Rumbling in the slipstream of 2010’s Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit and last year’s sequel Most Wanted, developer Ghost Games’ inaugural franchise entry confidently maintains the sterling legacy left by series stalwart Criterion Games. And, for all the delights that Most Wanted’s dense open-world metropolitan offered, it finds room (approximately 100 miles worth) for improvement.
Rivals’ countryside Redview County is peppered with thoughtful distractions, from alluring half-constructed bridges forming makeshift ramps, to rival cars accelerating over the horizon waiting to be shut down. This is a game built for online and logging into the servers transforms the serene backdrop into a hugely compelling competitive expanse, where every curve in the road acts as a relentless reminder of a time to be beaten or an achievement to be snagged. Even smarter, other players seamlessly populate your game world, offering intense multiplayer engagements that cohesively occur on-the-fly.
Progress is divided asymmetrically between your individual Cops and Racer profiles. Both have their own objectives and advantages, while the selection of cars and technology made exclusive to either role distinguish the opposing forces further. Despite this, the aim of both is to accumulate speed points that can be spent on vehicle upgrades, and the further you drag out a chase (amassing a higher heat level for Racers, or taking down a Racer //with// a high heat level for Cops) you’ll be able to secure bigger payloads.
You can expect to find Need For Speed’s reliably robust arcade mechanics underpinning the vast open world. It’s brawny, adrenaline-pumping racing, punctuated by wince-inducing impacts that gleefully burst into a shower of particles. At constant speeds exceeding the 150mph mark it’s surprising that there’s even a breath to appreciate the visuals outside of unplanned halts, but Rivals is a real showcase for new console hardware. Its advanced weather systems cast an impressive array of dynamic effects and the intimately-detailed muscle cars give Forza’s eye-candy a decent run for its money.
Ghost Games debut is one built from the ground-up on ambition and, for a freshman effort, it inevitably falls somewhere short of delivering the full potential of its ideas – particularly in the limited number of players supported in multiplayer. Still, the developer has carried the torch of the franchise with admirable aplomb and it’s guaranteed to thrill players all the way until the next entry arrives.
Reviewed by Bryan Murray