Although the police can be rather aggressive at parts, the player is presented the new option of paying a fine to escape minor offences. With it being an open-world game, police cruisers are stationed at certain points and are driven around the map waiting for players to slip up. If the fine is under a certain limit, the player has the option of pulling over and paying it off, preventing escalation of the crime and racking up a hefty bounty. This I found as a welcome addition when I kept being tagged by the police on my way to an important race and did not want to waste my time trying to outrun them.
Moving on to a positive point of the game, and a point most of the readers would be interested in, I must state that the driving dynamics and car control do not disappoint. Each car brings a unique driving style and the customisation options makes the handling of each car even more varied.
To compete in drifting events, I had to keep a rear wheel drive car specifically updated and tuned to drift. The particular car was pretty tail happy and executed rather satisfying drift turns, even with all electronic aids turned off. As the game progresses, the need for a high-speed machine that?s more tuned for grip becomes evident (the player has to come to this realisation on their own, which I liked rather than the usual handholding).
Feedback in terms of oversteer, understeer, surface changes are quite good for an arcade title. If I am to point out any inadequacies regards to driving, they would be a rather inconsistent crash mechanic that seem to give different results when I slightly tap a barrier or a wall going at high speeds. Taking the same corner at the same speed while in a race and on free roam sometimes has rather drastic differences in gameplay. This is noticeable enough be a bit of an annoyance.
Another shortfall would be the lack of a manual gearbox option. While the autobox does a decent job most of the time, I could not help but feel that I could carry more speed through a specific corner if I had control over my own gear changes.
However, at the time of writing this review, the lack of known steering wheel support and a manual gearbox would seem like the main point against the game for hardcore racing fans.
To continue on the grim-train, having to always be online to play the game seems to irk most of the community out there at the time of release. I personally did not mind this as most of the time I find myself plugged in. But a network blip would mean your game getting interrupted.
The reason behind the need for connectivity is to give the player access to the rich multiplayer element that the game offers. AllDrive, which is EA?s online multiplayer engine, introduced in Need for Speed Rivals
, links the player to a dedicated server shared with seven other real players. These players appear to you in your map/world and can be interacted with to race and compete in challenges with quite easily. One would see them partake in their own challenges while you continue on your own path. This seemed like a rather successful seamless implementation of an online multiplayer component in a racing game. Your game session being run on a dedicated server does, however, mean that there is not a way to pause the game without logging out of the server itself.
The biggest crime this game commits, though, is the woefully awful AI. Rubber-banding, the scenario in which the AI speeds up and slows down based on the player?s race style, is quite evident. On countless occasions, I found that an AI opponent ahead of me would slow down completely for no reason. The system fully broke down when I crashed in the middle of a race, then found myself respawned in first place with no opponents in sight, only to drive to an easy win.
These issues were evident and appeared enough times to draw attention to the poor AI. In general, I found that apart from certain races, the rest of the game was fairly easy to get through. Although it may sound like rubber-banding provides a positive effect for the player, making it easier to gather wins, as someone who enjoys a good racing game I found that inconsistent AI takes the fun and the challenge out of the experience.
To wrap up this review the great visuals, good handling, attention to detail and real-world car culture icons sadly seem to be eclipsed by visual annoyances and rather nasty rubber-banding AI. Coming in eigth and final place and getting a 'Well done, that was a superb show, you won and left the rest in the dust' messages, the lack of visual customization parts and the need for always-online gameplay do not add plus points for this game either. I wouldn't recommend paying full price unless you're a diehard Need for Speed
However, this title is a game that fills a large gap in the racing genre and any car enthusiast should give it a go at some point. Gorgeous visuals, great handling and the performance tuning in itself warrants a play, and the introduction of real world car culture elements is a welcome addition. Just wait until the price has dropped a bit.
+ Stunning Visuals
+ Good performance tuning that affects driving dynamics
+ Great sound reproduction
+ Good narrative/game progress mechanic
+ Integration of real world car culture icons
+ Real world aftermarket parts from actual companies
- Alarmingly poor AI rubber banding
- Lack of certain visual customization parts
- Ambient light changes that are quite noticeable
- Inconsistent crash physics
- Need for an always-online connection
SPOnG Score: 6/10