I’ve been playing this series since the original “Road & Track presents the Need for Speed” and since then, I played almost every sequel and spin-off after that one. It’s not that I’ve liked every single game in this franchise but I have very fond memories from playing some of those games and I think I could call myself a fan of the series.
Need for Speed: Rivals is the second-to-last game to come out from this franchise and I have to admit that I’m dissapointed. Playing this game in 2016 you couldn’t tell this series have been running for more than 20 years.
First things first, what is this game? It’s an arcade racer that lets you drive some fast real world cars and has a heavy enphasis on police chases. Apart from that, this game in particular offers some roguelike elements to the formula. I’m sure that sounds strange but let me explain. Think of the roads as a dungeon, the cops and racers would be the enemies, winning races and taking down other vehicles gives you points (or xp) and whenever you die in the dungeon aka wreck your car, you lose all of it.
An original idea for sure, but not quite a very fun one. Why’s that? Explaining that will also give you the reason why this game doesn’t feel part of a +20 year franchise and it’s very simple. The basics of what makes a racing game are all wrong.
The difficulty is random. The rubber banding is the worst in the series and it makes you feel like you didn’t earn your victories nor deserved your defeats. The handling feels heavy and sluggish contrasting with its own arcade style that encourages you to drift every sharp corner. Also the roads are a step back from the ones you could encounter in prior games.
I should also mention that the autolog is back in this game. There you’ll have the only glimpse of real competitiveness this game has to offer since you’ll be facing the times of other humans that play with the same rules as you.
Things I liked
- Slick presentation: Graphics are nice, menus look fancy. You can tell some money was put into making this game.
- Two sided campaign: You can drive as an illegal racer or be a cop and try to chase those. This is not the first game in the series to do so but it’s still neat.
Things I didn’t
- Heavy handling: I can see what they were aiming for. Giving the cars more or less weight so driving them would feel a little different from each other but it simply doesn’t feel right. Cars feel sluggish and it just makes the driving experience worse.
- World map: There’s just so much variety you can add to roads, I know. That’s why I can put up with the fact that the roads resemble so much of others you can find in prior games like Hot pursuit and Most wanted. What I don’t like is that the map is significantly smaller than any of those games and that the layout is less thought out with confusing crossings and some bizarre placements.
- Random difficulty: Police encounters are randomized and while this might sound cool in theory, it makes the experience uneven. Races can be a piece of cake or almost impossible depending on how lucky you are with those random encounters.
- Rubber banding: The star of the show. This is the most intruding example of rubber banding I’ve ever found in a game. It was already very obvious in previous games but they’ve gone beyond that. Now it makes races feel completely scripted as if you were playing a driving section on a COD campaign. You’ll catch up with the computer when the game decides to and they’ll catch up with you with the same premise. It doesn’t matter which car you’re driving, it doesn’t matter your skill…
- Frustrating death penalty: Wrecking your car means you losing all of your points and being pushed back to the garage menu with its subsequent load times. In a game like Dark Souls, when you die is because you screwed up. Here with the randomized police encounters and the rubberbanding you’re at the AI’s mercy so even though it’ll be way less frequent, death in NFS Rivals is way more frustrating.
Who’d like this?
Someone who doesn’t know any better. I don’t know, maybe someone might enjoy that weighty feel they’ve given to the cars and can overlook all of the other shortcomings but to me this is the worst NFS to come out in the last years.
<This is a review on the ps4 version but the game is also available on ps3 and other platforms>