Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Need for Speed: The Run Review

In years gone past Need for Speed has been the premier racing title that people would look forward to coming into Christmas. In the previous generation of consoles titles such as Underground, Most Wanted and Carbon cemented Need for Speed as a franchise to pay attention to. Next thing we know is the series has crashed with the poor Need for Speed Undercover, before being followed up by an interesting simulation title which was quite successful in NFS Shift. In 2010 we weren't sure what direction the series would take, but Burnout developers Criterion Games came to the forefront releasing NFS Hot Pursuit which brought Need for Speed back to its arcade roots, as well as being the best game in the series. One year on and Black Box has released an arcade racer known as Need for Speed The Run, which takes some risky moves in an attempt to mix up the formula.

The one big part of gaming that has always been missing from Need for Speed is a story and The Run attempts to change this by having the game revolve around a race across the USA. The trouble is, the story hasn't been layed out to give the user what they need to know and the clumsy plot and lack of vital details make it almost impossible to follow. What was meant to be the strongest point of The Run turns out to be its weak link and as a result the rest of the game has suffered.


There is no point comparing NFS The Run to titles outside of the series. If that happened the end result would be that it isn't as good as Forza 4 which is unfair on the title. The Run utilises the Frostbite 2 engine, which is a first for the series and is also the first time it has powered something that isn't a shooter. The engine, while not as effective as the beauty which is Battlefield 3, holds up well and creates some spectacular scenery for you to drive through. One big advantage that NFS The Run has over previous installments is the sense of adventure and ability to change the environment at will. Travelling across the USA allows the developers to put everything from lush forests to vast deserts or bustling city centres.

In NFS Hot Pursuit the game was centered around one area and as a result the game looked spectacular. By creating so many different areas the finer detail has been missed. In particular, the way the cars handle and even look in the environment is quite poor. Cars don't have that special gleam that they should have and the ability to customize cars is gone, which may be an issue for some. I felt that the drifting animation in particular was horrendous to look at, especially after Hot Pursuit nailed drifted better than perhaps any game before it. While it still is a pretty game that has a beast of an engine behind it, that fact alone has maybe lifted the standard required.

Recent Need for Speed titles have rocked a thrilling soundtrack featuring songs to get you pumped up for the adrenalin pumping action which is to come. The Run is no different and the songs chosen definitely fit in well with the American adventure that is being undertaken. With a story in place, this game features more voice acting than ever before (If you can call advice from one sexy lady per title voice acting). While the actors they have hired are passable, there isn't too much variety, particularly with the police. The fact that the plot is ridiculously bad doesn't help with the quality of the cut scenes.

The cut scenes do look slick and player models are brilliant. The Frostbite 2 engine has definitely helped out this area of the game and the quicktime events that appear throughout the game are really good. It's just a major shame that the effort that went into making detailed characters and scenes has been let down by a story that doesn't do them justice.


Need for Speed: The Run, it sounds like quite a bizarre title for a game that is all about driving. The game in and out of the car as you take place in a race across the USA against a field of 200 all vying for a $2.5 million prize. The race is split up into segments where you aim to get to cities coming a specific position. The stages are also split into various racing modes. This definitely mixes the game up as you will constantly be moving from a standard race to a checkpoint race that helps you 'make up time' and even special battles against rivals which you encounter along the journey.

The races are short, plentiful and offer the exhilirating burst required without becoming too repetitive. The racing is held back by set pieces and dumb AI however. People who fall into the trap of playing through The Run on easy or normal will encounter races which are far too easy with the AI making dumb and constant mistakes. A race which requires you to overtake X amount of people could be finished by halfway and the way the game has been set out means you won't encounter anymore drivers for the rest of the race. The game is also set up so even if you get 500m in front of another car, if you come across a spot designated by the game then that particular car is automatically sucked right alongside you. I understand that its part of the game to make the story flow, but if they wanted it to keep pace then the AI should be tweaked to stay at your speed once overtaken to keep things interesting no matter what difficulty.

There are just a lot of small things which don't make The Run as spectacular as it could potentially be. Drifting is horrible and Black Box should've really have used exactly what Criteron created with Hot Pursuit as that game was a true pleasure to drift in. These issues could be overlooked if the areas new to the franchise were a standout performance, sadly they have collapsed in a big heap of confusion. For the first time ever you are a character which has meaning. Jack, the protagonist in this game, has been caught in some trouble with the mob and must race to pay them back. The story starts off confusing and doesn't tell you what Jack has done or why the story starts with him being put into a car cruncher. By the time you get to the end of the game you haven't really answered any questions and merely created more which just add to the absolute ramble which begins your adventure. If a future developer ever tries to turn Need for Speed into a story, I suggest they begin with building a story first and moulding the game around it. This merely looks like an attempt to throw an extra layer on top post production. One big feature promoted was the ability to get out of the car, often through the means of quicktime events used to escape the cops or mob. These are limited and do a good job of mixing up the action without seemingly placed in at all too regular intervals.

While the single player fails to live up to expectation, the multiplayer shines a little brighter. Autolog is back and the ability to compare and challenge your friends is an excellent incentive to keep playing. The set out for multiplayer is close to the same as Hot Pursuit, with modes being dedicated to certain types of cars before choosing what type of race to compete in. Sadly The Run also has the same problem as Hot Pursuit with a limited number of modes available to play and limited replay value after a few hours of any particular mode. Levelling up through gaining XP in both single player and multiplayer is rewarding, but even that only lasts so long.


Need for Speed: The Run definitely had potential. A country wide race with 200 competitors, cops and the mob on your tail is something which could easily become one of my favourite games of all time. The action is set in place but sadly the story and some dodgy AI issues has deflated that balloon. Focusing on a story behind all the nitrous pumping action was a good move, but having such bad plot lines which lacked any detail or emotion left we wanting a lot more. If anything this is a game you are going to get to breeze through the singleplayer once, zoning out to any story and merely enjoying the ride before hopping into multiplayer with friends.

Graphics - 8/10
Sound - 6.5/10
Gameplay - 4.5/10
Overall - 6.5/10