Powered by Frostbite 3, Rivals aims to utilize the power of the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 to give players "the freedom to seamlessly go from single player to co-op to multiplayer" when it releases "later this year." [Update: This story has been updated for accuracy, removing mention of a release window for the next-gen versions from an outdated release draft.]
Need for Speed Rivals transports players to the fictitious Redview County, an open-world environment where players can take on the role as either street racer or police officer. Like Most Wanted before it, racers aim to become the most infamous person behind the wheel, while cops attempt to work together to drive the area's high-risk inhabitants off the road. Players can personalize the experience with custom license plates, paint, liveries decals and rims, and performance upgrades.
Current-generation consoles will also join the rivalry – powered by its own version of Frostbite 3 – on November 19. A PC version is also in the works. Beyond ushering in another installment of the racing series, Ghost and Criterion's mission is to put Frostbite 3's next-gen ability on center stage – an engine not built from the ground up, but an enhanced iteration of DICE's previous platform.
"What's really great with the Frostbite 3 framework is that it's really scalable," Nilsson said of the engine's ability to perform on current-generation consoles. "Battlefield 3 was built on Frostbite 2, but with really high capabilities. Going to Frostbite 3, it's not like it's a brand new engine. We've been developing that engine," Nilsson adds. Noting how EA's latest internal engine of choice has become an iterative component throughout development, Nilsson added his team has "had an engine from day one to start building upon."
Utilizing an evolved engine is "very essential to having to build the high-quality games that people see," Nilsson said, because "it takes less time to use this engine, for instance, than it took to use Frostbite 1 or Frostbite 2."
"The simple answer to that question is no," Nilsson said. Though he wouldn't specify any content potentially removed from next-gen versions, the former DICE executive producer noted "the next-gen consoles will have different capabilities and in some aspects, a different feature-set." Other than the enhanced graphical fidelity – including new weather effects – and an increase in online player counts on next-gen platforms, no specific differences in content were revealed. Nilsson did confirm, however, that the size of the world will be the same across all platforms.
The major difference between the current- and next-gen versions of Rivals, according to Nilsson, is one of developer philosophy. "It's a mindset of how you think about how people will play these games. To me, visuals are great – absolutely – but unless you can use that power to play that game differently, then we failed." To ensure success under this philosophy, Ghost and Criterion are "pushing" a feature called AllDrive, which allows friends to enter and exit each other's worlds seamlessly and "on-the-fly."
"AllDrive is fundamentally a way for us to destroy the line between playing alone and playing with friends. Destroying the line between single-player and multiplayer," Nilsson said, before offering a use case scenario for the system. "Imagine you're playing Rivals, you're driving your car as a cop chasing someone. You're going through your progression, collecting points and then I join and we're friends, so we'll be put in the same world." Though the world is "pretty big" and each player can complete single-player tasks, they exist within the same environment and the "two experiences can merge."
If each player enters separate pursuits at different points in the world and eventually come across each other on the same road, Rivals transitions into a co-op state. "The game recognizes that now we're playing together and changes the scoring and changes the objectives for you, to acknowledge that you're now playing co-op," Nilsson adds. Depending on the amount of people you encounter or chose to play with, the game will adjust by providing new variations to play the game. "That to me is really a new mindset and where I think we wouldn't have gone to unless we started thinking along the lines of the next-generation."
Autolog's information overload approach from Most Wanted will change in Need for Speed Rivals
AllDrive, however, is not exclusive to Xbox One and PS4. "AllDrive will feature on current-gen and next-gen but there will be differences," Nilsson added, explaining the next-gen's ability to include more online players and "some ways of interacting with that game from different devices." The producer further clarified – citing the Xbox One's second-screen SmartGlass app – the team's intention to build players "different ways to interact with the game instead of just sitting in front of a TV."
Nilsson said he could not go into greater detail and could not tell us what side of the fence the game's PC version will fall on.
Criterion's social tracking system Autolog returns for Rivals, though Nilsson revealed the teams have decided to "move it back a notch," saying it was maybe taken "a little too far" by comparing too many elements in Need for Speed Most Wanted. "There's also great possibilities through Autolog to build something far bigger than what we've seen [in Most Wanted and NFS: Hot Pursuit]," the executive producer teased.
We anticipate seeing more revolving around the world of Need for Speed Rivals at E3 2013, next month.
[Ed. Note: This story contains corrections regarding the existence of a PC version of Rivals.]