Need for Speed: The Run Review
developer: Black Box
|ESRB rating: T
release date: Nov 15, 11
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Sometimes I'm having trouble remembering all the games that EA added to their ever-popular racing franchise, Need for Speed (NFS). After NFS: Most Wanted, probably one of the best in the series, EA made several attempts to take a new direction, albeit their efforts were met with little approval, especially from hardcore fans. Eventually, after a few disappointing games, EA decide to return to the game's roots, offering a tribute to the traditional cop-chases and similar elements. Need for Speed: The Run, EA's latest addition to the racing series, assumes a more cinematic form.
The Run begins by introducing players to a rough and tough character named Jackson "Jack" Rourke (Wow, he sounds really tough!). Now, Jack got into a pretty hairy situation with a powerful crime organization that seeks to take him out. With no choice but to flee, he joins a 3000 mile long illegal street race called The Run, which stretches across the United States. The massive event starts in San Francisco and goes all the way to New York City. In addition to overtaking 200 drivers, Jack must also do his best to avoid the cops, as well as the deadly mob thugs who are determined to bump him off Oh and the thugs all drive Porsche Cayennes.
Just love racing through fire.
You'll never take me alive, coppers!
Reading this might give you the impression that EA created a perfect setting for an exciting single-player racer. Yes, that's the initial impression we got too. However, as we progressed through the story mode, we began to realize that very little effort went into the plot. The absence of deeper characterization is obvious throughout the entire game. Dialogue is boring and sparse, while the clich'd and almost mind-numbingly stereotypical female characters won't hold your interest. The voiceovers are solid, although that makes little difference when there's virtually no story at all. What a waste too. If the developers wanted to give us a cinematic experience and a character-driven plot, then we should be given more substance here. Sadly, NFS: The Run is severely lacking in that area.
Still, any Need for Speed racing game ought to be about cars and racing events right? Well, you'll get a decent selection of cars here and a lot of stages to go through. By the way, the game consists of 10 stages, each divided into several events that involve the main character overtaking a specific number of drivers or simply speed-racing to make up for lost time (racing from checkpoint to checkpoint within a time limit). Mind you, there is a rather annoying catch. Players can choose their vehicles at the beginning of each stage. These vehicles, however, may not be switched until you reach the next stage, so you'd better choose wisely. Of course, there is a way to change cars during a race. All you need to do is find a gas station, which, serve as sort of a pit stop in this game. Even then you are limited to a specific set of cars that are tied to each stage. Another thing that sort of doesn't go along with the tradition of most Need for Speed games is the lack of vehicle customization. With the developer's aim to put emphasis on the story, they simply decided to do away with vehicle customization. Hm, a truly bad move for a game that has absolutely no story at all and little else to entangle the player.
The gameplay is quite fast-paced and at times challenging. The trouble is there are a lot of restrictions during races, so much so that, quite frankly, it drove us mad. Each track is has checkpoints. The idea is to give players the ability to correct any mistakes they make on the track. For instance, if you manage to outtake an opponent and then accidentally smash your car into a tree or lamppost, the game automatically resets your car to the last checkpoint. This sounds like a cool option to have (being able to rewind and fix you've made on the track), but you can't choose when to do this yourself, and it really doesn't work well most of the time. Races are usually extremely fast and frantic, so when the real fun begins you may overtake several drivers at once by pulling off astonishing maneuvers on the track. However, since the game restricts your movement, you may inadvertently steer your car off the road. When that occurs, the game resets, once again, and brings you back to a previous checkpoint, even if you've strayed from the road a tiny bit. So, basically, players frequently get punished for making even the smallest mistakes. This is perhaps one of the game's biggest issues.
Frustration continues with the somewhat unresponsive controls, regardless of whether you're playing on the keyboard or with a gamepad (although a gamepad is highly recommended). This is not always the case, but it happens fairly often throughout the game.
Okay, there is one thing that The Run does well and that's creating an adrenaline-pumped racing atmosphere. Driving through great-looking areas and overtaking other racers at top speed can be immensely fun. At times we even found the AI challenging, particularly when you struggle to outperform your opponents by taking shortcuts, which they'll often use themselves. Still, we were quickly disappointed in this department as well. Other cars on the track easily make stupid mistakes or simply give in too quickly.
Looks great, awesome soundtrack, racing is sometimes challenging, multiplayer can be fun;
Generally restrictive, too linear, the story is... well... missing, the whole thing ends too fast, AI can be dim, very frustrating reset system during races.