Author: Heath Flor
Editor: Howard Ha
Publish Date: Monday, November 21st, 2011
Originally Published on Neoseeker (http://www.neoseeker.com)
Article Link: http://www.neoseeker.com/Articles/Games/Reviews/Need_for_Speed_the_Run/
Copyright Neo Era Media, Inc. - please do not redistribute or use for commercial purposes.
For nearly 20 years the Need for Speed franchise has been providing fast action arcade racing by continuously reinventing itself. In the latest iteration Need for Speed: The Run, developer Black Box Studios is looking to up the ante by introducing a storyline and a new premise: a race across the country Cannonball Run style.
The game starts off with your character Jack Rourke trapped in a car about to be crushed. Apparently he has pissed off someone connected to the mafia and they're anxious to get revenge, though we're never told why. After a short quick time event sequence, you escape the car right in the nick of time.
You'd think Jack would get the hint not to mess around with seedy organizations, but unfortunately he has a steep bill he owes the mafia and no real way to pay it back. Fortunately, his close friend Sam Harper knows of a cross-country race which will save Jack's ass. With a 25 million dollar jackpot at stake he's easily lured into the race despite the fact he's only going to get 10% if he wins, while Sam gets to pocket the rest.
After the brief introduction to Jack and his reasons for entering into the race, you're left to interpret the rest of the story. From time-to-time you will end up racing against key opponents and you'll get a quick bio on them during the loading screen, but for the most part they have nothing to do with the main character. For the remainder of the game you'll find yourself scratching your head wondering WTF is going on. The only thing clear at the sudden ending is a hint at a sequel. Yay.
The race itself, despite being over 2,000 miles, is merely a two hour trek across key parts of the United States. Each portion of the overall course is broken down into sections which consist of time stages, races where you must move ahead a certain amount of positions, race "battles", and even races where you go up against key opponents.
Though some of the scenery is great to look at, the tracks themselves are very nondescript. Scattered throughout are shortcuts which are minimal in their effectiveness. Traffic pops in to screw up your race lines, and as usual the casual drivers do their best to get in your way; every once in a while a police force hell bent on arresting you comes into play.
Most of the cars handle like my Jeep Grand Cherokee, which is a tank on wheels. You can change cars to give you better handling performance, but they're very squirrely when you give them too much gas and you'll most likely end up in a spin if you don't turn gently enough. Even if you do opt for a better handling car, the majority of turns are dealt with by regulating boost and gas controls when coming out of a turn in order to quickly straighten your car.
The absolute worst part of Need for Speed: The Run is the scripted races. While it's true you must 'race' to get past your opponents, as long as you're flooring it you will always catch up to the same cars in the same order. The last race is the worst of the bunch, as you only need to have the opponent in view in order to trigger the key elements of the race. Completing The Run left me thoroughly unsatisfied in the difficulty department. The only hope is the 'Extreme Mode' difficulty, touted as the toughest in any Need for Speed game. It lives up to its reputation, but does little to make the game any more viable.
For the first time ever in the Need for Speed series, players get the chance to get out of the car. Don't get overly excited, as again it's completely scripted and also very buggy. Leaving the vehicle is normally a result of a major accident or getting caught by the cops. While you're on your feet you have to go through a series of quick time events, which is becoming the standard method these days for introducing boring gameplay.
While it's true The Run utilizes the Frostbite 2 engine, don't expect the same quality you'll find in Battlefield 3. The camera is very jittery during cut-scenes, and especially when on foot. Luckily the camera isn't nearly as bad during the racing elements.
During one scene in Vegas I was being chased by the cops on foot through some alleys. I finally seemed to have shaken off the cops when I came across a yard with a nasty looking dog chained in it. While racing to an exit, the audio became stuck in a short loop and ended up repeating itself for the next minute or so until I triggered the next loading screen.
Unfortunately I had other audio/video issues as well such as subtitles not working fully. My house is always chaos, so it's imperative I have subtitles on. It's always a shame when a game cuts corners by leaving them out, or when they end up missing key words in a conversation -- both issues are exhibited here.
Aside from The Run itself, the game also features online multiplayer and the Challenge Series. If it wasn't for these modes, the game would be a total wash.
Multiplayer is an absolute blast, though you may get a little bit pissed off at the "dirty drivers". The city courses with the sharper turns tend to be more challenging than the country tracks. Just be prepared to use every single short cut, as everyone knows them. It can be quite a challenge to win an online race, but satisfying as well. Best of all: there's no script to follow.
The Challenge Series offers various challenges you must complete; it features the same basic races you find in The Run, but with a time limit. Beating the set times will award you with a bronze, silver, gold, and platinum medal. Of course you'll want to beat them all, as you will unlock faster and more exotic (licensed) cars.
Need for Speed: The Run had great potential which was lost in a sea of mediocre races and lame attempts at a narrative which spanned across the United States. Racing fans don't need a story to push the pedal to the metal, but if you're going to attempt to produce one it at least needs to be somewhat engaging. What's worse is the scripted races, which are only necessary to accommodate said failed story.
At the end of the day racing fans want nothing more than an exhilarating race, which is exactly what the Need for Speed series has delivered in the past. The successful Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit reboot seen last year only proves NFS fans are aching for the same formula they fell in love with in the first place; The Run serves as an example of why there's really no need to reinvent the wheel here, so to speak.
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