by Brian Robbins

  Racing games are fun for just about everyone. We all dream of going incredibly fast while screeching into a hairpin turn. What makes these games so fun is the fact that we can’t perform these feats in our 92 Ford Taurus on the real road. Need for Speed Rivals is one of the few shared launch games for both the Playstation 4 and the Xbox One. Fortunately for us, it doesn’t include any family sized sedans to race in.

After the initial install time for the Xbox One, I was finally able to play EA’s latest addition to the series. When the game boots up you’re greeted with a very confusing cutscene sequence involving Racers and Police. Basically in Need for Speed Rivals the game lets you choose between the two factions and you can swap back and forth at your leisure.

The story for the entire game is focused on this aspect of the game. It would seem that the Racer archetype is a Fast and the Furious inspired bro-type character. Your objectives are to drive fast and cause mayhem and chaos to the police force along the way. Of course if you’re playing as a Cop, you’re tasked with stopping these vigilantes and pretty much nothing else. It’s shallow and runs out of steam fast, no matter which faction you choose.

As you could guess, the storyline isn’t exactly game of the year worthy. Throughout the experience I was confused on what exactly was taking place. Granted, there isn’t usually too much depth with racers but when it forces you to pay attention with pointless storyline segments it can negatively impact the experience as a whole.

With that being said, the gameplay in Need for Speed Rivals almost makes up for its ludicrous attempt at selling a narrative. Obviously, with a franchise like Need for Speed, the end game is just to drive fast. The game does this better than any other racer currently available. The wind and leaves rush past your Corvette C7 Stingray as it slides into a slippery turn, brakes and caution be damned. It’s pleasant to have an arcade racer after last year’s ultra-realistic Forza 5 and Gran Turismo 6.

Whether you’re a Racer or a Cop, you’re always looking to complete various objectives that are given to you every time you rank up. For instance, as a Racer I was tasked with taking down three Cop cars with some of my various gadget upgrades like an EMP blast or a Spike Strip. When you complete these objectives you essentially level up, unlock a brand new car to race around and rinse and repeat. That’s about all of the mission variety you get with Need for Speed Rivals, for a full retail priced game that’s ridiculous.

One of EA’s selling points for the game was its persistent online functionality. I hope you enjoy long load times with your games because that’s all that’s really persistent in this title. Players won’t even get a menu title screen until AFTER they load the in-game assets, which varies from taking one minute to almost three. I wasn’t even sure if the game was loading because it was taking so long. Granted, EA’s servers have been anything but functional lately when it comes to next-gen games. There’s a great chance we’ll see a patch for this issue.

Once you’re eventually loaded into the map, you can interact with other gamers inside the world. At one point I as a Cop, I was chasing three delinquents partaking in an illegal street race. Upon chasing them down, back-up arrived from fellow players playing as Policemen. With all the hiccups with the online functionality, there are sometimes flashes of brilliance as well. Of course this was a random event and most of the time the map is usually barren of players; hope you like AI controlled cars!

Along with random exciting occurrences, there are other highlights with Need for Speed Rivals. What I’m talking about is of course the graphics. The sense of speed in this game is nothing short of spectacular. The way the leaves blow past your car and the glistening on the roads reflect the light is quite impressive. I really enjoyed all of the water effects and how great the environment looked. One thing I noticed was that it was always so rainy. Don’t expect to race in any happy looking locales in this one.

Launch games are a fickle thing and Need for Speed Rivals proves that. Granted the game was also released on Playstation 3 along with the Xbox 360 but the real focus for consumers is the next generation version. At its best, the latest Need for Speed is a great arcade racer that can leave you reaching for your extra can of Nitrous. At its worst, the game is just flat out boring and completely forgettable. With buggy loading screens, terrible online infrastructure and a generally empty gaming experience, you should skip out on Need for Speed Rivals.

2 star turtle