Need for Speed: Rivals is one of the best releases in the Need for Speed series, incorporating many of the best elements from the previous entries. Graphically, the title looks phenomenal, with realism being a key element of the game. The network integration also plays a huge part in Rivals, with online multiplayer being the default gamemode. Read on for our full opinion on EA’s latest Need for Speed release on next gen.

The game is set in an open-world map, and uses multiplayer by default. You are connected with five other players automatically (this can be changed in the menus) and share the map as you take on AI racers, eachother, and evade the cops. This system is called ‘AllDrive’ and sets out to blur the lines between single-player and multi-player. No longer will you be able to tell whether you are racing an AI opponent, or another player (other than checking the racer information, of course). AllDrive achieves this seamlessly, and effectively. If you are signed in to your account, it just happens automatically and very quickly, without even prompting the user; a very impressive feature.

The system does have its flaws, however. The six player limit often isn’t enough to truly make the world feel like it is populated with real players, and the game relies on the intelligent AI racers to make up for this shortcoming. It would have been nice to make the world feel more like an open-world MMO racer, however, it obviously must not have been feasible in the time available for the development team. It may, however, be something we see in the future, and is a truly an impressive stepping stone into what we expect from the new generation.

Frostbyte 3 powers the graphical performance, which I must say, is stunning. From the moment you boot up the title, it is apparent this title has been heavily engineered for the next generation of gaming. Subtle effects which weren’t possible before, combined with dynamic, complex environments and weather systems along with an overall incredible level of polish make the game look tremendous. The cars are all created to perfection, and the lighting engine is one of the best I have seen yet. Unfortunately, the game does not run at 60 frames per second, however, it wasn’t something that I noticed a lot while playing.

Driving has become considerably easier in Rivals. Turning at higher speeds is no longer as difficult as it was previously, and crashes at corners have become more easy to avoid. However, do not think that they have dumbed down the driving mechanics due to this, as it is not true. Driving feels very realistic; the noises the cars make and the rumbles of the controller are crafted to absolute perfection, and I really enjoyed using them. They felt very natural to control. The UI overall is also very simple, but effective at the same time. This allows easy access to race & event locations and monitoring of your vehicle.

The sound effects and dialogue in the game complement the graphics and overall theme of the game well. The narration is suited to the style of the game, and the aesthetic viewpoint. Sound effects, as we have already touched on, feel very natural and true to reality. This is another area in which Ghost Games have excelled with their production of Rivals.

It is very easy to spend hours playing Rivals without feeling them going by. It is for this reason that I think the game will have excellent replay value. For the big fans of racing games, you will certainly be able to get bang for your buck on the content included in Rivals. The integrated multiplayer element of the game helps keep it fresh and allows further hours of time to be invested in the game.

While Forza 5 is very impressive, Rivals feels very different. It is almost as if the two are from two different genres. Rivals feels focused on the social and fun aspects of racing (albeit doing them in a high level of realism) while Forza 5 feels more like the ‘serious’ racing game which is specifically for the hardcore racing gamers. I don’t think they should be compared with eachother to decide which is better, as they both have very different aims as games. The same goes for Gran Turismo 6 (which we will be reviewing later this week).

Overall, Need for Speed: Rivals is a fantastic title. It really allows players to have fun racing online and evading cops, whilst doing it in undoubtedly stunning environments with a very realistic feel. This is one of the launch titles I highly recommend, as it truly is one engineered for the next generation in many ways other than graphically. You should get great return from the game if you are a racing fun, and all of your time with the game should offer pure enjoyment, and the highly impressive AllDrive feature is bringing us close to what next-gen is all about; online integration into all aspects of the game!

PLEASE NOTE: We cannot offer an opinion on how the PS3 and Xbox 360 versions of Rivals perform, as we have not had a chance to play the title on either of these platforms. Apologies for any inconvenience.