Do you feel the need? The need for speed? OK, I have that out of my system, lets move on. This season EA released the next iteration in the Need for Speed series, Need for Speed Rivals. Your canvas is the majestic Redview County, which is remarkable diverse. There are snow capped mountains, twisting passes, seaside villages, freeways that are under construction and a desert / canyon. This gives you a great diversity of areas to drive, each with it's own pros and cons. Will you stick to the twisting roads and out maneuver your rival? Or will you go for the long straightaways and out run them?
Pick Your Side
In Rivals you have the choice of what side of the law you are on. On one side you have the free spirited racers. These drivers answer to no one. They buy the best cars and equip them to be nothing less then the best on the road. On the flip side of the coin you have the law abiding police. There goal is to keep Redview County safe, and their authority respected by removing the racers from the roads. Neither side can really be seen as the good guys.
Depending on which side you choose, in my opinion, sets the difficulty for when you are playing. Police are easier to play in the sense that it is better to be the cat then the mouse. If the cat loses the chase then it is still around to try again another day, and keeps its points. If the cat wins then the mouse loses everything (or in this case the mouse loses the points it earned). The police can also drive around unmolested if they want to while the racers can are chased as soon as they are seen by the police. This does add more of a sense of urgency to the racers then the police though, especially when there are 5+ cops chasing 1 racer. At this point your main hope is to get to a hideout, which you can enter while being chased, thank the lord. Doing so banks the points you have earned and allows you to enter the roads again elsewhere, just without your combo multiplier. And don't worry if you don't like your side, you can change sides from hideouts / command centers.
Now to the important bit, the cars. The police get cars as they rank up. No need to buy them, you just get them. The only thing they have to spend points are the gadgets. On the downside the police don't get to customize more then the license plate and cannot improve one specific car to make it better. Police seem to gain points slower then their counterparts as a result. Racers on the other hand have to buy their cars when they are unlocked. But they can also upgrade a single car to make them faster, stronger, tougher, and easier to control. You can also paint the car, add decals / racing strips and so on. To allow for this you gain points faster as a racer, assuming you can keep them.
Each car has its own stats assigned to them. These stats allow you to choose how you like to drive, and each car does really feel different. The greatest difference I saw was when I switched from a McLaren to a Porsche. While the Porsche was faster it felt very sluggish on the take off and on the handling. For someone that found the wall far more often then they wanted to, I needed the tough car that was fast to accelerate even if it had a lower top end.
Each side has a number of gadgets to help escape / capture their rivals. These range from EMPs, spike strips, turbo, road blocks and more. The key to victory can be in your use of these gadgets to the greatest affect. Using an EMP on a rival that is pulling ahead, countering said EMP with something else. You could also pass and lay down a spike strip or engage a turbo to pull away from the pack. All the gadgets of different levels and each level increases the number of times you can use it along with the strength of the gadget.
Cursed Online Mode
The biggest pain I found is the default online option. But default the game will load you into a public game hosted on, what I must assume, is another players console. This means that if you are in the middle of an event and the host leaves you are migrated to another host, which interrupts your game and spawns you back where you started. I almost turned it off, but liked seeing where I stood compared to IrishPride and my cousin. It would be nice if they asked as start up if you wanted a multiplayer or single session.
Overall this is a fun game. Probably the best part of it though, is you can play it is small portions. 10 - 15 minutes and actually feel like you did something. The longest set of missions took me about 40 minutes, and I was goofing around a lot during that. I think fans of racing games will get a lot of play time out of this, even with its mediocre ending. Casual racers will get at least a month or so before they get board.
3 / 5 Joystiqs
Also, for some reason after playing it I had a weird dream where the cars could grapple from telephone poles. Very strange.