t pause the game.

It’s even less seamless when it continually disconnects. I’m willing to give Rivals the benefit of the doubt due to my often unreliable internet connection, but even when I was in a stable lobby, I was confronted with multiple disconnects from the host, which resulted in me losing my progress for that session. As far as interactions with other players, I was never joined by a human player for races. The only time I crossed a human’s path is when they appeared out of nowhere and smashed into me, wrecking my car. It seems no matter what side you’re on, racer or cop, people seem hell bent on just ramming everyone. So it’s safe to say that I didn’t get the full experience when it comes to multiplayer. But if the single player experience is anything to go by, all I missed was less predictable drivers than the AI.

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At the end of the day, Rivals is a launch title racer. it knows exactly what it wants to be. But what it wants to be hasn’t got much scope to it. I don’t think there’s enough here to not make this another forgettable racer. It’s really pushing the social aspect, almost to the point where it could’ve been a pure  multiplayer game. If Need for Speed World wasn’t so plagued with cheaters and pay to win crap, I would call it a superior game. If you’re a diehard fan of Need for Speed, you’ll still have some fun with online, but don’t expect it to last long. If all its problems were ironed out, it would still be forgettable – but beyond that, it’s still a lot of fun. 

Conclusion

It's most certainly a launch title racer and it's not doing much to rectify that. I'm reminded of the limited scope of Motorstorm as a launch racer for PS3. Like Motorstorm, however, the core Gameplay is solid enough to earn a recommendation to NFS fans
7.5

Need for Speed: Rivals was reviewed by Stephen Snook on a PC

Lazygamer's Australian correspondent reporting! My name is Stephen Snook and I am 21 years of age. I will be writing for Lazygamer while they poke fun at me for not only being the new guy, but also Australian. Please be kind, I'm awful fragile. I also play games on the internet: www.youtube.com/user/myth1221

  • iAmWeasel

    Not trying to give you guys a hard time, but I’d really like to get some local perspective on next-gen consoles and games. Why can’t you guys bring these consoles into the country? It is your jobs to delivery this kind of content, no?

    • http://www.lazygamer.net Gavin Mannion

      If we could afford it we would… but we simply can’t. Also this is a PC game?

      • iAmWeasel

        Sorry yes a bit off topic.

      • Sageville

        What’s the “launch title racer” pertain to? Isn’t this a PC title?

        • Stephen Snook

          It’s a launch title racer for the PS4. I used it as a measure of its quality, which is mediocre.

          • Sageville

            Ahh

          • paul middleton

            you are off your trolley. this game has incredible graphics. its fantastic in fact. but that is on Pc with ultra settings. but i have seen it on ps4. and it is a very nice looking game. amazing. mediocre you are off your head on something.

        • paul middleton

          no… it was a launch title for ps4 and xboxone but it also came out on pc

      • Charles King

        this is a console game, available on PC>

        But PC gamers are so yesterday, and never the most popular.

        • paul middleton

          hahahaha. dream on i am a pc gamer. :P and my gaming pc will blow any ps4 or xbox out of the water. and then after you played all your crap on your mobile and tablet we will play some real mens games on PC. like star citizen or something in that league. PCs will always be tomorrows next tech. consoles are always way behind pc tech. but you do need the cash. but like anything money talks bullshit walks so walk on.

      • paul middleton

        no. its on ps4 and xbox1. but id never buy and xbox ever again. so. ps4 or pc. ie: a gaming pc.

    • http://www.twitter.com/WobblyOnion Exalted Overlord Geoffrey Tim

      Really wish we could afford to import units – but we have an expenditure budget of roughly 12 cents. Per annum.

      • Unavengedavo(aka. MadeYouLook)

        Which is mostly used to bail Brenda out of jail for indecent exposure…

      • iAmWeasel

        What about Darryn’s pocket money? :-P

  • http://www.jeeva.net/ RZR | jeeva

    Same Burnout Paradise crap over & over.

    R.I.P Need for Speed Underground 1 & Most Wanted (2005).

    • ToshZA

      I miss those games so much.

    • Graeme

      I miss the early NFS games, I still think NFS2 was one of the best driving simulators ever. The visuals were beautifully done, with amazing detail to the amazing cars and driving them was fun and as “real” as we could imagine them to be. I’m not sure what happened to turn NFS around from there, now they’re all crappy arcade type games. I picked up “Rivals” yesterday, played for about 20 minutes and gave up.
      Why can’t they make games where the racing is fun and real? You no longer try to apex a corner properly, now you get in fast, get out fast, bump and shove your way around your opponent because racing lines are non-existent and you don’t have to be quick through a corner, just shove your way through. Grand Turismo is too boring, opponents are so boring and easy to overtake or impossible to keep up with, competition is never tight and equal. RIP NFS. Or maybe it’s RIP the old guy that can’t keep up with gaming trends.

      • http://www.jeeva.net/ RZR | jeeva

        TNFS/NFS is an arcade racing franchise just like NFS2 & NFS2:SE (1997). Don’t know where you get the idea that NFS2 was a simulator. It was extremely ‘arcadish’ with difficult handling on the keyboard since it didn’t support “light” turning only full turning. You had to tap the turning keys on the keyboard around corners. However the maps & cars were awesome.

        The closest the NFS Franchise came to ‘simulator’ was with ProStreet (2007) and Shift (2009), both crap games.

        And since Criterion gaming with their ‘Burnout Paradise Engine’ and took over, it all went snowballed. The handling seems like that 1980’s Arcade game “OUTRUN”, where you skid around every corner or now called “drifting”.

        P.s. racing lines has never really existed in NFS, check with NFS:HP (2002), try the circuit called “Wine Country” With the McLaren F1 & Mercedes-Benz CLK GTR. There is a massive straight line which goes into a 180 degree long turn. You can approach the turn from every angle @ 300 Km/h and still keep the speed. No racing line required.

        • Graeme

          You’re right, it wasn’t a simulator, but it did feel more real than the current NFS series. I do remember the constant tapping of keys to get the apex of a corner right (*sigh* the good ol’ days), but you could get it right, now you get through a corner so quick that there’s no enjoyment or reward for getting the apex right, despite having better control of the car.
          Criterion have definitely destroyed the driving experience with no need to counter steer or control a “drift”. Every drift feels exactly the same, come to think of it, I can’t remember when I last spun using too much power.
          They’ve lost the plot for sure.

    • Hugo Stiglitz

      Hot Pursuit 2 was absolutely terrible. What kind of drugs are you on?

  • Hammersteyn

    I miss the customization aspect. Creativity is important as you feel like you are driving your creation.

    • Stephen Snook

      Totally. There was no sense of personalisation with rivals cars.

  • Sageville

    The heli flying resembles my skillz in the BF4 choppers….

    • Vampyric Squirrel of the Sith

      resembles my skillz in the GTAV choppers… lol

      • Stephen Snook

        Still don’t understand why people have such trouble with the choppers in GTA V

        • Vampyric Squirrel of the Sith

          I’m much better in a plane… but I’m not half bad in a chopper, just need to get my online flying stats up

    • Matthew Holliday

      why I never fly in bf4.
      im a professional passenger.

  • Vampyric Squirrel of the Sith

    Sounds too much like NFS Hot Pursuit to me… actually it sounds exactly the same as the last hot pursuit :P

    • Stephen Snook

      Very similar, but less content.

      • Vampyric Squirrel of the Sith

        Less content than an old game? That’s quite a failure

  • Pixel_ninja

    Thomas McAllister is red john, and he gets strangled by patric jane next to a dam, after capping him in the knees and mounting him cowgirl style!

  • Dorkmaster Flek

    I disagree that locking the frame rate at 30 fps doesn’t ruin the game. It is completely unacceptable for a AAA $60 2013 title to have a locked frame rate especially that low. It becomes obvious why it is locked if you use a console command to unlock the frame rate. The game speed goes up with the frame rate and the physics go haywire.

    The is absolutely mindblowing. I don’t understand how they coded the game like this. It is a total rookie mistake, the kind of thing you see on old DOS games when trying to run them on a modern system. That’s assuming you can actually get past the ridiculous amount of forced cutscenes and tutorials that you cannot skip and sometimes just repeat endlessly if you mess with the frame rate, never moving past.

    It is absolutely unacceptable, this game is completely broken on PC, and you should avoid it like the fucking plague.

    • http://tomoe.bandcamp.com/ Tomoé

      You’re just quoting TotalBiscuit!

      • Dorkmaster Flek

        Quote? Not exactly. Describe exactly what he found in his video? Absolutely. Is he wrong? We should be spreading the word about this godawful PC port and publicly shaming the publisher so they know this is not acceptable.

        • http://tomoe.bandcamp.com/ Tomoé

          Well I agree with you there. I suppose if it’s all in service of spreading the word, then I’m on board.

          • http://www.jeeva.net/ RZR | jeeva

            Same reason why I lost out on a NFS tournament M-Web hosted to win a PS3 in November 2012. I set the fastest time by far only to be beaten by a guy later the night when the XBOX’s were starting to overheat, causing his game to slow down & physics going haywire. He even told me afterwards he didn’t know how that happened. But those dodgy M-web admins were just glad enough not to make me the winner and gave him the PS3.

  • dirkradke

    On the 360 console version I actually have fun with my friends in this game. Never had a connection problem so far and if it can’t find a game for me it puts me in a game of my own which is fine as far as I’m concerned. I only want to play with friends anyway. While I don’t disagree with the reviewer and obviously don’t know the “bugs” he is talking about because I don’t have the PC version the rest of what he complains about would seem to me to lower the game score beyond what he gave it. Although the Pause part really is irritating. The other irritating thing in the game if you’re parked legally and not breaking the law you still get busted. That makes no sense.

    • Stephen Snook

      I can agree with a lot of that. As far as online goes, I considered while scoring the game that even if the online worked perfectly, it’s still a mediocre game even by NFS standards. But the Gameplay is still really solid. It’s just a shame the scope is so limited

  • Manon DeFlorette

    Might skip this one. I’ve already got the hot pursuit on the PC. Not much differences I see wih this one.

  • CypherGate

    lol I dont even bother to even try the new Need 4 speeds games out anymore. They all EXACTLY the same. The Run was quite different and actually enjoyed it quite a bit, but Hot Pursuit 2, Rivals etc etc is just plain bland and exactly the same game. Graphics is great, but whats that if you cant even enjoy these new ones like 2005 Most Wanted? What about the Underground series? Hell i even enjoyed Carbon to a certain extent. These new ones are all show graphically and thats about it. This series is really officially done. Hell its been done ages ago.

    • Matthew Holliday

      The run was possibly the worst NFS ever.

      • CypherGate

        Reason why i quite enjoyed The Run was because it was just different from the formula of this current type. The Run to me was just a different racing game, but if i should look at it as a Need4speed game then i would agree that it does suck balls.

        The older ones did have a soul indeed. Most Wanted (05) was so so good. Sound track, atmosphere, the way the cars handled. It was just pure fun. Loved that game. Still do.

        • Matthew Holliday

          Ima let you finish, but i just wanna say that Undergrounds soundtrack was the greatest of all time.
          From the windoooooow
          to the wall

          • http://www.jeeva.net/ RZR | jeeva

            and DOOMSDAY – OVERSEER.

          • Gr8_Balls_o_Fire

            Till the sweat drip from my balls

  • Matthew Holliday

    I enjoyed the last Most Wanted game, i didnt take it too seriously, and it gave me enough of a driving fix to keep me happy, didnt feel like a waste of money atleast.

    the 30fps and no pause menu bothers me though, why did i bother upgrading my gfx card if its locking me to my olds cards fps?

  • DBL_ZA

    Reading all the reviews about Most Wanted “2” being so good made me buy the game. I played it for maybe a week and got bored out of my mind. I swore never to buy a Need for Speed game again. Quite happy that this review hasn’t made me reconsider. NFS just isn’t what it used to be…

  • John’s (JJ’s) finest excuse

    Pity it’s EA, or I might’ve considered buying it.

  • Pope Ratzo

    Very good, very fair review, Stephen. I’m actually having a great bit of fun with the game. I’m not hitting the tedium wall, maybe because I’m a huge fan of arcade semi-sim racers. I keep hoping for a new Burnout Paradise, but am always thwarted. This is more of a new Hot Pursuit.

    I have a big problem with the 30fps cap though. That, and the relatively grainy engine, make the game look like it’s been seen through gauze, or a film camera from the 1970s. That may have been the artistic choice of the devs, but I don’t like it. One thing that Criterion games have always had is a lovely sense of light and space, and the “film grain” flattens the experience quite a bit. My computer can handle a lot better than 30fps, so I just don’t understand the cap.

    All in all, I’d give this an 8.5 out of 10 (and I am a very hard grader).

    • Stephen Snook

      Trust me, I would have preferred a new Burnout.

  • Jutame

    Need for Speed is one of my all time favourite game.I dont no what is the feelings of others,Btw my feeling was adventerous,heart beating and awesome.I collect this game from Jutame.com -A Next Generation Gamestore.

  • Acornbread

    Does anybody know whether the Xbox 360 version supports the wireless speedwheel? I’ve heard the PC version’s been gimped and only supports the controller. Would like to get this but without wheel support it’s pointless. :(

  • CE02XD

    Imo this game is amazing, both for multiplayer experiences and graphical experiences. I play this game on a PS3 and with a decent connection, you can get the full experience out of the game. So definitely get this game on a console for a great race game and hours of fun!

  • Hydro

    i don’t know what Stephen Snook is talking about i think he might need a new profession being a dog catcher because this is a steaming pile of dog sh** 7.5 wow!! this game should be at 3.0 i feel sorry for anyone who paid for this sh** do us a ll a favor Stephen kill your self or start telling the truth and call out games for what they really are jackass.

  • Charles King

    Today’s game is about what is important and what can be left behind.
    And I was talking to a pc gamer today, who thinks playing on a computer is far better.

    Well I just watched your screen, and it was choppy way choppy.

    There is no need for old and muscle. This is a High end class of racing, and in a world where people actually drive these cars.

    We all dream about owning these kind of cars, and sadly for most of us this is the closest we will get.

    But suffice to say. Rivals is the BEST out of the 3 I have played in the past 6 weeks, out of 20 years of Need for speed Experience. Rivals blows the other two out of the water. Most wanted Mostly sucks, and Hot pursuit Totally sucks.

    Rivals is appealing to the eye, and it actually feels like a car in your hand when you control it. I HAVE done things on Rivals you can only dream about on MW and HP.

    There is nothing wrong with this game, and I suspect if enough people cry hard and long, maybe the next one on Ps4 Exclusive, could have this, and some of the stuff you miss.

    But I love this copy.
    Don’t need to waste time on upgrades, Pick, Play and go! NEED FOR SPEED!

    I wonder how old you are and how long you have been playing Need for speed.

    But this is by far the best one on Ps3

    If you love your cars so much, you can play GT6.

    • Charles King

      By the way, I have unlocked 25 cop cars, with 45 more to go, and only in Chapter 8.

      Go figure.

  • Ricky

    This game is crap. I thought it was going to be better than the previous Most Wanted game because it wasn’t being done by Criterion, but I can’t get past the driving mechanics. Oversteer from every car, the steering is too sensitive with no settings to adjust, and when you full turn then let go, there’s a delay that keeps the car in the turn. This means that literally every turn you make in the car is overdone unless you learn to compensate for it. I will NEVER purchase another NFS game again. I can’t believe I made this mistake a second time. Trading this pile of junk in today.

  • Phil1053

    I need help

    • Phil1053

      My xbox one don’t save my game way

  • Geralt

    Since Need for Speed ??14, Need for Speed changed a non-talent- person to lead

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  • paul middleton

    need 4 speed rivals. i got it for pc from day 1. and played it a little and didnt really like it. thats because i played as a racer most of the time. and found there was just far too much police presence for my liking. and i just hate it when everybody slams into you and spoil your driving experience. i really wanted to experience a race without cops. but you dont get to do that. you dont get to enjoy the beautiful roads without someone smashing you into something. so i gave up on the game. today i just played with police. which i enjoyed more, because your doing the smashing. but, still find others smashing into you. even your own cop mates, not always on purpose mind you. the game looks fantastic on pc with ultra settings. when the rain is beating down and the birds are flying and the sea is splashing and tree leaves are blown around and the speckles effects on screen.l all look incredible as racers fly past you and a few cops. the game looks fantastic. i been playing for a while and found people taking ammo from me. ie: my speed traps. which didnt bother me too much, then i started getting damage not actually hitting anyone. but being given damage by other players by overwatch. then my car starts steering on its own making me smash into the sides of the road. not impressed, is this cheating i dont know. but i noticed there are some trainers out now for rivals. so has it now come down to the cheaters rule the game on multiplayer. seems so. kinda wish i hadn’t spent £50 on this game, cause always been something that stops me playing it. use to be bugs. now it seems cheats. the game seem ok as a cop. but if your looking to race. hot pursuit is the better game.

  • paul middleton

    oh and when you finally beat down a racer and you see them do a roll in front of you it is so satisfying i chased down a blue ferrari. and it took a good 5 minutes the final hit when he rolled down t he road ohhh it was beautiful. great effects. i wish i could have shared that moment.

  • paul middleton

    no wheel support :(

  • Kirk Apolo

    The game is awsm..this game is for prefessional racing gamers not like those burnout kids..so I luv this game? NFS Rivals

  • Anthony

    Its a fun game but just really want there to be manual transmission

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