EA’s latest arcade racer is revved up and ready for action, writes John Walshe.

The Need For Speed series has proved one of the most successful arcade racing franchises ever created, and it’s not hard to see why. The games plug into racing fans’ need for high octane thrills without too much simulation getting in the way.

That’s not to say that the cars don’t handle realistically - they do. And what magnificent mechanised machines they are. But the racing here is all about adrenaline rather than realism: smash your car off the side of a suspension bridge and you can still dust yourself off and keep driving. Realistic? No. Fun? You bet.

Rivals is basically about the ongoing battle between the Redview County police department and the locale’s unprecedented numbers of illegal street racers. Like previous NFS title, Hot Pursuit, it lets you play as either the law-makers or law-breakers, either outrunning police pursuit or taking down the bad guys. Either way, the chases are high speed and high risk. The cops don’t flash their lights and ask to see your licence: instead, they ram you off the road, utilising heavy duty pursuit tech, from spike strips to electric shocks, as well as good old-fashioned bumpers to destroy your vehicle.

The large, open world environment works very well and there are plenty of events dotted around to keep your interest, as well as much-needed repair shops to put your wheels back together. The more you play, the greater your reputation (whether legal or illegal), and you get to unlock new cars and items. The fact that you automatically share the roads with other players adds a real edge to the game, as you either hunt or evade real human players, beautifully blurring the lines between single player and multiplayer events.

It looks beautiful, with the cars and the American landscape beautifully recreated, and it plays like a dream, with the result that Rivals lives up to its illustrious predecessors as one of the finest arcade racers around.

Platform: PS4, Xbox One, PS3, X360

Publisher: EA

Age Rating: 7

Score: 4/5

John Walshe