The AllDrive social system is Need for Speed Rivals’ game changer

This year’s annual Need for Speed instalment comes in the form of NFS Rivals. Developed by Ghost Games, a set of British and Swedish developers composed of former Criterion Games employees who had previously worked on the reboot of Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit, Rivals is an arcade racer with a strong focus on police pursuits, races and the social experience. It also attempts to seamlessly merge online and offline play through its AllDrive system. The game is pretty ambitious for an NFS title — the open world might have been done to death, but the Rivals experience is one that feels significantly less scripted than before, and that’s a good thing.

You’ve got one choice to make when you begin your journey in NFS Rivals: you can choose to play as a cop, ramming and hunting down illegal racers in the beautiful fictional town of Redview County, or as a miscreant behind the wheel of a needlessly expensive automobile, weaving through roadblocks, burning rubber off-road and creating blurry images on traffic cameras. But as the game takes you through its hoops, giving you objectives to accomplish as either faction, you’ll be able to easily switch between them in the game menu. If the variety in terms of objectives and events wasn’t enough, switching between cop and racer does alter the gameplay experience enough to make your gameplay session last significantly longer. Now throw AllDrive’s online component into the mix, and the line between solo and multiplayer gets blurrier, plus you’ve added several more hours of play per session.

AllDrive is the game changer. EA’s social system creates an unscripted gameplay buffet for you to sink your teeth into. By default, AllDrive is set to its ‘public’ mode, which populates a multiplayer session with players from your region and all over the world — they could be playing as cops (with whom you can co-operatively undertake on-the-fly chases), or racers, against whom you can burn some rubber in pursuit of glory. Triggering events is as simple as approaching another vehicle and hitting the left-bumper button on your console controller. Rivals will then randomly generate a race route (which is literally different every time), giving the game near-infinite replay value. I did encounter a couple of hiccups with AllDrive’s ‘public’ game mode with disconnections and subsequent failed host migration attempts, resulting in my racer avatar getting busted on a few occasions (you could too if your internet connection is unreliable or have horrible luck in general), but a quick switch to ‘Single Player’ meant that I had all of Redview County to myself, which wasn’t a bad deal by any stretch of imagination. A ‘private’ mode is also present, allowing you to invite friends and rivals on your list to compete, or for some good old fashioned co-operative play.

Developers Ghost games have to be commended for their efforts with Rivals — ambition in terms of gameplay design aside, the game does seem fairly robust from an engine standpoint. Rivals is powered by Frostbite 3, the same graphics engine which Battlefield 4 uses. Unsurprisingly, there’s more than a moment of awe in store. Redview County is one of the best looking settings for a driving game yet, with superb reflection effects (particularly off wet surfaces), light shafts (between trees), while the car roster is expectedly great, with Ferraris, Lamborghinis, McLarens, a Bugatti and several other overpowered automobiles to play with. They’re also completely customisable in terms of appearance, performance and gadgets like EMPs, rams, spike strips and more.

If there was one other complaint, it would be the game’s 30fps frame rate lock even on the PC (which means you won’t be making the most of powerful graphics hardware). There’s supposedly a workaround for it, however. But if you’re willing to put up with AllDrive’s occasional moodiness and are on the lookout for a really solid arcade racer, you can’t do much better than Need for Speed Rivals. The game is available on PS3, Xbox 360 and PC in India, while PS4 and Xbox One versions are additionally available internationally.