The psychology of being inside a car is kind of fascinating - in a twisted, human-limits-revealing sort of way. We tend to stop viewing our fellow road-hogging compatriots as people, preferring instead to focus on the galloping four-wheeled colossi in front of us. Other drivers become objects, impediments, enemies. Have you ever had one of those moments where you're honking and raging, and then you finally pass the person ahead of you and briefly see their face? "Oh god," I often think. "They look so upset. Did I do that? To another person? That's fucked!" But I keep doing it anyway, because I'm in a soulless metal shell, and so are they. That, I figure, is why street racing games are never about anything other than competition, rivalry, and sticking it to the po-lice. It's so easy to hate a car, run it off the road, and laugh. Need For Speed Rivals' title, then, strikes me as weirdly redundant, in its own way.
(I am not, by the way, damning that thematic element of these games. Also, I don't claim to understand actual street racing. It could be full of marvelous sportsmanship and terrifically polite people.)
Need For Speed Rivals isn't a direct sequel to Need For Speed: Most Wanted, but it shares a lot of thematic elements with Criterion's metal-twisting opus. Case in point:
"In Need for Speed Rivals, gamers play as either a cop or racer, where each side of the law has its own set of high stakes challenges, rewards and consequences. As a racer, the goal is to become infamous for taking risks behind the wheel and capturing your most intense escapes on video for the world to see. The more cops players evade, the more Speed Points they collect, enabling them to unlock new cars and items. Keep raising the stakes race after race to become an ever-more valuable target to the cops – but risk losing it all if busted. As a cop, players work together as part of a team in pursuit of racers, earning prominence and rising in the ranks of the Police Force with every bust. Achieving higher ranks unlocks new police only cars and more powerful pursuit tech."
EA hasn't explicitly stated whether or not Rivals is another open-world to-do, but NFS is at least receiving a couple major shake-ups. For one, Criterion isn't leading the development charge on this one. Instead, Rivals' new team of grease monkeys goes by the name of Ghost Games, and they're apparently working "in partnership" with Criterion. Also, the wind beneath Rivals' car wings comes from Frostbite 3, so it should have that "next-gen" sheen no one can shut up about.
Now for the potentially bad news. As ever with recent EA games, it sounds like single-player here is only an illusion. A feature called "AllDrive" will apparently let friends crash through the walls of your solitude whenever they please. "Players will have to keep one eye on their rearview mirror as friends will be able to enter and exit races on-the-fly, creating a world where no two events will ever be the same," read EA's announcement.
Sounds dynamic and unpredictable, for those who want it. Hopefully it's optional, but I've sent EA an email asking for confirmation one way or the other. They, um, haven't been the best on responding lately, but here's hoping.
Need For Speed Rivals will be out on November 19th.