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Need for Speed: Rivals PS4 Review: The Greatest Hits

Blending some of the best features of prior titles with seamless single and multiplayer action, Need for Speed: Rivals hits the next generation head on.

Review by Jaz Rignall, .

Jaz Rignall Primary Reviewer

I was doing well. After chasing a ‘Vette for several miles, sirens blaring atop my police-liveried Merc C63 AMG Black Series, I was finally closing the gap between us. But then, as I crested a hill – on the right side of the road may I add – I was involved in a head-on collision with another cop car that was traveling at speed in the opposite direction, on the wrong side of the road. In the split second I had to react and then realize there was nothing I could about the impending epic crash, I noticed the car I was about to hit was labeled “OXM Rival.”

That’s because I was at a recent review event where a large contingent of West Coast game reporters had been brought together to play Electronic Arts’ latest entry into its storied Need for Speed series. This time around it’s called Rivals, and it follows very much in the tire tracks of prior franchise darlings, Most Wanted, Hot Pursuit, and High Stakes.

It’s not a huge step forward for the series, to be blunt, but more of a rock solid refinement of many of the features seen in prior games. That might sound a little disappointing, but it’s really not – because this strange sort of “greatest bits” flows together very well to create a phenomenally fun, open-world game of cops and racers.

As you’d expect, there are two ways to play the game: slip behind the wheel of high-powered sports car and drive around like a lead-footed psychopath trying to escape from the law. Or be the law, and ruin those speeders’ fun while having a ton of your own.

Before you can do either, you have to complete a fairly basic training mode that takes little more than a few minutes, and once that’s dispatched, you can choose a role and roll out onto the open road. Whether you’re a cop or a racer, the gameplay follows a similar career path where progress is made by completing mission objectives, whereupon new cars, cash and upgrades are made available. If you so desire, you can switch roles at any time, and if you’re playing a cop, you can also further specialize by selecting enforcer, undercover or patrol missions, which offer slightly different flavors of objectives.

However, Need for Speed: Rivals is not all missions and objectives, as you’ll discover moments after burning off up the highway for the very first time. Anyone familiar with Autolog will know exactly what’s going on when they go past a checkpoint and see their speed recorded and posted for posterity. Mission completion speeds are also tracked, along with sundry other data, so that you can compare your scores against your friends.

Further enhancing this social aspect of the game is the new AllDrive system, a feature that helped facilitate my unfortunate encounter with the driver from the Official Xbox Magazine that I outlined in the first paragraph of this review. While you’re racing around completing your own missions and objectives in single-player fashion, you’ll inevitably cross paths with friends who are doing the same. And this is where the game gets rather entertaining, which I discovered as I was chasing a racer along a section of freeway and saw a friendly cop going past me in the other direction chasing two cars. One quick handbrake turn across the median and a nitrous boost later, and I was alongside her, helping smash the ne’er do well speeders off the road. It was instant, seamless and really fun. Once we’d taken both cars out, we went our separate ways.

This merging of single and multiplayer modes is extremely well designed, and is ultimately a recipe for mayhem. Cops can get together to chase down particularly challenging racers, while racers can challenge each other for glory and money. The combination of Autolog-style functionality and seamless AllDrive multiplayer results in a really dynamic-feeling game where there always seems to be something to do, whether it’s co-operating with or racing against other players, or simply trying to beat your friend’s top speed along a particular stretch of road. Oh, and don’t forget that there’s a whole single-player game to get on with too!

Like other Need for Speed games, Rivals features an impressive range of desirable vehicles from such marques as Bugatti, Bentley and Ferrari. But while the roster is varied, I didn’t feel a huge amount of difference in terms of handling and feel when I switched between a Dodge Charger SRT8, a Mercedes C63 AMG Black Series and an Aston Martin Vanquish. I can understand that, because having particularly overpowered cars would result in unbalanced gameplay, so it’s not a huge gripe – but it does make car collecting a little superficial. But something I do like is that you can customize your car to make it your own.

Handling is, as you’d expect, very arcadey. Generally, cars have a tendency to understeer until you snap it into cartoon-like, but entertainingly drifty oversteer. It’s predictable and easy to learn, and suits the action well – which is always larger than life. There are all sorts of short cuts to be found across the map, along with some insane jumps, and that helps make racing and pursuit constantly entertaining. This is further enhanced by a large open world that takes in the full spectrum of road types, from open freeways to twisting mountain roads. Dynamic weather also helps mix things up a little. During a particularly long chase, it started to rain and I had to pursue my quarry along soaked, slippery roads. That's a neat touch.

What impresses me most about Need for Speed: Rivals is the ease with which everything comes together. The seamless integration of single and multiplayer modes. Being able to switch from cop to racer and back. The mission structure, which is simple and logical. Car unlocks, customizations and pursuit tech that you can add to your car to help take down chasers or repel cops. It all works beautifully to deliver an easy and intuitive experience that spares you having to think about anything other than jumping into a car and going hell for leather.

Whether you’re pursuing a perp and trying to smash them up enough so they’re forced to pull over, or you’re burning nitrous trying to get those pesky cops off your tail, Need for Speed: Rivals offers the best race-and-chase action out there. It'll do things like make you twitch involuntarily because you somehow just managed to miss an oncoming car while you were powersliding around a corner at 125 mph, or take a deep breath as you watch your car smash into pieces and roll down the road because you didn’t. It’s all just ridiculously exciting.

If I have any concerns, it’s simply with the relentless gameplay. Complaining about a racing game being non-stop racing might sound stupid, and indeed if I wasn’t thinking that myself, I wouldn’t be writing this caveat, but I do think it’s fair to say that there is the possibility that the crashing and bashing action might become wearing over a long period. The game has plenty of depth, but those who might enjoy the more subtle variability of class and horsepower you see in traditional racing games might miss that in Rivals. There’s also the roll-the-dice factor that comes part and parcel of this game. A long chase could be about to come to its conclusion when you’re suddenly wrecked by circumstances outside of your control – like the sort of thing I mentioned at the beginning of this review. Something like that could result in a controller being thrown across the room, but if you’re used to Need for Speed’s occasional random hazards, you should already know that’s what you’re getting into with Rivals.

But if too much of a good thing and occasionally crashing head-on into an obstacle are the only things I’ve got to complain about, I think it’s safe to say that Rivals is in pretty fine shape. And I haven’t even talked about how freakin’ awesome it looks, and how raucously rorty the sound is. The screenshots really don’t do the game justice, as what you can’t see are the subtle lighting and atmospheric effects that lift this game out of the last generation and into the next.

Ultimately, Need for Speed: Rivals is top stuff - and is without doubt the PS4's very first "must have" game.

Mike Williams Secondary Reviewer

With the next generation of consoles coming, I was looking forward to a head-to-head battle between Ubisoft's The Crew and EA Ghost's Need for Speed: Rivals. Unfortunately, The Crew has been delayed into the third quarter of 2014, leaving Rivals to own the arcade-style racing genre for almost nine months. Is EA Ghost's first game worthy enough to ride out those nine months?

Hell yeah.

It's worth noting that I followed Burnout developer Criterion to the Need for Speed franchise and I felt both Hot Pursuit and Most Wanted were uniformly excellent. Rivals kicks those games up a notch with the brand-new AllDrive feature, which melds single-player and multiplayer in a single open world. It's pretty awesome and seamless, but there is one big drawback: griefing. As Jaz points out, your race or chase can be ruined at any moment by another player. Of course, that's true of the AI players as well, because in the absence of real players the game fills in the gaps.

During one head-to-head race while I was on the Racer side of things, I was firmly in the lead, only to come around a hairpin and catch a cop's attention. This added a snag in my race because the best line was no longer an option. Cops have EMP and other goodies to force you off the road, so your best bet is to stick to turns and hidden paths. It made a relatively simple race much harder, but when I won and lost the cop, it felt amazing.

One problem with AllDrive is that the game doesn't stop. There's no pausing here. Once you're out of the Garage and you begin driving, that's it. The action keeps on going when you're in what would normally be the pause menu, so if you have to stop you either need to head back to the Garage or be prepared to have your idling vehicle get totaled. I wish there was some pause option, but with AllDrive the game is essentially an MMO, so I understand why there isn't.

Racing on either side nets you Speed Points, which you use to purchase performance and visual car upgrades. Cops steal points by taking down racers, and racers get points by winning and driving recklessly. Fair warning: racers lose all their points if they're busted. Depending on how long you've been playing, this can be a minor annoyance or devastating loss. I lost around 30,000 speed points once because I was driving with maximum car damage and another racer took me out. Always head back to your hideout to bank your points if you want to get far in Rivals.

Need for Speed: Rivals is gorgeous on the PlayStation 4. It's bright, fast, and running at that full 1080p that makes techheads swoon (reportedly 30fps if you were wondering). The cars all look true to real life, even if they seem like they're wet all the time. Seriously, they're always wet when you're looking at them in the Garage for some reason. It's odd. But, you don't have to feel bad about picking up this one on next-gen because Ghost Games has brought the goods on its first outing.

If there's one thing that's worth a chuckle, it's the overly-serious presentation that surrounds the entire game. The opening begins with a somber tradeoff of spoken word poetry about justice and freedom, as shown in the trailer above. That's carried forward into the game, as the campaign on either side gives you different mission options. Each option has its own short phrase, delivered with all the seriousness of a Michael Bay action film. Folks, we're racing here, you can turn it down a notch.

Next-gen racing has officially left the starting line, and Need for Speed: Rivals is a damn good start. I probably wouldn't have given it perfect score like Jaz did, but it's more than worth a purchase.

Need for Speed: Rivals takes some of the best features from prior franchise entries and combines them with a seamless single-multiplayer mode to create an absolutely terrific, utterly bonkers race-and-chase game that looks and sounds as good as it drives.

5 /5

Need for Speed: Rivals PS4 Review: The Greatest Hits Jaz Rignall Blending some of the best features of prior titles with seamless single and multiplayer action, Need for Speed: Rivals hits the next generation head on. 2013-11-15T08:01:00-05:00 5 5

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Comments 19

  • Avatar for FuzzyDuck #1 FuzzyDuck 3 years ago
    I'm also a big fan of Criterion's entries in the NFS franchise (and the Burnout games too, of course), so this review has pretty much solidified my first PS4 retail disc...
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  • Avatar for scuffpuppies #2 scuffpuppies 3 years ago
    Day one purchase for me (well, at the UK PS4 launch in two weeks).

    First game to achieve parity across the PS4 and XBO too (save for a couple of minor differences).

    Looking good, whichever platform you buy it for.
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  • Avatar for Wendelius #3 Wendelius 3 years ago
    This sounds great.

    I haven't played a NFS game in a while. And the quality of this game combined with the AllDrive mayhem seem like the perfect excuse to do so.

    Given the parity between platforms, I'll have to find out which console my friends are getting it for and dive in!
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  • Avatar for Scimarad #4 Scimarad 3 years ago
    So, can someone please once and for all tell me what camera angles you can have in this game? Really not liking chase cam or 3 inches off the road first person that was in the last one, though I was fine with whatever was in Hot Pursuit
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  • Avatar for MHWilliams #5 MHWilliams 3 years ago
    @Scimarad Behind the car and inside. That's it. I wanted a chase cam that was farther back from the car, but it's not an option.
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  • Avatar for Scimarad #6 Scimarad 3 years ago
    @MHWilliams

    Thanks for the reply:) Is the in car one a bit further off of the road than is was in Most Wanted? I really want something a bit closer to where you'd be if there was actually a cockpit view...
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  • Avatar for Jaz_Rignall #7 Jaz_Rignall 3 years ago
    @Scimarad Being a bit of a racing purist, I hate any behind-the-car view. It just doesn't work for me. The in-car cam option is decent, but just a little too low - feeling perhaps like it's perched on the hood ornament, rather than on the bumper.

    It's fine, and I got used to it fairly quickly, but it seems to have been designed to deliver a feeling of speed, rather than feeling like an authentic driver's point of view (like Forza and Gran Turismo).
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  • Avatar for Scimarad #8 Scimarad 3 years ago
    Sounds good so I'll definitely be giving it a go; Never had any issues with playing Burnout Paradise from behind the car.

    Also, as a long time UK gamer I'm now strangely star-struck:)Edited November 2013 by Scimarad
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  • Avatar for Jaz_Rignall #9 Jaz_Rignall 3 years ago
    @Scimarad Nice to see you on this side of the pond, and thanks for being part of our community. We're smaller than Eurogamer, so it's a little easier for is all to talk to our readers - something I've always loved doing. Hope you enjoy NFS: Rivals as much as we did.
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  • Avatar for LT #10 LT 3 years ago
    "I wish there was some pause option, but with AllDrive the game is essentially an MMO, so I understand why there isn't."

    If you go into the options and make it single-player (which is how I'm playing - because fuck other people) you stil can't pause the damn game. That's just stupid and lazy on the developers' part, and incredibly frustrating.

    I lost a race because I had to poop. No fair.
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  • Avatar for CosmicCracker #11 CosmicCracker 3 years ago
    Hey Jaz. Ex emap here. Used to work with rad and Tom guise. Read the review.. I loved hot pursuit but their most wanted game was utter balls. Still not convinced on joining the ps4 band wagon but I'll pick this up for ps3.
    CheersEdited 2 times. Last edited November 2013 by CosmicCracker
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  • Avatar for CosmicCracker #12 CosmicCracker 3 years ago
    @LT don't start a race when you're feeling bowel movements. Problem solved
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  • Avatar for LT #13 LT 3 years ago
    @CosmicCracker Shit happens when you least expect it sometimes!

    As do phone calls you can't ignore, postmen delivering packages, pet situations, sneezing fits, and so on. I get that there isn't a pause during multiplayer races, but pause should exist for all other situations. No reason for it not to.
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  • Avatar for MHWilliams #14 MHWilliams 3 years ago
    @LT Yeah, that's why I mentioned it in the review. The game is built with the assumption that AllDrive is always on, so no pausing.
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  • Avatar for estebanskycuevas88 #15 estebanskycuevas88 3 years ago
    I've been really on the fence about this game. I loved Most Wanted last year but there's been almost no coverage on this game up to launch and although Ghost Games is essentially Criterion Games: The Revenge, having this game being developed during all those studio shake ups makes me nervous.

    So its really cool to hear that this game is solid. I don't have a PS4 yet but I'm considering picking this up for my PS3, 360 or PC. Should I just pick up one of those versions or is it worth waiting until I get a PS4 to play this?
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  • Avatar for LT #16 LT 3 years ago
    @MHWilliams Yeah, but my point is that since you can turn AllDrive and multiplayer off, that's a real stupid assumption. Once you do that, you should be able to pause. No excuse for that oversight.
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  • Avatar for Jaz_Rignall #17 Jaz_Rignall 3 years ago
    @CosmicCracker Heyas! Thanks for the shout out. This is definitely worth a punt. It's mental and relentless, but a lot of fun. Best played with friends for sure. It's decent offline - but when you know you're ramming your chums off the road, it makes it just a tad more satisfying. ;)
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  • Avatar for CosmicCracker #18 CosmicCracker 3 years ago
    @Jaz_Rignall yep cheers Jaz. I went and did the naughty though I went and bought a ps4 with Rivals. I don't regret it one bit. From the posh ps4 set up screen to the madness of Rivals you can't go wrong. This is honestly the best game I've played in a long time.
    If you're on the fence about picking this up folks, don't be. Rivals is perfectEdited 2 times. Last edited November 2013 by CosmicCracker
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  • Avatar for advantage744 #19 advantage744 A year ago
    According to him, a plaintiff is entitled to excludethe time during which he has been prosecuting another civil proceeding, only he is prosecuting the same with due diligence and in good faith. Every declaration shall be published in the Official Gazatte (in two daily newspapers circulating in the locality in which the land is situated of which at least one shall be in the regional language. Before conducting the Property Owner Search the Collector shall cause public notice of the substance of such declaration to be given at convenient places in the said locality (the last or the dates of such publication and the giving of such public noticeEdited June 2016 by advantage744
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