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Need for Speed Rivals

On Patrol In Need For Speed Rivals

The new open-world racer from Ghost Games and Criterion blends single-player, co-op, and competitive multiplayer into a single racing experience. We got behind the wheel of one of Need For Speed Rivals' souped-up squad cars to take down a few illegal street racers and walked away impressed.

Like last year's critically acclaimed Need For Speed: Most Wanted, Rivals focuses on the interplay between racers and the police who ruthlessly pursue them. Racers take to the street to compete with other drivers in impromptu races, while the police focus on taking down scofflaws by any means necessary. Being a fan of Burnout, I chose the police for my three-versus-three hands-on demo, though I broke just as many laws in my pursuit of justice.

Rivals' big new gimmick is All Drive, which seamlessly places friends into the same instance of the game's open world and can dynamically offer objectives based on what you're doing. For instance, if you and a friend are both chasing down cars in separate sections of the world, your objective may merge if you end up driving into the same area. Each player also has a list of objectives present on the screen, which offer a variety of challenges to complete at any given time.

Rivals offers players a risk/reward system for earning Speed Points, which act as the game's currency. Racers earn points for a variety of actions, such as drifting and crashing into cars, but for maximum points you'll want to boost your multiplier by completing races. However, racers don't actually get to keep their points until they bank them at a hideout, and will lose them if busted by the cops. Conversely, cops earn points by taking down racers; the more points a racer has earned, the more enticing a target they make.

My fellow law enforcers and I jumped to an early lead during our demo, as we tailed our opponents and took them down with a variety of power-ups such as EMP blasts and road spikes (however, it turns out that high-speed  head-on collisions are still the best way to stop a fleeing suspect). As time went on, however, the racing team started pulling away as their multipliers increased from performing races. Chasing after a high-value target while trying to keep my car on the road and avoid civilian traffic provided an even greater sense of excitement than the blistering speeds I was pushing in my nitro-equipped cruiser.

I haven't played the last few incarnations of Need For Speed, but I enjoyed my hands-on time with Rivals. The next-gen visuals provide all the detail and polish you would expect from a simulation racing game, while the use of power-ups and focus on takedowns provide more arcade-like action. Need For Speed Rivals launches on Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 on November 19; next-gen versions will release at a later date.

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