Many people have fond memories of Need For Speed:  Hot Pursuit, which came out in 2010, tight handling, cool cutscenes, robust multiplayer, but there was just one problem:  You couldn't drive where you wanted to on the map; you had to select an event.

NFS:  Rivals has smashed through that barrier and added in what is likely to be the foundation for most other open world racers out there:  AllDrive.

With AllDrive, you get situations like this:

- I'm running a Rapid Response event (which is time only) and I see my AllDrive pop up (it'll be green in the middle of your screen and can have 1-5 other players).  Next I see a BIG orange arrow (indicating another human player) and a bunch of little orange ones.  A race was coming at me!

So I did what any cop worth their salt would:  I hit the turbo, armed my shockwave power, and slammed into the human player at 200 MPH.

Because they had already lost health from their event, I busted them.  I then turned around and continued with my Rapid Response event!

It's these moments that are the best parts of NFS:  Rivals.  Where your single player interacts with others online (and visa versa:  I had a similar situation happen where they blew by me...and I got totaled by a cop chasing them!).  It's a BIG improvement over the online in NFS:  Most Wanted and even Burnout Paradise (the only meeting up, per se, is if you want to do a race with 5 of your friends at the same time, otherwise, it's seamless).

The PS4 takes the graphics to a whole other level; and here is where I have to dock the game a few percentage points, as I'm not a car buff, but I'm PRETTY sure the undercarriage of a Lamborghini does not consist of one solid sheet of rust and a vent.  So much great attention was paid to the cutscenes (when you unlock a car) that they actually forgot that the PS4 can do more detail and that was disappointing.

Also, as far as car damage models go, you'll see some smoke and your health bar will pulse red, but you'll find you lose your bumpers in the cutscenes when you wreck, but they magically appear again!  (Unlike Blur, where it would literally be dragging on the ground as you lost health!).  That also was disappointing.

Finally, there is no local split-screen; it's AllDrive or nothing.  This is simply where the market is going for racing games, and that's online connection.  Time will tell if Drive Club does split-screen, with The Crew, it appears that's going to be a racing MMO of sorts, so I wouldn't count on it having split-screen either.  Still, it feels like a missed opportunity where you could be the cop and your friend who is over could be the racer, like the Interceptor missions.

But overall, with the dynamic weather conditions, many variations of cars to unlock (and despite what you read, they DO handle quite differently, especially in terms of starting a drift), two entirely different paths to go down as a cop and racer, and the AllDrive concept, NFS: Rivals will keep you plenty busy until the other racing games start appearing, and should go down as one of the best racing game launch titles in history.  And it's well earned.