I have always been a fan of Need for Speed. Even during the low points in the franchise, I have always given the games a chance. The arcade racing, the goofy story, and flashy presentation have always entertained me. This year, Need for Speed has tried to go back to its roots a bit in Need for Speed: The Run. Does it bring enough charm as well as decent racing?
The Run has a small story. You play as Jack. Jack owes the mob a lot of money, so he enters a cross-country road race from San Francisco to New York, the winner of which gets 25 million dollars. He enlists the help of Sam, a long time friend who has some high benefactors who will pay for his debts as long as he wins The Run.
As stated above, the Run takes place all across the United States so seeing different locals and terrains will be common place. You may be racing through downtown Las Vegas and then going down the snowy mountains of Aspen. Every track is different and offers up a decent change of pace and scenery throughout the main story.
The game breaks down into 3 different types of races: gaining positions in a span of so many miles, making up time, and rival battles that require you to hold the lead while the timer counts down. The game somewhat disguises the type of race by contextualizing and adding a small bit of story to them. So you may be trying to make it out of a town while the cops are chasing you, but you’re really doing a make up for time race.
As with most Need for Speed games, the racing is very arcadey. You can use your handbrake for corners, boost with nitrous that you save up from driving aggressively, and slingshot around other racers by using slip stream drafting. It never gets too technical during the racing. You’ll get a formula and keep using it until the end.
During the main story, Jack will sometimes find himself in some rather bad situations. These scenes come in the form of interactive cut scenes where you have to input the correct button to succeed. They’re never difficult, and are few and far between. Truth be told, they added just enough “Michael Bay” for me to stay interested. Don’t let these quick time events scare you, The Run is a full on racing game. These events are just to break up the pace.
The game features a large amount of different cars that range from old school muscle cars like the 302 Boss Mustang to the more exotic cars like the Lamborghinis and Porsches. Choosing the right car for the right kind of track can help you out as well. Luckily, Jack can pull into a gas station during races and switch out cars on the fly.
Of course, this is an illegal cross-country street race so you will run into a ton of cops trying to take you and the other 200 racers down. Some races feature only cops and you trying to make up time by getting away from them. The cop cars will ram you, try to slow you down, and call in roadblocks to stop you in your tracks. Unlike other Need for Speed games, ramming a roadblock will not move them out of the way. No, instead it will wreck you completely. This inconsistency is a little jarring and sometimes hard to remember given that in almost every other Need for Speed game you could ram the roadblocks.
The game features retries. These will come into play if you ever wreck your car or go off the main path. When you use a retry, you start back at the last checkpoint your crossed. You usually get about 5 retries before you have to start the entire track over again. This is all well and good, but there are some inconsistencies when it comes to what counts as a crash and what counts as a “you ran into something but didn’t wreck.” There were also sometimes where I ran off the road slightly and could definitely steer back onto the road, but the game automatically forced me to retry. This can get annoying very quickly.
During your play you will gain XP depending on how well you drive and what exactly you do during a race. XP will increase your driver level that will, in turn, unlock new equipment and extra boosts to your driving: More nitrous storage, drafting bonuses and other things that can give you the competitive edge. Racing well pays off in The Run.
The Run’s main story will probably take you around 4 hours to complete. Now, that may be a little short, but there’s a ton of stuff to do after completing the story. During your play through, you’ll unlock challenges. These challenges include different types of races on different tracks using specific cars. There really are tons in the game, and they will keep you busy for a long time.
Of course, there is also online multiplayer. It’s very standard, with a track and up to 8 players, but the inconsistencies of the resets rear their ugly head worse in the multiplayer. Sometimes, it would seem like I was pushed off the track and reset, and when I came back, there would be no way I could ever catch up to my opponents. So it ends up being a demolition derby rather than a race.
The game uses the Autolog features just like Hot Pursuit did. It’s a nice little feature that shows how well you’re doing in the main story and challenges compared to your friends. It keeps up with practically anything and everything that you do.
Now, I’m not going to say The Run is a bad game. It’s a rather enjoyable experience that I think racing fans will enjoy. Of course, the resets and other inconsistencies will rain on your parade to the point of becoming frustrating. The game looks gorgeous using the Frostbite 2 engine, and the “Michael Bay” action gives off a very nice feel. I really love the concept of a cross-country road race, and there are times it is brilliant, but some of it just doesn’t hold up. The story is short, and you never really get too invested in Jack or any of the other characters, which is a shame, because I really wanted a fun, cheesy story to enjoy. Still, I can’t fault it too much. The racing is solid and the presentation is top notch. I’d say if you’re a big arcade racing fan, give it a shot, but I’d still wait for a small price cut before taking off across the country.
Review copy of the game provided by publisher. Primary play on Xbox 360.