It’s hard to see the Need for Speed franchise as the underdog in any generation but that’s precisely the case with Ghost Games’ Need for Speed: Rivals. On the surface, it has all the qualifications necessary to qualify as a heavyweight next gen contender: 1080p resolution, a locked frame rate across all formats (aside from PC, which has lately received a 60 FPS patch), the Frostbite 3 engine and post-process anti-aliasing. Ghost Games also took great pains to ensure the same level of gameplay for all consoles with AllDrive and all manner of realistic physics available for both current and next gen formats.
But with games like Forza Motorsport 5 and DriveClub, still to release, having offered a taste of the visual glory that next-gen consoles can offer, how does Need for Speed: Rivals measure up? For that matter, how do the current gen versions compare to the likes of Forza Motorsport 4 or Gran Turismo 6, two games which are geared towards the Xbox 360 and PS3 respectively?
The one thing to keep in mind is that in terms of aesthetic, Need for Rivals forgoes the squeaky clean approach of Forza in favour of a muddier, messier and gritty street racing game. Cars will have their paint scratched off, cop cars are inundated with their own unique visual flourishes and performances, dynamic weather affects performance and further wears down on your car with rain and sleet, and you’ll forever be bumping hoods with rival opponents or cruisers. Does the frame rate hold up under these conditions and what of the resolution?
PS3 vs. Xbox 360
Both current gen consoles feature a 1280×704 resolution with trilinear filtering on the textures, though they remain locked at 30 frames per second. Concerning overall performance, the Xbox 360 version ultimately sees a drop every now and then but nothing drastic. You’ll have mandatory installs on both, 1.6 GB for the Xbox 360 and 1.1 GB for the PS3, to assist in texture streaming. Reflection quality and overall effects are better on the PlayStation 3 of course but the presence of jaggies and pop-up is more or less the same on both consoles.
Otherwise, you’ll be hard-pressed to find anything to dislike about either version. They’re fast, they compete pretty well with the likes of Forza 4 and GT6 (though car detail on close-up may not be as detailed) with acceptable shadow quality and foliage physics. Road textures and gravel don’t feel as earthy but the sensation of speed is still very much like NFS. We don’t know if EA used an enormous zoetrope to capture the correct feeling of racing really fast, but they’ve more or less nailed it.
PS4 vs. Xbox One vs. PC
When the PC version of Need for Speed: Rivals launched, it was nearly indistinguishable from the PS4 and Xbox One version. Even with all settings cranked to max, it featured only slightly better anti-aliasing and texture quality. In a way the studio skimped on the PC version.
Nonetheless, Ghost Games have since released a patch and the game runs at 60 FPS on PC with nary an issue (almost). What of the PS4 and Xbox One versions? Both offer a significant bump in performance across the board whether it is in texture streaming, realistic depiction of weather effects or the 1080p resolution.
Neither suffers from frame rate drops at 30 FPS and texture quality is significantly stronger though again, a fair number of jaggies can be made out on closer inspection. We appreciated the improved reflections and depth of field, which both look significantly better on the PS4. The PS4 has the advantage over the Xbox One with its inclusion of HBAO versus the latter’s SSAO. It’s not an enormous difference overall to be honest and you’ll find very little difference among the three formats overall.
One issue that came up with the next-gen console versions was the same seen in Knack – that of frames jittering in place. Thankfully, it’s not on the same level as Knack, indicating a better frame refresh, but that it appears on both consoles is odd.
All in all, Need for Speed: Rivals gets the thumbs up. Despite not being any sharper than Forza 5 or having as detailed vehicles and reflections, it makes up for it with better looking weather effects and a messier, more chaotic aesthetic overall (did we mention better environments?). The current gen versions are understandably gimped while PC users finally have the version they deserve with the 60 FPS patch.
Need for Speed: Rivals is another stellar cross-generation title thanks to the uniformity of its frame rate and gameplay across different versions, and takes enough advantage of the PS4 and Xbox One without compromising much on the Xbox 360 and PS3 versions.