Friday 24 January 2014

Need for Speed: Rivals

The year is 1994. I'm 9 years old and I'm at my friends house as he busts open his new console. And what did his parents get him? A SNES? Megadrive? Sega Saturn? A branding-spanking-new Playstation? No. None of those. They bought him a - wait for it- 3DO. The 3DO aka the-system-no-kid-wanted bottomed out a mere two years after launch, so there wasn't a huge library of games made for it. However, between bouts of crying into his Sugar Puffs, my friend did manage to try out a game called The Need for Speed. “It has fast cars in it!” he said, as if to try and make the 3DO sound more exciting than it actually was. And while wondering how I'd get the hell out of there, the intro to The Need for Speed played.

Long story short, we ended up playing it for around 8 hours straight, and that, for us at least, cemented the fact that the 3DO was a pretty good console. We didn't attend its funeral, but we respected it dammit! The Need for Speed came out on the 3DO two years before it made it to the Playstation, and thus began two years of gloating about it at school. Now, 20 years later, I put Need for Speed: Rivals into my Xbox One hoping to reclaim at least some of those feelings of excitement I had for the first entry in the series. Did I? Read on, dear readers, read on...

Need for Speed: Rivals is the twentieth instalment in the franchise, and was developed by Ghost Games, a newly formed studio with Rivals being their first title. There are two storylines that the player can play in Rivals; that of a Racer or of a Cop. During the Racer storyline the player takes the role of Zephyr, a veteran street racer. After one of his videos of him outrunning the police goes viral, a number of copycats start popping up. 

In response the police go to exceedingly dangerous and daring lengths to catch Zephyr, to try to put an end to him and his admirers. Also, if the player chooses the Cop storyline, it pretty much remains the same but instead plays out from the perspective of the police. Both storylines extend re-playability quite a bit, give unique insights into each faction and are a must play for a full and complete picture of the game.

Gameplay could be boiled down to simply calling it a cat and mouse chase game, and while that may be true to some extent, it does take away from how varied gameplay can get. Taking a tip from Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit, rather than taking place on various disconnected tracks, Rivals is set in the fictional Redview County, an open-world containing a 100-miles of fully explorable open road. This decision to make the world open drastically changes gameplay in so many ways, and right off the bat makes for one of the most epic Need for Speed titles to date. 

During your chases you'll have the ability to earn various rewards on the side, many of which will help you outrun (or capture) your foes. For instance, the game features eleven gadgets that are upgradable including the ability to use roadblocks, shock waves and EMP pulses to essentially shut off other vehicles. These abilities, when used during a high octane and pulse-pounding race, can be the tipping point between victory and failure. The player also has the ability to open their world to other players and friends. This multiplayer aspect is fantastically achieved and makes the game feel utterly alive.

Visually Need for Speed: Rivals is stunning. From the many cars you can unlock to 100-miles of road to explore, Rivals is truly a next-gen title that shows off the potential of the Xbox One and PS4. Another great addition to the game is the car customization, which lets the player completely customize their ride. From the paint job, overall vehicle performance, license plates, decals and rims, you can make your ride your own here.

Overall Need for Speed: Rivals is quite simply the second best Need for Speed game so far. The 9 year old in me would have frothed at the mouth over this, but the 28 year old in me appreciates it even more. It's fast, furious ad unrelenting.

Need for Speed: Rivals laps the competition with an 8.5/10.

Denis Murphy

Need for Speed: Rivals at CeX

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