Need for Speed Rivals

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Need for Speed Rivals
Need for Speed Rivals cover.jpg
Cover art featuring a Ferrari F12 being chased by a Koenigsegg Agera police car
Developer(s)Ghost Games[a]
Publisher(s)Electronic Arts
Director(s)Craig Sullivan
  • Jamie Keen
  • Leanne Loombe
  • Mat Thomas
Designer(s)James Mouat
Programmer(s)Christian Holmqvist
Artist(s)Christopher Kristiansson
Writer(s)Will Staples
Composer(s)Vanesa Lorena Tate[1]
SeriesNeed for Speed
EngineFrostbite 3
November 15, 2013
  • PlayStation 4
    • NA: November 15, 2013
    • EU: November 29, 2013
    Windows, PS3, Xbox 360
    • NA: November 19, 2013
    • AU: November 21, 2013
    • EU: November 22, 2013
    Xbox One
    • WW: November 22, 2013

Need for Speed Rivals is a 2013 racing video game developed in a collaboration between Ghost Games and Criterion Games, and published by Electronic Arts. It is the twentieth installment in the Need for Speed series and the debut title for Ghost Games, who would be established as the primary developer of the series for all subsequent non-mobile installments up until 2020.


Need for Speed Rivals features a dynamic weather system.

Need for Speed Rivals is a racing game and features gameplay similar to earlier Need for Speed titles, such as Criterion's Need for Speed: Most Wanted and Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit.[2] Rivals uses the Frostbite 3 engine.[3] The development team opted to target 30 FPS across all platforms instead of 60 FPS, because of the AllDrive feature.

AllDrive is the system used to seamlessly matchmake players within the same open world. Another reason was due to the number of players able to be in the same world at the same time.[4]

Rivals is the first cross-platform next-gen games to achieve a native 1080p across both PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.[5] Talk of resolutions and frame rates became a major point of contention between Sony and Microsoft's new consoles after it emerged that both Call of Duty: Ghosts and Battlefield 4 run at a higher resolution on Sony's PS4 console as compared to Microsoft's Xbox One.[6]


Roles and progression[edit]

After completing the prologue (tutorial), players choose a faction—Cop or Racer—to start their own tasks. Players can switch between factions at a hideout (Racer) or a command post (Cop). Cops can choose different mission routes for patrolling, undercover, and law enforcement.[7]

Most of the story takes place through cutscenes, with the chosen character voicing their opinions of current events in the game. Story progression is made through completing speedlists as a racer, or assignments as a cop.


Rivals features a career progression system for both Cop and Racer.[8] Progression is made by means of Speedlists for Racer and Assignments for Cop, which are sets of objectives which involve dangerous driving, maneuvers, and race standings. Upon completion of each set of objectives, the player levels up and unlocks new content, and is presented with another set of objectives to choose from.[9]

Weapon system[edit]

Similar to the 2010 Hot Pursuit, players can use weapons to attack other people or defend, whether they are Racers or Cops. Players can equip from two of each side's six weapons and the weapons can be upgraded, although upgrades are limited based on the level of the car being used. Cops can choose from ESF (electrostatic field), EMP (electromagnetic pulse), shock waves, roadblocks, request helicopter support, or spike strips and the weapons can be enhanced. Racers can choose ESF, EMP, shock wave, jammers, stun mines, and turbo.[2]

Online system[edit]

The Autolog system, a competition-between-friends system developed by Criterion for Hot Pursuit, records the player's completion time for each event, Speedlist or Assignment. These times are posted to Speed Walls for local and global leaderboards to be compared to other players' times.[9]

Rivals features a new social system called the AllDrive, which allows players to transition from playing alone to playing with others, described as "destroying the line between single player and multiplayer". This allows players to engage in both cooperative and competitive gameplay.[7] The game also features a dynamic weather system, which makes "the world feel alive in a much bigger sense than any other Need for Speed game".[2]

Vehicle modification[edit]

Rivals also takes on some gameplay features of earlier Underground titles in the franchise with cues on aesthetic vehicle personalization, such as paint jobs, decals, rims and license plates and liveries can be modified, as well as vehicle performance, and various 'Pursuit Tech' gadgets.[10][11] With the exception for the Aston Martin Vanquish (and most DLC cars), all cars in the game are only available in either the racer or police variant.[12]

Map and background[edit]

Need for Speed Rivals takes place in the fictional Redview County.[13] The open world environment features a similar set-up to Most Wanted, with several jumps, speed traps, and unlockable cars, as well as shortcuts that are not shown on the map.[10][14]

The map's design took heavy inspiration from multiple aspects of the American landscape, with the setting's open world map consisting of over 100 miles (160 km) of road. The north side of the map takes inspiration from Californian coastline towns like Santa Monica, the east side a northern California redwood forest and snowy mountainside based on the Rocky Mountains in Colorado, the south is a rocky desert based on the Grand Canyon in Arizona, and the west and central parts of the map based on contemporary rural America.


The player can either choose to play as a racer or a cop. In the Racer story, the player assumes the role of a street racer known as Zephyr. In the Cop story, the player takes on the role of an unnamed, newly initiated police officer. As the player completes the objectives on the Speedlists or Assignments, story cutscenes are revealed, each of which appears to be connected with the other.

In an attempt to make himself known to the public, street racer Zephyr uploads a video of him outrunning the police along the streets of Redview County. Within a few days, other racers begin replicating what Zephyr did in the video. As a result, they have become more public in their criminal acts and increasingly more dangerous, committing more acts of damage of property as they speed through the street. The Redview County Police Department responds by increasing their punitive measures and attempting to bring the racers to justice, resulting in public backlash. Later on, an officer named John McManis is injured while attempting to keep up with the racers. Public outcry swings back in support of the police, leading the police officer to swear revenge on the racers.

However, further increase in police intimidation and accusations of 'excessive force' leads to all RCPD officers being placed under probationary suspension, with the Federal Bureau of Investigation sending in the Vehicle Response Team to take the police's place. Realizing the new threat, Zephyr begins taking on the VRT as he continues to defy the authorities. Angered by the lack of action against Zephyr's crimes, the police officer decides to go rogue as a vigilante under the name F-8 or F8 (pronounced fate), stealing an impounded Ferrari Enzo and using it to take racers down under the guise of a fellow racer. This causes him to receive an invitation to apply for the FBI Vehicle Response Team. Knowing this, F8 immediately gives up his vigilante persona and accepts the invitation. At the same time, all police units have been called back on active duty.

Zephyr eventually discovers who F8 really is and decides to retaliate, stealing a decommissioned Koenigsegg Agera police car and respraying it in his style, then jumping onto the streets to wreak havoc by wrecking cops. As a result, the RCPD has been cleared of all accusations against its officers, causing a public outrage as the VRT stays in Redview County. The increase in police activity and discontent over the violent arrests of street racers leads Zephyr to publicly denounce the VRT, saying that they had caused so much damage and demanding that they stop their brutality. He then issues an open challenge to both the racers and the cops, a race around Redview County, so that the two sides could resolve their differences once and for all. Meanwhile, F8, now a top officer at the VRT, is tasked with locating Zephyr, being the only one able to do so. He eventually succeeds in intercepting Zephyr's radio communications. Upon learning of Zephyr's message, F8 sets out to stop the street racer.


There are two endings, which are somewhat connected to each other.

At the end of the Racer story, right after he completes the decisive race, Zephyr smashes into a police blockade, causing him to crash violently. A subsequent news report shows Zephyr's car smoking heavily, suggesting he is very likely to have been killed in the crash. However, Zephyr is revealed to have barely survived the crash. While barely awake, he starts up his badly damaged car in an attempt to drive away.

At the end of the Cop story, just as he collides with Zephyr, F8 loses control and ends up wrecking his own car in a crash, leaving him in critical condition. A following news report reveals that F8 has been discharged from the VRT for his dangerous and reckless acts. F8 then thinks of going back into the Enzo he stole earlier. Sometime later, with Zephyr nowhere to be seen anymore, F8 has become the top racer in Redview County, issuing a challenge to everyone via a video.


After the commercial and critical success of 2010's Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit,[15] Criterion Games executives stated that they wanted to draw from the series' roots and re-introduce old Need for Speed ideals.

However, in 2011, EA Black Box released Need for Speed: The Run, which received mixed reviews.[16][17][18][improper synthesis?]

In 2012, EA Labels president Frank Gibeau said that although he was proud of the Black Box-developed installment, "he didn't want a 60, I want an 80+".[19] On the subject of EA Black Box, Gibeau said the publisher would not be changing its alternating studio strategy.[19]

At Electronic Entertainment Expo 2012, Criterion vice president Alex Ward announced that the days of random developers churning out yearly Need for Speed installments were over. Ward would not confirm that all Need for Speed titles for the future would be developed wholly by Criterion, but did say that the studio would have "strong involvement" in them.[20][21]

With EA Canada and Black Box restructured and refocused towards online and free-to-play games in February 2012,[22] EA had already formed a new studio in 2011, EA Gothenburg. Based in Gothenburg, Sweden, it was reported that the studio would focus on development games using the Frostbite game engine.[23][24][25] Also reported was that the studio was developing a game "in the Need For Speed franchise".[26]

According to the CVs of employees, much of the studio's staff had worked previously on major racing titles, including Forza Horizon, Need for Speed: The Run, Project Gotham Racing and Race Pro.[26]

On October 22, 2012, the series main developer Criterion Games confirmed that EA Gothenburg was working on a title in the Need for Speed franchise, but did not reveal the level of involvement or when the title would be released.[27]

On November 15, 2012, EA Gothenburg was rebranded as Ghost Games. Ghost's website went live around the same time and called for potential staff to apply for a range of open positions.[28][29]

On May 23, 2013, EA confirmed their next Need for Speed game, Rivals, with a teaser trailer,[7] following marketing material tease days before.[30][31] It was also confirmed that Rivals was in the works at EA's Swedish games developer Ghost Games in partnership with Criterion Games.[32][33] Ghost is headed up by former DICE executive producer Marcus Nilsson, who previously led development on games including Battlefield 2: Modern Combat, Battlefield 2142 and Shift 2: Unleashed.[34]

The team asserted that while Rivals will be released on both current and next-gen systems, the versions would "ultimately be the same", aside from the graphics would look different, and next-gen would provide for more dynamic weather and gameplay.[35]

On August 30, 2013, Ghost Games head Marcus Nilsson stated that the studio had been given complete charge of the Need for Speed franchise and that the franchise being bounced between multiple EA studios was not "consistent" with different game types.[36][37]

On September 16, 2013, Criterion Games had its staff numbers reduced to 17 people total, as the majority of the studio moved over to Ghost Games UK to work with Need for Speed games.[38][39] Due to this, what remained of Criterion Games began work on a project of their own.[40]

Because of the low sales of Most Wanted on the Wii U and PlayStation Vita, Rivals was not developed for those platforms.[41]

Marketing and release[edit]

Promotion at Gamescom 2013

Rivals was released for Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 on November 19, 2013 in North America,[42] November 21 in Australia, and November 22 in Europe.[42] The PlayStation 4 version was released in North America a few days earlier, on November 15, 2013, as a launch title for the system, and on November 29 in Europe.[42] The Xbox One version was released worldwide on 22 November 2013.[42][43]

On October 21, 2014, Need for Speed Rivals Complete Edition was released. It features all DLC packs (as well as all pre-order bonuses previously re-released in the "Fully Loaded Garage" DLC pack) along with the main game.[44]


Need for Speed Rivals was well received by critics at E3 2013 and was awarded with "Best Racing Game" from Game Critics Awards.[63] Previewers who had access to Rivals called the game a spiritual successor to 1999's Need for Speed: High Stakes, citing similar gameplay style.[64] Others called it an improved version of Criterion's Hot Pursuit, citing similar gameplay mechanics.[65]

Need for Speed Rivals received mostly positive reviews upon release. Aggregate review website Metacritic gave the PlayStation 4 version 80/100,[47] the Xbox One version 75/100,[49] the PlayStation 3 version 80/100,[46] the Windows version 76/100,[45] and the Xbox 360 version 76/100.[48]

Steve Hannley of Hardcore Gamer gave the game a 4.5/5, saying "It’s raw, visceral, intense and boasts a ton of replay value thanks to over one hundred events and seamless online multiplayer."[66] Jeff Gerstmann from Giant Bomb gave the game a 3/5, praising the game's gameplay and soundtrack but criticized the lack of amount players allowed on the online multiplayer. Gerstmann also noted that the PC version was locked at 30 frames-per-second and stated that "is especially ridiculous", but still considered the PC version the best looking version.[59] GameZone's Mike Splechta gave the PS4 version an 8.5/10, stating "For a game that touts speed in its name, Need for Speed: Rivals delivers on every front. It's gorgeous, fast and definitely furious."[58] Daniel Krupa for IGN scored the game an 8.0 and stated: "Fast, furious, and fun. NFS: Rivals blends Hot Pursuit and Most Wanted to great effect."[60] Philip Kollar of Polygon gave the game an 8.5 out of 10, writing: "Need for Speed Rivals' technical shortcomings are frustrating primarily because almost everything else about the game is so well-designed and impressive. It builds on the series' legacy but also stretches into meaningful new directions. It may hit a few bumps, but if this is what Ghost Games can pull off in their first release and the first next-gen Need for Speed, the future is bright for this franchise."[62] Andrew Reiner of Game Informer gave high praise to the online multiplayer interactivity, stressing that the online features create an experience unlike any other. Reiner also called the game's visuals "drop dead gorgeous", and complimented the playability for making the game feel "silky smooth". Reiner gave the game a 9/10 and had minor criticisms.[54] Nick Pino from GamesRadar also praised the visuals and controls, calling them "absolutely gorgeous" and "slick" respectively. Pino was critical of the car customization and damage, but commended the game world for feeling alive.[55] Eurogamer's Martin Robinson gave the game a 9/10 and called it "fantastic". He spoke well of the overall action gameplay, the points system, the sound design of the cars, the visuals, and the world design. Robinson's main criticisms were concerning the "obnoxious" soundtrack, the inability to pause the game, the world size, and the vehicle takedown systems.[53]

Negative reception centered around the many bugs and glitches in the game, and frustrations around the game's lack of dedicated servers, triggering frequent host migration. There were also many clashing game features which caused frustrations for players, such as cops chasing players for no reason at all and the inability to pause the game at any time. Ghost Games also removed the ability to change from automatic to manual transmission.[67][68]

Rivals was well received by critics at E3 2013 and was awarded with "Best Racing Game" from Game Critics Awards. It also received mostly positive reviews upon release. It was followed in 2015 by Need for Speed: No Limits and the unsubtitled reboot of this franchise.


  1. ^ Additional work by Criterion Games and Ghost Games UK.


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External links[edit]