Need for Burnout?
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you must have heard of the Need For Speed franchise AKA the Fast And Furious of video gaming. The series has always been about fast cars and speed however the game never had a solid vision or a defining characteristic other than the franchise name. The series started out as a simple racing game featuring high performing cars of the era however the series really hit its stride with the release of NFS III: Hot Pursuit which turned heads with its high octane take on our favorite Childhood game: Cops vs Robbers – though in NFS it’s more like Cops Vs Racer. The series when through a massive overhaul in terms of direction following the release of the first Fast and Furious movie which resulted in the release of Need For Speed: Underground. The game fully embraced the “Tuner” culture; instead of only selecting their sports car of choice, players would now be able to fully deck their rides out with colorful vinyl and flashy body kits. Despite initial critical and commercial success, illegal street racing became passé in the following years and the NFS series took a nose dive in popularity. Finally in 2013, developers Criterion Games and Ghost Games went back to basics and created Need For Speed Rivals.
The developers threw every excess from the previous NFS games out the window -that includes the shitty narrative from NFS: The Run – and focused on what made the NFS series great in the first place – driving fast cars and having fun doing it. Need For Speed Rivals adopt the original Cops VS Racer structure where you could play as both a Racer and/or a Cop – you’re able to switch between roles during the game at any one time. Each faction would have their own unique cars to speed around the immense game world. This brings me to my next point, unlike the Need For Speed games, Need For Speed Rivals is an online-centric game – yes, it’s an ONLINE-CENTRIC game which means the game is meant to be played online and with other living people; to be fair the game can be played alone however it’s not as fun. The online portion of the game would be touched upon in a later paragraph.
Need For Speed Rivals allow the player to play as either a Cop or a Racer, both of which are at odds with one another, both in attitude and gameplay. Each faction have their own “Speed Lists” which is a certain set of objectives to clear in order to move on, some might be as simple as “Complete X number of Activities” all the way to “Wreck X number of Cops” . To be honest, based on the “story” missions, I concluded that both the Cops and Racers in Need For Speed Rivals are horrible people.
As a Cop, you are told tasked with enforcing the law with brutal efficiency which means slamming a racer punk into a nearby cliff is perfectly normal and it’s even encouraged. Gameplay as a Cop was less Need For Speed and more Burnout as most the individual activities available to you involves stopping racers, as the game progresses you’ll unlock more cars and more “Pursuit Tech” which are weapons you use against Racers, they range from electrified bumpers all the way to air reinforcements. T-Boning a racer with my electrified bumper after he was disabled by my EMP was extremely satisfying.
The narrative portrays the racers in Need For Speed Rivals as an irresponsible, thrill seeking and somewhat attention seeking punk with too much money and no respect for authority – the racer record videos of themselves and posts them on “Youtube” to earn hits. All they care about is how good they look and the ability to do whatever they want, wherever they want. As the name implies, a Racer races; hence a majority of his activities would entail driving faster than his peers. However unlike a Cop, the player would not only have to race against his peers, the player would also need to contend with the various Cops on their tails. Making Cops eat your dust after escaping close collisions is the best feeling you can have as a Racer.
The online centric nature of Need For Speed Rivals was immediately apparent in the first 15 minutes of the game where it automatically connects you to a populated public server with at least 3 or more players however you’re able to opt out of or change servers if you are unhappy with the current players in your game. The players in your game are all going about their business however they are able to join in activities which are actually the main draw of the game. When done right, it’s an exhilarating experience where actual players would work together to chase down other players. My main gripe with Need For Speed Rivals is not the online centric gameplay, it’s the wasted potential hammed by constant server crashes and disconnects. I got disconnected/Crashed out of servers 7/10 times which marred by gameplay experience. Offline/Private play was boring and dull as the actual fun of the game was taken out.
Need For Speed Rivals felt like a great game with so much potential but were heavily marred by serious networking problems which stopped it from getting a better score. Despite the extremely enjoyable gameplay, it could not drift away from this head-on collision.
Update(20/01/2014): Servers have been working somewhat smoothly however, the current lack of players is still a constant problem.
Ratings: 3.5 out of 5 stars
By Chen KangYi
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