Need for Speed Rivals, Gothenberg-based developer Ghost Game's debut effort, is bringing together Far Cry 3's lead designer with veterans from Bizarre, Black Rock and Criterion for a new open world racer that's coming out later this year for the next generation of consoles.
Built on the Frostbite 3 engine, Need for Speed Rivals takes place in Redview County, an open word map that's host to scraps between cops and robbers. Both factions will be playable as Ghost reintroduces several features last seen in 2010's Hot Pursuit - including gadgets such as EMPs, shockwaves and the ability to call in roadblocks.
Criterion, developer of Hot Pursuit and last year's Most Wanted, is now steering the course of the Need for Speed series, and creative director of that pair Craig Sullivan has joined Ghost Games to oversee development of Rivals.
Sullivan is surrounded by a team comprised of experts in the racing genre. "We've got people from Bizarre, Black Rock, more recently from Playground and Turn 10 - and obviously from Criterion and Dice," Ghost Games' founder and Rivals producer Marcus Nilsson told Eurogamer. "We have picked people very deliberately - obviously they need to be good at what they do, but also to fit into a team that adapts quite rapidly. And we've gone after individuals who can help with the kind of game that we're making."
Nilsson's looked outside the genre, too, recruiting an expert in open world design with Jamie Keen, the lead designer on Ubisoft's Watch Dogs and Far Cry 3. "I really liked what he did on Far Cry 3 in the sense that you always had something to do," Nilsson explains. "Having him and Craig work together is creating a mix that's really interesting for Need for Speed."
"There's going to be a bigger experience on the new consoles, simply down to the fact that there's more computational power - there'll be more players and so on that you can support."
Rival's big new feature, AllDrive, feeds into the open world design as it removes the distinction between single and multiplayer racing. "Imagine that you're playing Rivals, you're driving around as a cop or as a racer, playing through the progression of the game," described Nilsson.
"When I join, and you and me are friends, and I'll be put into your world. The world is big, though, so I could be playing my single player game in a different part of the world. What could happen is that the two experiences merge, so if you're playing as a cop and I'm playing as a cop and you're in a pursuit and I'm in a pursuit, all of a sudden if that pursuit goes into the same world you'll be playing a co-op experience where you're working on the same pursuit. What that does is totally destroy the line between single player and multiplayer."
It's a feature that sounds inspired by Eden Game's much-loved Test Drive Unlimited, and Nilsson acknowledges the debt. "Yes, we've obviously played Test Drive a lot. I'm a big fan of the earlier ones - I'm not sure about the later ones. But this is taking it further. You will not have a single player or multiplayer option. You'll simply have this game world and you choose how to explore it."
Both Xbox One and PlayStation 4 will benefit from a game that supports more players, although the feature still exists on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 versions. "You'll be able to play this on current gen consoles but on a more minor scale," Nilsson said. "There's going to be a bigger experience on the new consoles, simply down to the fact that there's more computational power - there'll be more players and so on that you can support."
Nilsson wouldn't be drawn on the numbers of players that will be supported on each platform, nor whether Xbox One and PlayStation 4 would be targeting 1080p60, but did say the world of Redview County would be the most detailed in the series to date. "The way I talk about this, to the team, is that I want the world to feel as alive as a game with pedestrians and stuff. Obviously there'll be no pedestrians - it's just cars driving fast - but the world you're seeing, the weather effects, rain, snow, storms, it's going to make the world feel alive in a much bigger sense than any other Need for Speed game. That will be clear."
And what about the new Kinect and the PlayStation 4's camera, two peripherals that are key to both consoles and give the pair some common ground in the world of motion control? "We are looking at those two peripherals," Nilsson confirmed. "But I want to do the stuff that makes sense. When you're playing a racing game you play in a certain way. I'm not a believer in pretending you have a steering wheel in your hand, I'm not a believer in releasing in the hand control something that's not the optimal way. Having said that, we'll use both those peripherals in ways that will make sense for that game."
There won't, however, be a Wii U version of Need for Speed Rivals, and Nilsson is sticking to the company line that the Frostbite engine doesn't play nice with Nintendo's console. "Yeah, Frostbite is not really set up for Wii U. I don't have all the information, so it wouldn't be right for me to speak about it. Frostbite 3 is a really capable engine, it's scalable and it gives us a big advantage on the next generation to support the Xbox One and the PS4, but it's not being developed on the Wii U."
As one relationship falters, another is being rekindled as Rivals brings the Ferrari brand back to the Need for Speed series for the first time in seven years. The mid-engined F12 Berlinetta, last year's replacement for the Ferrari 599, will be featuring in-game, with other Maranello models set to join it.
Need for Speed Rivals already has a release date for current generation platforms, where it'll be coming out on November 19. Xbox One and PlayStation 4 versions are confirmed, although the release date on those platforms is yet to be announced.