New video game hardware is coming down the pike and those machines are going to need showpieces, games that show off why the PS4 and Xbox One are a significant step ahead of their predecessors. The guys making Need For Speed Rivals — the next instalment of the long-running racing series — believe that they’re making one of those showpiece games. It’s coming out on November 19 for current-gen consoles and PC, with PS4 and Xbox One versions to follow later this year.
You play as either cops or illegal racers in Need for Speed Rivals, which is an open-world title set in fictional Redview County. Racers’ rewards are tied to dodging cops, driving as crazily as possible and capturing those stunts on video. Cops, of course, are trying to stop all of that.
Rivals is being made by Ghost Games, a new studio in Sweden staffed by former developers from DICE. Ghost Games executive producer Marcus Nilsson worked on the Shift franchise and built Shift 2: Unleashed with co-workers. Former Criterion director Craig Sullivan is part of that team now and Nilsson calls Rivals a co-operative effort between Ghost and Criterion. Yes, they’re aiming to make the next Need for Speed an eye-popping visual feast that takes advantage of DICE’s Frostbite 3 engine. But, Marcus Nilsson says that it’s connectivity — and not graphics — that’s pushing the evolution of NFS.
The game’s AllDrive feature is supposed to smash the line between singleplayer and multiplayer, said Nilsson. “Imagine you’re playing Need for Speed Rivals as a cop in a pursuit,” Nilsson said, starting in on an explanation of the new mode. “You’re going through the levels of the game and collecting points. I’m your friend, so when I join the game, I’m being put in your world. The world is pretty big, right? I can be on a different side of the map and I’m doing my thing in my play progression, being a racer, being chased by cops and collecting Speedpoints.”
“Then, our experiences can merge so we happen to be on the same street, which means that you can start going after me. Or if we’re both cops, we can go after the racer that we were chasing together,” Nilsson continued. “Really, we’re going seamlessly through player action from playing alone to playing in co-op. The game will then adjust to this and give you objectives which are based on playing together with a friend and change the score to make it obvious to you that you’re playing together with someone.”
“That carries on as you have more people join this world and with the different roles they take, the game will offer you more variation on how you can play the game, depending on how many people their are in your world,” Nilsson told me. "This is why I think Rivals is all about the next generation."
In light of the confusion around the Xbox One, I asked him if the next generation versions of Rivals would need to be constantly online, since we spoke on the day after the reveal of Microsoft’s new console. “You can play this alone with a disconnected box as much as you want,” Nilsson answered. “It will work with AI in the open world, and it will take you through the single-player progression of the game. That’s something that is very dear to us, and foremost Need for Speed is a game that you play through yourself.”
“But, when you’re online, you get this interaction with other people in a kind of disorganised fashion, which is a really cool thing that don’t necessarily see in other normal racing games.”
You’ll be able to wield upgradeable weapons and tech like jammers and EMP bursts for racers or roadblocks, shockwaves and helicopters for cops. You’ll also be able to personalise your ride, too. “We’ve gone deeper on weapons and are trying to make them a more integrated part of the driving experience,” Nilsson said.
“We wanted to build a new studio to embrace the next generation, to get some new energy into thinking differently about racing games,” he offered. “Racing games need innovation.” We’ll see if Rivals’ chase-focused open-world showdown is the game that brings it.