Embark on a 3000-mile journey in Need For Speed: The Run
It's been a while since Black Box Studios, developers of several popular Need for Speed titles, put out a decent game in the franchise. The last was probably Need For Speed: Most Wanted way back in 2005, with its follow-ups in the form of Carbon and Undercover proving to be more than just a little disappointing. Black Box's overlords, Electronic Arts, are rightly attempting to diversify the franchise into simulation (NFS: Shift) and over-the-top arcade, with last year's NFS: Hot Pursuit (developed by Criterion Games) successfully rebooting a franchise with tremendous potential, while impressing gamers and critics alike. This presents an opportunity for the Canada-based studio to reclaim the Need For Speed crown from Criterion. But nobody said it was going to be easy.
The Run is an arcade racer and it makes no claims otherwise. There are little-to-no customisation options, little distinction in terms of car handling (other than a generic “easy-medium-difficult” tag that the game slaps on each vehicle) and arcade-inspired damage modelling. The emphasis on arcade-style racing is further accentuated by a difficulty setting that determines how many resets you're offered in a race and how aggressive your opponents are — wreck/damage your ride and you can also drive through gas stations to change your vehicle. There's a decent number of vehicles in The Run, including returning favourite, the BMW M3 as well as cars such as the 2012 Porsche 911 Carrera S and Pagani Huayra which were exclusively digitised for the game — lack of car cockpits and categorised vehicle handling are hugely disappointing, however. Fortunately, the game does a good job of delivering a solid arcade racing experience (despite occasionally dodgy controller responsiveness) — it's not Hot Pursuit, but it isn't too shabby either.
In the story mode, you play as Jack Rourke, an incredibly talented racer who owes money to some very bad people. You know it's bad because you start off being tied to the wheel of a car that's about to be crushed by trash compactor and you know it's worse because you're playing a racing game and the first thing you're asked to do is press some random buttons so that Jack can escape. After the said escape and a cutscene later, you embark on a 3000-mile long journey (that lasts just a little over two hours) that sees Jack racing from San Francisco to New York. Despite the brief nature and poor narrative structure of the story mode, Jack's journey takes him across some stunning locales. Powered by the Frostbite 2 engine (which also powered this year's best looking game, Battlefield 3), NFS: The Run looks brilliant in parts (the roads and environment in particular), but it is disappointing that the vehicles don't look as good as in other racing games. The game supports a 16-player online multiplayer, but despite several event types (which usually restrict the type of car you can choose), it is lacking in variety. But on the positive side, matchmaking is great and the game's lobby system allows you and a party of friends to compete in a series of events.
Go into Need For Speed: The Run with no expectations and there's a fair amount of fun to be had with its brief story mode and decent multiplayer. There's a tonne of stuff (visual upgrades, kits, cars) that's waiting to be unlocked as well. Compare the game to Hot Pursuit, however, and you will see The Run's flaws as if through a magnifying glass — inconsistent visuals, strange handling, awful narrative, laughable quick-time events, shallow racing. Its lack of replayability is also a concern, making it difficult to recommend to serious racing fans, but there's enough here for anyone looking for a brief arcade racing experience.
Keywords: video games