Not something people wanted to hear in regards to Need for Speed Underground 3; recently Electronic Arts confirmed that the newest installment in the popular yet misguided franchise will always require an active internet connection to play the game at all. Your average person will hate this decision; SimCity 2013 was a disaster when this format was implemented, but I’m going to tell you why this will actually benefit the upcoming racer from EA.
To get the obvious out of the way, yes, the odd instance your internet goes out because Comcast sucks, you won’t be able to use the time to progress through the game on your own. It’s okay. Walk to the 7-Eleven and get some snacks. Server outages will also happen, and again, it’s okay in moderation. If there is a day-one meltdown like SimCity experienced, then yeah, y’all have the right to be pissed, but I’ve worked at jobs that have relied heavily on computer inventory systems to track all their products between stores, and even managers were able to keep their cool better than twats on message boards when the program would go down for a few minutes. For better or worse, this is the world we live in. R3E also requires an active internet connection at all times to verify content ownership, and exactly once I’ve encountered a time where I wanted to play the game and couldn’t. I whined about it, but it hasn’t been an issue since then.
And please don’t give me the “not everyone has a trustworthy internet connection” argument – 2005 was ten years ago and we’re past that now.
I sound like a hardcore EA shill right now, but it’s for good reason. I spent a lot of time last year with Need for Speed Rivals, and the online elements were implemented incredibly well, turning an average racer into something that was a hell of a lot of fun with friends.
Rarely do scripted E3 demos represent final gameplay, but this one did. Online integration in Rivals was seamless. My buddy Tyler and I both picked up the game for our PS4’s, and everything worked exactly as seen in the video above.
There was no separate online mode. Every time you booted up the game, you were dropped into a room with five other guys on the map, all off doing their own thing. Sometimes, in the middle of a race, you would see a completely different pack of AI cars and one or two other guys rip by you on the opposite side of the road. And absolutely nothing was stopping you from jumping into a cop car and hunting someone down as they tried to progress through the game. Loading screens didn’t exist either, so the chase didn’t stop when the race ended. You could effectively be someone’s personal Sergent Cross whenever you wanted to. Other people were also free to jump into the fray at a moments notice, and you’d gain huge XP boosts from simply playing the game like this.
Each room’s play style was vastly different as well. Some rooms would see a 50/50 split of Cops and Racers that lead to huge PvP battles, while others would feature all six humans working together as Cops to tear through challenges busting the AI together, and finally there was nothing stopping six human Racers from going through the entire campaign as one big multilayer race tournament – complete with unlocks, perks, levels, and the rest of the standard stuff that comes with online-oriented games.
I still preferred being a dick to people as a cop, though.
I had the game a little earlier than Tyler and was pretty far ahead when he got started, so while he went through the early races, all I had to do was pick the starter Porsche Cayman, and I could race alongside him. Even as he would drive from race to race, we could trigger outrun challenges between us to make the dull parts of Rivals really fun. It was the absolute perfect racing game for a group of friends on Skype, Teamspeak, Xbox Live, or PSN because while the physics were obviously out of this world, it was a game that was built specifically so you and your bros could ram each other in Supercars and blow shit up.
Yes, you could play Rivals offline. I don’t know why anybody would want to; it was the equivalent of playing Call of Duty with bots. The crazy cinematic moments that happened in Need for Speed Rivals were just that much more fun when real people were involved. Police chases lasted for minutes and relied on actual strategy rather than abusing basic AI tactics. Races always came down to the final corner without cheap rubber banding. Listening to pre-pubescent children scream in agony as their Mustang flew off the road from a well-timed shunt was much more hilarious than taking out yet another soulless AI driver.
But Rivals still had it’s flaws. Limited customization and a relatively boring map made it really hard to spend an obsessive length of time with the game; it was impossible to become attached to your car as there wasn’t a whole lot you could do to it to make it yours, and the map itself was a modern-day McDonalds play place – two laps and you’ve memorized the whole thing. The game couldn’t go the distance even though it was an insane amount of fun.
And that’s what Need for Speed Underground 3 is looking to rectify. The rumors paint a picture of a game very similar to Rivals and Most Wanted 2012, but with more customization, a better atmosphere, and even more seamless online integration. If the tradeoff is the game requiring an active internet connection at all times, I’ll take it.
Just gotta pray the servers aren’t down for weeks at a time.