by Khari Taylor
Need for Speed: Rivals is the latest in a line of EA titles that is available for both next-generation consoles (Xbox One and PS4) as well as current gen-platforms (Xbox 360 and PS3), which puts this game and its intended market in a curious position. As an Xbox One title, Rivals offers an immediate, open-world arcade-thrill alternative to the hardcore simulation experience that is Forza Motorsport 5, and seems like an easy choice for racing fans to make, given the limited launch lineup currently available on Xbox One. On Xbox 360 however, fans of arcade racing shenanigans have many more recent options to choose from to get their thrills, from Turn 10’s Forza Horizon to EA’s own Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit and Need for Speed: Most Wanted; the latter two games in particular sharing not only many of the same development team members but also several of the same themes, gameplay mechanics and concepts. So assuming that it’s all been done before, should players bother taking Rivals for a test drive on current-gen?
Like 2010’s Hot Pursuit, Need for Speed: Rivals revisits the cat-and-mouse, Cop versus Racer dynamic that has become synonymous with the Hot Pursuit moniker. While the setting has moved from the fictional American northwest county of Seacrest to the equally scenic (and imaginary) Redview County, the deadly rivalry between the thrill-seekers and the law remains the same. Players can choose to play as either a street racer or a highway patrol cop and can switch between careers at any time from one of their chosen faction’s garages, which also serve as car customization hubs, fast travel waypoints and mission control centers. Regardless of which side they play on, players will ultimately need to purchase new vehicles, Pursuit Tech weaponry and performance upgrades with Speed Points (SP) in order to progress, and just as one would come to expect, this in-game currency is earned by completing missions, performing dangerous stunts and traffic maneuvers, damaging or wrecking other cars, and meeting certain criteria in multiplayer situations. As players complete objectives they will move up in rank, unlocking faster vehicles and more powerful Pursuit Tech. There’s a specific storyline for each faction as well, in which a self-important, off-screen narrator tries to justify with increasing rhetoric the reckless driving and blatant disregard for human life each side displays in their war to shut down the other party. Both yarns are ludicrous, paper-thin and highly implausible, but they are still entertaining and effective in establishing just how different the Cops and Racers are from one another.