on 22 May 2014
As other reviews have made clear, this game is buggy. Some of the bugs in this game are game-breaking bad (although the worst can be worked around; see below). The really annoying thing is that they should have been REALLY easy to fix. It's been 6 months since release, and the bugs in this game were highlighted by the major gaming websites before the game even hit the shelves, so I think it's safe to say we can forget about ever getting a fix for this game (shame on you EA!).
Take the "swinging camera" bug (by far the most common/frequent - although others exist); it is just incredibly infuriating and always seems to hit you at the wrong time. I.E., you'll have collected a ton of money, you are being chased and need to desperately avoid crashing as your car is nearly wrecked. To collect your bounty you need to get back to your base or to a garage to repair. As you get close to the building the camera does a full 360 around your car, with a pause to take in the view behind (!) - this is far from the first time this has happened to you, so you slow down, hope the pursuing cars don't ram into the back of you, then BANG .. you hit a wall (which you didn't see as the camera is pointing the other way!). Totalled. Credits gone, heat lost, multiplier reset, car wrecked. Great job EA!
This is such a stupid bug, and could be fixed overnight in a patch! It is caused by the Kinect unit somehow hearing "Look around" (even when nobody is saying anything!). To fix this you can go to settings, Kinect and temporarily turn off your Kinect unit and the camera will not move, but you simply shouldn't need to do this! They could (should!) rewrite the in-game voice recognition code so it functions correctly, they could put in a keyword which you say before the commands, change the voice command itself or just remove it altogether (using the left stick to look around works just fine on every other game!), or, of course, they could just simply add an option to turn Kinect off in the game menu (or disable/change certain voice commands)!
Using your voice/Kinect to help guide you to things was a good idea, but it simply doesn't work. The only way to make this game playable on the XB1 is to turn Kinect off (by turning it off using the console settings, a pain as you'll inevitably forget it is off and start shouting at it when you load up a different game!).
The "Easydrive" menu (an alternative to using voice commands) is exactly the same as the 2012 NFS:Most Wanted, it works fine (for those who didn't play Most Wanted; you navigate using the D pad, select which race/destination/building/etc you want, press D pad right again and a sat-nav style line will appear on your map), It would be better if the nearest base was the first (and only) option at the top of the menu, that way you could select it by hitting right on the D-pad twice instead of having to negotiate a menu when driving (you can't pause the game while driving). Of course, you are supposed to be able to just say you want to go to a base, and the map will respond, but given you have to turn Kinect off to make the game half-playable you can't do that!
There is an app for tablets which works well. The map scrolls like a GPS unit zoomed out, and you can click on anything you like to set it as a destination (or even warp there, if not already racing/chasing/being chased).
The problem with the app and Easydrive is that both require you to briefly glance away from the road; fine if you're cruising around (hardly ever! The game makes it very easy to jump straight into the action from your base), but when you're flying around twisty, windy, hilly roads with sharp turns, jumps and traffic, as well as rival racers AND police both trying to smash you off the road, you just just can't take your eyes off the road to navigate menus/an app.
Easydrive and the app both work fine, in theory. In practice if you try using it when you really need to use it (i.e. when you have a lot of heat, and are driving really fast), you'll end up travelling through the air at 200mph; sideways!
As for the game itself, this is no simulator, you're not going to find realistic physics/handling, simulated tyre wear or even automatic gears (you want to be looking at the excellent Forza for that type of game!). This is strictly arcade racing, and it can do it well at times.
There is a half-decent game under all the mess. It can really get your adrenaline racing when you've amassed a huge amount of credits (which you will lose if caught), have a big heat rating (which multiplies the credits you have, but brings more and more police with each level), and you are being pursued by a convoy of police cars with tech designed to bring you down. Unfortunately, the police missions (which make up the other half of the game) just can't compete with the excitement of being a pursued racer, although as a bonus you do access to all of the cars and all of the tech without having to collect/buy/upgrade them.
One final note, this game is more in tune with Hot Pursuit and Most Wanted, which makes sense given both are by Criterion, than the latest NFS games, Shift 2 and The Run(s - as it should have been called!). If you compare the two open-world racers (Rivals and MW:2012), you can't but help but to feel a little short changed. This game has fewer cars (although there is a bunch available as paid-for DLC, sold individually! But then Most Wanted had far more DLC, sold in large packs and they came with new areas to explore, races, etc), the world seems much smaller (I think this may be due to the long, sweeping, country roads compared to the the tightly packed (and varied) city streets of Most Wanted. Plus there seems to be a lot of undrivable space in-between the main routes in this game), and there just seems to be a lot less game for your money.
Most Wanted was a really busy environment, every street (and even off-road space!) had multiple races, cars to collect, advertising boards to smash up, interesting things that just existed for you to drive on (like the "figure of 8" monument, or the under construction airport, etc). Rivals lacks all of that. There are races littered around (but after a while you'll nearly always jump to them straight from the base rather than bother driving to them), and you'll find the occasional jump to find some airtime, but the lack of "world content" changes the game significantly, there's simply no reason to just go out and drive!
Sure, the varied environments are nice (if slightly unrealistic), but when you've seen them a couple of times; meh! Unlike Most Wanted (or to use another example; Forza Horizon, amongst others), this isn't a game where you will simply take a Lamborghini out for a spin and just drive around aimlessly to see what you can find, to interact with the world, to find things and do things.
It has open world pretensions, but the game doesn't give you any good reason to just go out and drive; you get a list of missions, you jump straight to the start point, race/escape and return to base. Rinse. Repeat.
It seems a shame to take a step back, especially when the technology has taken a step forward.