Need for Speed is a gem of a series.  Since its original release in 1994, every following version brought to the table crisper graphics and tighter gameplay than the last.  Each title felt like it was building upon the giant that was the previous game.  Of course there were a few bumps along the way, but overall the Need for Speed series has been a solid experience.

I was lucky enough to get a hands-on look at the series’ first next-gen iteration titled Need for Speed Rivals and also got to interview Craig Sullivan, Creative Director behind Rivals, and it’s obviously a labor of love from the developers at Ghost Games.

NFSRivalsIMG1 Go ahead, make a few enemies    Need for Speed Rivals hands on previewPlayers can choose to drive as cops or racers, each with their own specific objectives and play styles.  Cops’ goals usually consist of pursuing and wrecking racers as quickly as possible, and Racer’s goals tend to lean towards either gaining as much of the in-game currency, SpeedPoints, as possible by outrunning cops, winning races, and executing jumps.

SpeedPoints are racked up in a risk vs reward style mechanic.  Racers build up their “heat,” which acts both as a bonus multiplier and much like a wanted level from the Grand Theft Auto series.  Players will push their limits to earn points as cops weigh down on them heavier and heavier.

We’re really proud of AllDrive.  It’s something that’ll be around for a long time.

-Craig Sullivan, Creative Director at Ghost Games

The core mechanic of the arcade racer is AllDrive, which merges singleplayer and multiplayer.  At any time a player can be driving, and their friend — or enemy — can drive by and challenge them to a race.  Players share the same game world and can pursue their own Speedlists and Assignments, which are objectives needed to progress through the game’s loose story as well as unlock new cars.

One of the most impressive mechanics of AllDrive is the overlapping of events.  A player can be pursued by the cops, see another racer, and challenge them to a race.  Now they’re both outrunning the cops and racing at the same time, dodging roadblocks and choppers all while trying to reach the finish line as quickly as possible.

I think my favorite personal moments in the game are when I’m playing with a bunch of other racers in a hot pursuit and being chased by two or three of my friends as cops. That’s where the intensity levels are off the charts. That’s when the game goes up to 11 out of 10. That’s where the game really lives.

NFSRivalsLicenses Go ahead, make a few enemies    Need for Speed Rivals hands on previewThe multiplayer allows up to 6 players to race simultaneously.  Players can switch between cop and racer at any time, making it easy and to swap out and get revenge on an enemy racer who just beat you by a hair.

The Need for Speed Network is a feature which can be accessed from an iOS or Android device.  It can be used as a mini-map to set up waypoints and check the locations of other racers, or you can use it as an all new feature called Overwatch.

In Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit we had [an app] that was one way.  AllDrive sparked the idea of including everybody meant that a one way conversation app wasn’t gonna be the way for us. We like the idea of helping or hindering someone else. I can choose to help or hinder you as a racer or a cop in an application away from the game. You can play as a racer and I can fix your car or give you nitrous. I can hinder you by hurting your car or putting up a road block ahead of you.

The game is gorgeous, running on the Frostbyte 3 engine.  I noticed little to no pop-in, and the particles and weather effects are stunning to look at.  Need for Speed Rivals is the best looking game in the series to date.

People look at Need for Speed and expect a bit of quality… In every area this game is better than what has come before. I worked on Need for Speed Hot Pursuit and Need for Speed Most Wanted. We’re lucky we got to look at both of those games and bring them together in a new package and it’s the best version of Need for Speed ever made.

You can acquire yourself a copy of Need for Speed Rivals with the launch of the Xbox One on November 22nd, with the launch of the PS4 on November 15, and on PS3, 360, and PC on November 19th.