Can you believe it? Need for Speed: Rivals is the twentieth instalment of the franchise! It has grown from being one of the fan favourites from the last Xbox to the current Xbox360 (No Xbox One is this region anytime soon). Not many games allow the player to be a cop racer, last seen in 2010’s Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit, which was well-received by many.
Before I share on the amazing attributes of the game, I feel it’s appropriate to caution owners of the lite 4GB Xbox consoles. With the evolution of games in its scope and graphics, the demand for installed content is increasing. Usually, when the casual 4GB Xbox360 owners start to expand their games collection, it is inevitable to go for a hard drive upgrade. They can scout for the proprietary memory add-ons which range from 120GB to 250GB versions, but the alternate quick fix would be to plug in and format up to two 16GB thumbdrives, giving a total of 32GB boost. In my tests at a 4GB Xbox console at the office (yes, we have great perks), the mandatory content would not be installed into the thumbdrive. Therefore, be prepared to fork out more for a proper storage add-on if you want to enjoy this game. Note that you cannot proceed to play the game if the content is not installed.
Back to the game, decided as you may, the game requires the player to experience the tutorial for both racer and cop. This allows you to be well-informed of the strengths and weaknesses of each side. Set in the breathtaking forested and hilly terrain of Redview County, the map is reported to be larger than the last game, Most Wanted, released in 2012. There’s day/night cycles as well as weather conditions that makes negotiating the bends very tricky. The usual order entails: accomplish earn XP, redeem. Race and repeat.
Earned XP, referred to as Speed Points should be deposited at the hideout as soon as possible because if the player is busted by the cops, those points are lost. It is especially challenging when playing as a racer as there is a danger of losing the Speed points even when you’re inches away from the hideout (safehouse), whereas as cops, there is simply no worry. Speed Points are crucial in building progress and momentum because it enables you to upgrade and unlock more vehicles, which is essentially the core objective of the game. Also note that the game is a blend between single-player and multiplayer. Whenever you load into the Redview County, you are entering into one of the many servers which include about five other racers. While you are free to race around on your own, you would eventually cross-path against them. Depending on the side you’re currently on, you might find another racer to challenge with or a cop car to put you out of commission. There is a slight advantage for the cop racer because you might trigger additional resources being called upon during a given chase. Since the game is partially immersed in an online multiplayer setup, be prepared for account migration notices if an existing player leaves or a new player joins the map.
Another unique feature of Need for Speed: Rivals is its compatibility with the Need for Speed: Network App which offers many cool options. Firstly, it allows you to compare your progress against friends and locate players of similar skills as yours. When playing the game, the App can be launched to act as a 2nd screen allowing you to view your location over satellite. This is very useful if you like to have a heads up advantage over who’s trailing you and also to know locations to avoid. Additionally, the ‘Overwatch’ mode allows you to partake in a friend’s session and deploy certain perks and barricades to assist your friend in his pursuit or escape. Watch the Network trailer here.
Overall, Need for Speed Rivals is the one to go for if you’re looking for a fresh perspective of the usual cat and mouse racing genre. Instead of merely participating in car chases as a cop, perhaps there’s an element of strategy whereby the player can radio in and activate deployment at specific checkpoints from a helicopter’s point of view. With the era of next-generation consoles looming (we just had a PS4 launched on 19 Dec), I’m excited to find out what we can expect from the genre in years to come.