Finally picked this up after I found a good deal on it. For context, I was a huge fan of Burnout 3, Burnout Revenge, and Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit (2010). I also liked Burnout Paradise and Need For Speed: Most Wanted (2012), but was less keen on the open world racing since I prefer to look at the road rather than having to constantly look at the mini-map.
Need For Speed: Rivals clearly shares a lot of DNA with the most recent NFS:HP game. The cops vs. racers theme, the pursuit tech, and the map style (linear stretches with multiple paths) are nearly identical. But some elements of NFS:MW are also here, with the persistent race world, easy drive, starting events from marked spots on the road, etc. In many ways this game seemed poised to take the best elements of both previous games and deliver something really special -- but that isn't quite the case.
I'm still trying to put my finger on it, but something's missing here. The indications of when you're building nitrous aren't very clear, and the nitrous and damage gauges don't stand out well on the HUD. Other racers and cops interfering with an event you're in (e.g. a time trial or pure race) may be more realistic, but it's not much fun. (Yes, I could switch in and out of private mode, but that's annoying.) Course markings aren't as clear as in past games, which sucks when you're trying to react at high speed. And pursuits don't have that pure adrenaline rush of the previous NFS:HP game -- the pursuit tech doesn't feel as sharp, and the events don't feel as focused.
While the game is still fun, it's somehow less than the sum of its parts. 7.5/10 feels about right.