Need for Speed: The Run is like your typical Hollywood blockbuster action movie but with cars. The concept is simple enough. Last year, Hot Pursuit really gave the NFS brand a much needed boost, but this time it’s not Criterion behind the game, its Black Box studios. They have made some good games like NFS: Carbon; NFS: Underground and the likes, so what about NFS: The Run? After playing the game for a while, it’s clear to me that Criterion is on a league of its own, and Black Box, being a good developer doesn’t hold a candle to them. Why? Because NFS: The Run (henceforth TR) is a completely mixed bag.
EA has been pretty frank with the game, showing off the Michael Bay style trailers with epic cop chases and what not, but yes they want to show you what this game is about, but sadly, Black Box isn’t on top of their game this time. The game is all about going from point A to point B, like every other racing game out there obviously, but there is a twist here. The main protagonist of the game has to travel 3000 miles to his destination in New York but instead of a marathon, you race in small increments with a little bit of variation in the races.
The game runs on DICE’s Frostbite 2 engine, and while Blackbox aren’t capable of ultilizing it the way DICE does, they did a pretty good job here. There are 10 stages in total, with approximately 15 odd minutes required to beat each stage. Hold on, I know what you’re thinking, “Omg, that means we can beat the game in 2 hours?!” Ermm… not really, it doesn’t work that way. I’ve spent two hours just restarting a single stage, just to get the perfect bonus, so the ‘Run Time’ in-game is pretty much useless. If you manage to wreck your car, the game will give you 5 chances to get it right; failure to do so in those allotted chances, will result in restarting the stage. Crashing is sort of inevitable, though, unless you’re a really awesome driver. I really envy you if you are, because I’m not.
The game starts with a crazy cutscene in which the main protagonist called Jack has to escape from an imminent death situation. Then some generic events play out, and it results in Jack driving to New York to earn big bucks, etc. I hate these racing game plots. Seriously, why? It doesn’t work. Jack’s journey will take him on some great environments, which actually showcases the flexibility of Frostbite 2. I really have to mention that the core racing is really fun here. In an arcade game that’s all you could ask for really. I mean, it’s not as good as Hot Pursuit, but it’s well done here. There are a total of 120 cars at your disposal. They’re divided in tiers and feature Supercars, Exotic and the likes.
I really hate the way you have to change a car in this game. You can’t do it via the main menu or in-game menu. You have to do it while racing and taking a break at a… Gas station. I don’t know who came up with that genius idea, but he really doesn’t deserve a pat on the back for this. I used a Lamborghini till Stage 7, and I really felt like I didn’t need any other car. You can win some cars from beating special opponents though. Oh and there are cops. Who doesn’t love wasting some cops? They’re not that aggressive here like in some other NFS games where they can really pin you down, and it is really easy to pass through a blockade, like really easy, so it felt pointless for some reason.
Stage 6 was really great. It felt amazing going at a high speed in a long winding road, crushing opponents and seeing those cool rewards pop up in your screen. Thanks, CoD! Your influence has transcended genres now. The game also features the lovely Autolog system, where you can compare your timing with your friends. Every racing game should have this feature, it’s that good. It’s one of the truly innovative things EA has done this gen. The game does have its annoyances though. The AI for some reason can do some unpredictable things. If you manage to make a slight mistake, they’ll just zoom past you and if you’re doing a time trial then it will be incredibly hard to catch them. You have to be on your toes all the time, as the AI is unrelenting, especially in higher difficulties.
You can level up and once you reach certain levels, you get bonuses like free cars or upgrades like Nitrous. It’s pretty straightforward really. The non-racing part of the game involves heavy use of QTEs, which is so badly implemented that, I wonder why they did this. They could have gone with just cutscenes and very few would have complained. It feels like a useless addition to the game. There are a few multiplayer modes as well, which feels just tacked on for some reason. It is recommended that you play this game on a good home theater system with thumping bass and audio output that will shatter the glasses around you. This game shines with its superb audio design.
If you are a fan of the NFS franchise, then this game would be worth the money, but considering that the replayability factor is low, and unless you are looking an arcade racer this holiday, you would be better off waiting for a price drop. The campaign can give you a lot of fun, but it ends far too early. The other modes aren’t meaty enough, and it just feels like Black Box missed a golden opportunity here, considering EA bestowed them 3 years to make this game.
PS: Easy Achievements/Trophies.
This game was reviewed on the Xbox 360.
Cars sound amazing. Frostbite 2 engine is impressive. Campaign is fun.
Short campaign but more than 2 hours. Lack of replayability. QTEs worse than the ones in Heavy Rain. Insignificant plot. Lack of polish.