Need for Speed Rivals is an open world racing video game. Developed by Ghost Games and Criterion Games, it is the twentieth installment in the Need for Speed series. The game was released for Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 on 19 November 2013, and for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One as launch titles in the same month.
Need for Speed Rivals was met with a positive reception upon release, with critics mostly praising the visuals, controls, and online systems.
Need for Speed Rivals features gameplay similar to earlier Need for Speed games, such asNeed for Speed: Most Wanted and Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit. Players take on the role of a Racer or Cop, with each side of the law offering its own play style. Rivals features eleven upgradeable gadgets such as EMPs, shockwaves, spike strips, and the ability to call in roadblocks. The game takes place in a fictional location known as Redview County. The open world features a similar set-up to Most Wanted, with several jumps, speed traps, and unlockable cars, as well as shortcuts that are not shown on the map.
Rivals features a career progression system for both Cop and Racer. Progression is made by means of Speedlists for Racer and Assignments for Cop, which are sets of objectives which involve dangerous driving, maneuvers, and race standings. When the player completes a set of objectives, the player levels up and unlocks new content, and is presented with another set of objectives to choose from.
The Autolog system, a competition-between-friends system, developed by Criterion for Hot Pursuit, lets an Assignment or Speedlist to other players’ times and posts them to a Speed Wall for local and global leaderboards.
Rivals features a new social system called the AllDrive, which allows players to transition from playing alone, to playing with friends, described as “destroying the line between single player and multiplayer”. This allows players to in engage co-op gameplay as well as play against each other. The game also features a dynamic weather system, which makes “the world feel alive in a much bigger sense than any other Need for Speed game”.
Rivals also takes on some gameplay styles of earlier Underground titles in the franchise with cues on aesthetic vehicle personalization, such as paint jobs, decals, rims and license plates and liveries can be modified, as well as vehicle performance, and various ‘Pursuit Tech’ gadgets. With the exception for the Aston Martin Vanquish, all vehicles are only available in either racer or police variant.
There are two storylines by which the player can choose to play: the Racer storyline and the Cop storyline. Upon completion of a certain number of sets of goals, the storyline moves forward, earning the player new cars in the process.
The player assumes the role of Zephyr, a hardcore and professionally skilled street racer. Well known for his publicity stunts, Zephyr regularly uploads street racing videos as his point of argument that his fellow racers in Redview County should also be free. Upon his posting of a video of his car outrunning cops, a number of other racers also begin to post their own videos of themselves outrunning police cars. The police force begins to challenge the racers, and in the process, Officer John McManis, one of their pursuit drivers, is injured after a racer wrecked his car. After this incident, the police begin to use excessive force on racers. However, accusations of such force come to public attention, and the entire police force is sidelined while the FBI bring in their VRT, or Vehicle Response Team, consisting of ex-special forces and ex-street racers. The VRT, however, are no better than the police force at stopping racers, thanks largely to Zephyr and other racers. The VRT only manage to endanger the public, and on the midst of this, new street racers show up, including one by the name of F-8, or Fate. F-8 intentionally wrecks other racers, and eventually Zephyr realizes that F-8 is a cop in disguise as a street racer, going out to intimidate racers. Not long after, Zephyr steals a decommissioned police car, rebrands it with Zephyr-based graffiti, and proceeds to wreck cops with that car. As a result of that incident, Zephyr is seen as a Robin Hood-esque character, with public sympathy shifting towards the racers. Later, the police are cleared of their excessive force charges, and return to the streets. In a public address, Zephyr sets a number of locations as places where cops and racers can face off against each other. He also organizes a Grand Tour, a race spanning most of Redview County. Near the end of the Tour, however, as Zephyr is about to win, a police blockade forms, and he crashes into the blockade at high speed, flipping and damaging his car. A flash news report is broadcast not long after, with initial TV reports showing Zephyr’s car smoking heavily behind a range of trees, and paramedics rushing to the scene. This is not before the cinematic cutscene suddenly cuts to Zephyr, who is revealed to have survived the crash. While barely awake, he repeats the dialogue he states in the intro of the game, “I am the reality show, the 15 minutes you’ll never have.” He then starts his damaged car’s engine and drives away.
The player goes to his training to be a member of the Redview County Police Department. After he completes his training, he is now a member of the police force. The RCNN (Redview County News Network) broadcast a flash news report, in which a video of street racing was trending online. Dozens of racers began to upload copycat videos similar to the featured video, and it was revealed that street racing became viral around the county and they seek notoriety. Because of that, the public accuses the police of intimidation, and they hold several rallies and marches against RCPD. Days later, the Mayor of the county went to the general hospital of Redview to visit RCPD officer John McManis, who recovered from multiple injuries while on patrol. Because of sense of intimidation, the US Department of Justice has been summoned to investigate the cases. All officers have been placed on restricted duty and are accused of gross misconduct. With no agency available to serve the streets, the Federal Bureau of Investigation‘s Vehicle Response Team, or VRT, has been called in to substitute RCPD while under investigation. While under restricted force, the player thinks that if they want to win, they need new rules. Since the racers operate outside the law, the player decides to go rogue and infiltrate the racers, by means of impersonation. The player uses an impounded vehicle fitted with ‘Pursuit Tech’ to wreck some racers as an officer, while at the same time acting as a racer. He also creates his own alias: F-8, or Fate. He uses his tactics to apprehend the racers while pretending to be their opponent in their racing, without blowing cover. F-8 becomes popular online after several news reports of him wreaking havoc. As a result, violence breaks more and more. Because of that, the restricted officers have been called to be recruited to VRT. However, the VRT only accept skilled and aggressive drivers and they do not accept many cops because they only bring chaos instead of bringing peace. F-8 decides to join VRT, and a test is given to him. After passing the test, he is accepted into the VRT. The United States taxpayers invests millions of dollars into F-8 and expects that it will be well spent. His mission at the VRT begins: to disrupt the network of the racers. The VRT have identified three known associates of a street racer named Zephyr via radio signal decryption. The three use encrypted radios that ping during communication. Because of the three, locations of Zephyr are vague, so F-8 needs to seize the communications in order to clear the signals. After that, the radio signals are now clear, and they are able to decrypt Zephyr’s radio signal. At the signal, a message from Zephyr says that he wants all racers to band together to protect themselves from their enemies. The VRT tell F-8 that he is the only one who can take him down. He then hunts Zephyr and takes him down. However, F-8’s car is totaled during the pursuit. He is in critical condition, afraid to be killed in a high-speed collision with Zephyr. Even though his name was not mentioned in a following flash news report, the sources of the news state that F-8 has been terminated from the force for his reckless actions. In the aftermath, as it looks like the street racing epidemic is over, F-8, now a street racer, has just taken Zephyr’s position as the top racer in Redview County and uploads a video, issuing a challenge to all racers.
After the commercial and critical success of 2010’s Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit, Criterion Games executives stated that they wanted to draw from the series’ roots and re-introduce old Need for Speed ideals. However, in 2011, EA Black Box released Need for Speed: The Run, which received mixed reviews.[improper synthesis?] In 2012, EA Labels president Frank Gibeau said that although he was proud of the Black Box-developed instalment, “he didn’t want a 60, I want an 80+”. On the subject of EA Black Box, Gibeau said the publisher would not be changing its alternating studio strategy. At Electronic Entertainment Expo 2012, Criterion vice president Alex Ward announced that the days of random developers churning out yearly Need for Speed instalments were over. Ward would not confirm that all Need for Speed titles for the future would be developed wholly by Criterion, but did say that the studio would have “strong involvement” in them.
With EA Canada and Black Box restructured and refocused towards online and free-to-play games in February 2012, EA had already formed a new studio in 2011, EA Gothenburg. Based in Gothenburg, Sweden, it was reported that the studio would focus on development games using the Frostbite game engine. Also reported was that the studio was developing a game “in the Need For Speed franchise”. According to the CVs of employees, much of the studio’s staff had worked previously on major racing titles, including Forza Horizon, Need for Speed: The Run, Project Gotham Racing and Race Pro. On 22 October 2012, the series main developer Criterion Games confirmed that EA Gothenburg was working on a title in the Need for Speed franchise, but did not reveal the level of involvement or when the title would be released. On 15 November 2012, EA Gothenburg was rebranded as Ghost Games. Ghost’s website went live around the same time and called for potential staff to apply for a range of open positions.
On 23 May 2013, EA confirmed their next Need for Speed game, Rivals, with a teaser trailer, following marketing material tease days before. It was also confirmed thatRivals was in the works at EA’s Swedish games developer Ghost Games in partnership with Criterion Games. Ghost is headed up by former DICE executive producer Marcus Nilsson, who previously led development on games including Battlefield 2: Modern Combat, Battlefield 2142 and Shift 2: Unleashed. Rivals uses Frostbite 3.
The development team opted to target 30fps across all platforms instead of 60fps, because of the AllDrive feature. AllDrive is the system used to seamlessly matchmake players within the same open world. Another reason was due to the number of players able to be in the same world at the same time. The team asserted that while Rivals will be released on both current and next-gen systems, the versions would “ultimately be the same”, aside from the graphics would look different, and next-gen would provide for more dynamic weather and gameplay.
Rivals is the first cross-platform next-gen games to achieve a native 1080p across both PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. Talk of resolutions and frame rates became a major point of contention between Sony and Microsoft’s new consoles after it emerged that both Call of Duty: Ghosts and Battlefield 4 run at a higher resolution on Sony’s PS4 console as compared to Microsoft’s Xbox One.
On 30 August 2013, Ghost Games head Marcus Nilsson stated that the studio had been given complete charge of the Need for Speed franchise and that the franchise being bounced between multiple EA studios was not “consistent” with different game types. On 16 September 2013, Criterion Games had its staff numbers reduced to 17 people total, as the majority of the studio moved over to Ghost Games UK to work with Need for Speed games. Due to this, what remained of Criterion Games began work on a project of their own.
Marketing and release
Rivals was released for Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 on 19 November 2013 in North America, 21 November in Australia and 22 November in Europe. The PlayStation 4 version launched on 15 November 2013 in North America, while the Xbox One version launched on 22 November 2013.
On 21 October 2014, Need for Speed Rivals Complete Edition was released. It features all DLC packs (as well as all pre-order bonuses previously re-released in the “Fully Loaded Garage” DLC pack) along with the main game.
As with the previous Need for Speed games, Rivals ’ soundtrack contains a variety of licensed music. It mainly comprises electronic music (including dubstep and electronica),electropop, electronic rock, and hip hop. Rivals also contains original soundtracks played during pursuits, composed by Vanesa Lorena Tate.
Need for Speed: Rivals was well received by critics at E3 2013 and was awarded with “Best Racing Game” from Game Critics Awards. Previewers who had access to Rivals called the game a spiritual successor to 1999’s Need for Speed: High Stakes, citing similar gameplay style. Other called it an improved version of Criterion’s Hot Pursuit, citing similar gameplay mechanics.
Need for Speed: Rivals received mostly positive reviews upon release. Aggregating review websites GameRankings and Metacriticgave the PlayStation 4 version 80.59% and 80/100, the Xbox One version 79.08% and 75/100, the PlayStation 3 version 79.00% and 80/100, the Microsoft Windows version 73.67% and 76/100 and the Xbox 360 version 71.43% and 76/100.
Jeff Gerstmann from Giant Bomb gave the game a 3/5, praising the game’s gameplay and soundtrack but criticized the lack of amount players allowed on the online multiplayer. Gerstmann also noted that the PC version was locked at 30 frames-per-second and stated that “is especially ridiculous”, but still considered the PC version the best looking version.
GameZone‘s Mike Splechta gave the PS4 version an 8.5/10, stating “For a game that touts speed in its name, Need for Speed: Rivalsdelivers on every front. It’s gorgeous, fast and definitely furious.” Daniel Krupa for IGN scored the game an 8.0 and stated: “Fast, furious, and fun. NFS: Rivals blends Hot Pursuit and Most Wanted to great effect.”
Negative reviews centered around the many bugs and glitches in the game, and frustrations around the game’s lack of dedicated servers, triggering frequent host migration. There were also many clashing game features which caused frustrations for players, such as cops chasing players for no reason at all and the inability to pause the game at any time. Ghost Games also removed the ability to change from automatic to manual transmission.
Philip Kollar of Polygon gave the game an 8.5 out of 10, writing: “Need for Speed Rivals ’ technical shortcomings are frustrating primarily because almost everything else about the game is so well-designed and impressive. It builds on the series’ legacy but also stretches into meaningful new directions. It may hit a few bumps, but if this is what Ghost Games can pull off in their first release and the first next-gen Need for Speed, the future is bright for this franchise.”
Andrew Reiner of Game Informer gave high praise to the online multiplayer interactivity, stressing that the online features create an experience unlike any other. Reiner also called the game’s visuals “drop dead gorgeous”, and complimented the playability for making the game feel “silky smooth”. Reiner gave the game a 9/10 and had minor criticisms. Nick Pino from GamesRadar also praised the visuals and controls, calling them “absolutely gorgeous” and “slick” respectively. Pino was critical of the car customization and damage, but commended the game world for feeling alive.
Eurogamer‘s Martin Robinson gave the game a 9/10 and called it “fantastic”. He spoke well of the overall action gameplay, the points system, the sound design of the cars, the visuals, and the world design. Robinson’s main criticisms were concerning the “obnoxious” soundtrack, the inability to pause the game, the world size, and the vehicle takedown systems.