While at New York Comic Con 2013, I had a chance to go hands-on with both the PC and PS4 version of Need for Speed: Rivals. Before getting into the details of what I actually played, I do want to say how gorgeous the PS4 version looked. I don’t have specs for the PC the game was running on in order to make a true comparison, but the PS4 version looked just as good, if not better. No matter what opinions you may have going into the next generation, we should all be able to agree on how pretty it’s going to be.
OK, so now that that’s out of the way, this demo focused on a couple of things—one of them being what it means to be the law in Need for Speed. After going through the basic tutorial for both racers and police, I got thrown behind the wheel of a patrolman’s car and sent after illegal street racers, trying to ram them into submission. Much like the racers, though, there were speed points that tested our average speed and set records that, in the final version of the game, would be uploaded to Autolog.
The demo was fun, but the small slice of gameplay felt more like a demolition derby than something you’d normally expect from Need for Speed. The cars handled well and looked great, but I’d be lying if I didn’t have some concern over the variety of gameplay—or lack thereof—you might see as a police officer. All I did was race and knock other cars off the road. This could also change depending on the class type you choose when you play as the 5-0. Of course, it’s not easy to show off how a game will truly feel and play over the 20 minutes of hands-on time I got, either, so I’ll just say that I’m reserving judgment at this point.
The other major feature of the demo showcased the interplay between Rivals and Need for Speed Network. Using an iPad, I watched a map overview of several developers and testers who were part of the Network profile’s friend list. From there, I could choose to either help them through a few taps on the iPad—granting them nitrous boosts or other buffs—or grief them by adding helicopters to their respective chases that would make it harder from them to lose the police on their tail.
Network also keeps track of your game progress and how well you do compared to your friends in certain areas—not to mention the head-to-head numbers, adding another nuance to why this game’s called Rivals. There’s nothing like seeing concrete numbers displaying who’s better than who to stir up a little friendly trash-talking among friends.
The NYCC demo may not have given me as fleshed out a view as I’d have liked, but at the very least, I can say that my curiosity is piqued. Technically, Rivals seems to be as tight as you’d expect from a game labeled Need for Speed. Now, it’s just a matter of seeing whether new developer Ghost Games can deliver enough quality content to live up to the brand.