Racing is obviously a key genre for the PSP. At launch, including this title there are four driving games available; Ridge Racer, Toca Race Driver 2, Midnight Club 3 and Need for Speed Rivals (NFSR). So does NFSR have what it takes to pull away from the crowd? We have a go and find out.
Like previous outings on the PlayStation 2, NFSR is based around racing and modding your car like your sitting in West Coast Customs pimping your ride. Aside from pimping your ride there are a number of different gaming arenas to tackle and eventually command. To get you straight into the action you can opt for Race Now. Here you can either set up a custom race or race with a fully loaded car. It is a good way of getting into the game however will only really full your envy when you have to start the proper career mode with a very uninspired Golf GTI.
Race Now isn¹t the only quick entry to the game and in fact NFSR offers a further four race modes that promise to give you a quick gaming fix. Those four are Street Cross, Drift Attack, Nitrous Run and Drag.
Street Cross is a race against others on a city track with other traffic. Tracks are limited so don¹t expect a free reign of the city and there are a number of races that progressively get harder as you go on.
Drift Attack is where you can hone your drifting skills, while Nitrous Run sees you race as fast as physically possible around tracks so everything goes blurry. The final mode concentrates on Drag racing and as you can imagine its making sure you shift at the right place to get the most speed out of your engine.
Do well and you get prizes, points and more races to race. It¹s at this point NFSR shows its true colours over the other racing games available; you can pimp that ride. Everything from the colour of your hubcaps to the performance of your engine can be upgraded and changed. Depending on how well you do depends on how good your car looks and performs. As an extra caveat to make sure you take part in the modding, some races aren¹t available to you unless you have a certain spec on your car, or later on, a different car completely.
Gameplay is fairly straightforward; you race, you win, you mod. However in races we found the controls overly sensitive, steer slightly off course and you spend the next couple of seconds desperately trying to correct it, at which point someone has snuck up behind you and shot past. That said the AI is good enough that a few crashes won¹t put you out of contention.
As for the upgrades, this is done in the Pocket Garage. There are so many choices thought, that you can become overwhelmed as to what to upgrade next. At the start everything seems to be 2,000 points (it just so happens that what you get for winning a race) and knowing whether to opt for better oil pressure gauges or better brake pads is a hard one. What makes it worse is that the game fails to tell you how either, for example, will improve your car's performance in a race. Maybe the steering can be perfected, but we couldn¹t find the upgrade to help.
The crux of this game is the modding of your car and later on, fleet. The graphics aren't as polished as Ridge Racer or Toca Race Driver 2 and soundtrack is okay but nothing special.
As for the main area the Circuit Race, there are four difficulties and plenty of opportunity to take your basic Golf GTI and turn it into something amazing, or ditch it for a better model. This game has plenty of longevity.
If you're a modder, and an avid fan of Xibit or Westwood in the UK this will be up your street. For us, we prefer the racing, which is why up against Ridge Racer it¹s the latter that wins out for us.