Need for Speed is back for another year, but this time there's a few changes. EA's new studio Ghost Games is at the helm, and while it's another game of cops versus racers, it employs new All Drive tech for innovative multiplayer matchmaking and marks the series debut onto next-gen consoles.

We spoke to creative director Craig Sullivan at E3 about his thoughts on the PS4 and Xbox One, the role of series developer Criterion and the "funny" ideas it has in store for the PS4 controller.

New studio Ghost Games is the lead on Need for Speed: Rivals. What part does Criterion Games play?
"Need for Speed Rivals is a Ghost game. We have 92 people over in Gothenburg, Sweden, who have been working on the game for a year and a half.

"I came on board – I'm actually on secondment from Criterion – so I'm the creative director on Need for Speed Rivals, but I'm technically still employed by Criterion.

"We also have 60-65 people still working at Criterion helping us out, because Ghost is a new studio and we're still going.

"We would be crazy not to use the talents of the great guys back at Criterion; there's a lot of artists, coders and a couple of designers working on the game, because Alex, Fiona and the guys are also working on Criterion's next game, which is not this one.

"We're also working with out at EA Shanghai, and some guys helping us out from Vancouver as well. With modern games you always have to have a big team.

"There's so much detail in the world, so much detail in the cars, that we try and work with as many of the best people as possible and obviously Criterion has a great talent pool. That's how it's worked out. But it's being creatively led and driven from Ghost."

One of the big new features is All Drive. How does that assign you with others and come together as you play?
"A game loop will usually go, I'll boot up the game and I'll choose to continue my racing career. I'll start in the hideout, then I'll look at how many Speed Points I've got, the speed points you use to buy new cars and new mods.

"Then I'll be looking at the map, and while that is going on in the background, the game will have tried to put you in with someone that you played with recently, ideally a friend. So when I roll out, I'm in your world. You're going about your business, doing what you're doing, doing what I'm doing, and so on.

"It's completely seamless. It should be an experience that you just become subconsciously accustomed to. You go in, and you're driving around and one of your friends or someone you've played with recently in your world.

Will All Drive be employed for other Need for Speed games in future?
"I think so. In the same way that when we introduced Autolog with Hot Pursuit, we said it will change the way people play, and it did in Hot Pursuit.

"We got replay value in a racing game that was never seen before, people just going at it at different events – we expanded that in Most Wanted and compared more and more things.

"Autolog is back in Rivals, it allows you to have that comparison. If it wasn't there, people would miss it – they would be like, why is Autolog not in? We introduced it and it's a core feature.

"It's something that we're constantly building the arsenal of core features in Need for Speed that are making it a really high quality offering and something that's really unique.

"There's a lot of other driving games out there, so people have their own take on what next-gen is and what multiplayer is, and that's ours and we think that's the totally right way to go, and what we've been seeing over the last three days [at E3] people are understanding it and are having a lot of fun with it. So absolutely, it should be there going forward.

What's the setting of Redview County and how does that influence design?
"We knew coming out of Most Wanted is that some of the challenges in that game is that as soon as we decided to do a city, we knew the average speed of players was going to come down.

"Hot Pursuit was based in Seacrest County, and we said that road network and that county was designed for very high speeds, between 150 and 220 MPH. The average speeds were just way higher.

"There's less traffic on the roads and there's less angles. You have angles in a city, it's easy to be driving through buildings, coming to cross traffic, you can't see them coming.

"We knew that Most Wanted is played between 150 to 220MPH unless you get on the freeway. In Need for Speed Rivals, the game is set in Redview County, which is bigger than Most Wanted and bigger than Seacrest County.

During EA's conference, there was a big point being made about next-gen and games that really leverage new consoles. From a developer perspective, what things do you think next-gen could offer that the last generation couldn't?

"Obviously the visuals are going to take a massive step up. We've seen that already; the games at E3 look amazing. We're lucky enough to be running on Frostbite 3, so it's easy to get to great visuals very quickly.

"Battlefield looks amazing, other games running on Frostbite look good. I think David Taylor, our art director, does a really good job of capturing his vision for the game which is 'force of nature', which is you're not just driving around on a bright sunny day. We've done that before.

"With the power of next-gen, we can have stormy days. You can drive into that forest you saw in the press conference where it was, as we call in the UK, pissing down with rain in the forest.

"You drive through there and the lighting dynamically changes, we have thunder and lightning going off, and rain splattering off the cars, the floor's wet and cool.

"Visuals are going to be way better, they already are. You've seen the games out there, they're really good. We're at the forefront of that.

"The video sharing stuff is really cool. It was always something you had to do in software on current-gen, now it's a lot easier on new consoles to do that, and it's less intensive on a development team to support that, so you're going to find, ten times, a hundred times more video of people playing being pumped onto YouTube and sharing with your friends

" I think that's there to support where games are going in the future; there's a trend for more open world, more freedom, less choreography; people are creating games that are very organic and are very different.

"You might find that you're playing through and something unexpected happens, and the development team didn't design it in, it's just one of the systems running.

"It's two or three things converging on each other at the right place at the right time. Being able to share those experiences with people is really cool. That's the package we're going into.

"I think we're going to see a big sea change in the ways games are played."

Are there any differences between current and next-gen versions of Need for Speed Rivals?

"Visuals, maybe the amount of players, maybe not. Technically we can do a lot of players, but it's just easier to do with more horsepower on next-gen machines.

"But you know what, sometimes you can do something doesn't mean you should; we could have a lot of players in the game, but then it almost becomes there's potentially too much distraction. We're showing six players at the moment, that feels about right.

"The world's a lot bigger than what you've played at E3, so it might be that we have the same amount of players on current gen and next gen, or it might be that when we get back into start finishing the game, the next-gen versions will have different amount of players.

"And you know, 360s and PS3s are still pretty good machines. I don't think we're going to be in a mad rush to stop making games for those consoles yet."

How does Need for Speed: Rivals use Xbox One and PS4's unique aspects, such as touch pads, Kinect or SmartGlass?

"We're using tablets for Overwatch, which is another way of playing away from your console, where you call in a helicopter for an external device, which is really cool.

"The touchpad on the PS4, we've joked that we'll use it to rub dirt off the windscreen when you're playing. It's kinda funny, we might do, we might not!

"It's also little things; the light on the front we're going to have it flash blue and red when you're in a chase, just because we can.

"There's better triggers on both of them, the slightly force feedback stuff; the new pads particularly are an improvement, I think some people are going to use them in interesting ways. There's always little tweaks that make the game feel a little bit more polished and fun.

"We will support as many of them as we can, as long as they don't seem too forced and too fake. Some things are right for the game, some things are wrong. You mentioned Kinect; we're not going to do this. [holds his hands up].

Need for Speed Rivals will be available this November on Xbox 360, PS3, PC, Xbox One and PS4.

Read more: