Need for Speed: Rivals

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Craig Sullivan, co-director of two previous Need for Speed games (Hot Pursuit and Most Wanted), gave us a quick rundown of the upcoming Need for Speed: Rivals at E3 in Los Angeles today. That was followed with some hands-on time with the game, which is looking fun and fluid at its core and has some interesting concepts.

The game is being developed by Ghost Games in Gothenburg, Sweden, and Sullivan is braving the cold of Scandinavia on a full time basis to work closely with the team.

Need for Speed Rivals Screenshot 2

The main concept of the game is Cops and Racers, very similar to Hot Pursuit. This time, however, you can play a full career as a cop or as a racer. But what is intriguing is “All Drive,” a concept where the cops in your game as a racer could be AI or humans, and the racers you’re trying to take down as a cop could be AI or humans. This will be a seamless feature, as far as I can make out, if other humans are driving the same streets at the same time as you then they might feature in your mission as a target or as a cop. For example, you’re having a street race, and a cop somewhere in the world happens to choose a takedown mission, you might become the target of the takedown mission and your street race might become a race to evade the cops. It’s a great concept, and could make for much more variety in play. I am concerned about whether I can turn it off – sometimes I really do want singleplayer to be me against the AI without some Michael Schumacher driving circles around me.

In the mode I played I simply drove around an open world as a cop, and if I saw a racer racing I could chase after it and take it down to earn points. But that’s not the only game mechanic – there are also Shot Lists. These appear on the right of your screen as various challenges set for you. One might be to take a racer down, another might be to use an EMP on a racer, another might be to jump or drift a certain distance. When you complete a Shot List you get another, more difficult Shot List. This means although the game is open world there are some goals for you to work towards.

Need for Speed Rivals Screenshot 1

As you play you earn Speed Points. Racers earn these by doing all kinds of driving maneuvers, and the longer they are “out” for, the higher their multiplier, but their wanted level goes up too, so the risk of being caught goes up. You don’t “bank” the Speed Points until you enter a safe house, and when you bank them your multiplier drops back to one. So the idea is to stay out as long as you can risk it – getting busted means losing everything you’ve worked for, but if you want big point hauls you’re going to need to work up to that multiplier.

Car modding is also possible – Sullivan just talked about adding Pursuit Tech such as Turbos, EMP, spike strips and more to your car to help with chases, and you will be able to earn better Tech over time.

Need for Speed Rivals Screenshot 3

While playing you will also see dotted lines representing jumps that others have made at certain points. The line shows the longest jump in that place, and gives you an idea of where you can find a ramp as well as a challenge to beat. These are limited to your friends list and stored in Autolog, the social competitive system invented with Criterion’s Hot Pursuit.

Normal game modes will make an appearance, although we didn’t get a chance to try them today. Modes such as normal races, one on one duels, time attacks are sure to be included along with the open world play. It sounds like these events will be triggered from open world driving by tapping the left trigger when the option shows up, and you will leap straight into the event without any reload or pausing.

Need for Speed Rivals Screenshot 5

Because the game is set in a large open world it might be difficult to find your friends at times, so it’s possible instead to “spawn” near a friend so that you can drive in the same area as them, either combining your mission with theirs as adversaries or colleagues or rivals. As far as I can tell this will be automatic – you won’t need to go to a lobby to choose a mission to do co-operatively. Instead, just be triggering missions in the same area you will end up in each others’ game.

The driving feels a lot like Hot Pursuit and even the setting we played in was similar to those found in that game – more mountainous or country driving rather than city driving, but I’m sure there will be city racing in the open world Ghost Games are providing.

Need for Speed Rivals Screenshot 6

Need for Speed: Rivals looks like an interactive improvement on Hot Pursuit with some interesting innovations which could prove to be a lot of fun or just an idea that doesn’t work in practice. I hope it does work to make a more interesting, challenging game. We’ll have to wait for near the end of the year to find out.

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