Sunday, December 28, 2014

Need for Speed: The Run - Review


The Need for Speed series has undergone many changes over the years, and has tried many different things. Back in the day it was known as a crazy fun arcade racer which at one point gave us the ability to outrun cops while we raced. While it didn't always do something to make itself stand out from other arcade racers on the market, it was still a fun series which would still somehow manage to blow us away from time to time. Need for Speed Underground for example is still known as one of the best arcade racers among fans, and some of the other older titles will always be seen as classics that are worth playing.

Although some may argue that the series Need for Speed has turned into is still great, a lot of fans out there despise it. What was once known as a must play series has sense evolved into somewhat of a mess. Some games have completely changed the gameplay (which some fans may or may not like), others are filled with glitches or other annoying issues which hinder the gameplay (Undercover), and some have come out with good ideas and solid gameplay, but were poorly executed in the end (Shift). Of course this is just general opinions, and it doesn't mean the games aren't fun, but the simple fact is that the series had a period where it fell from grace--or so to speak. During this time was when EA Black Box released Need for Speed: The Run, where they once again decided to try something completely different.

So, just how is The Run? How is it different? Is it a game worth buying, or is it one that is best to rent? Well, you'll just have to read the review to find out. All I can say for now is, the game is in fact a lot different from the rest.

The Story:

First of all, unlike a lot of racing games out there, Need for Speed: The Run actually has a story.

The game begins in a way a lot of people may not expect, with Jack (the main character) being thrown into a trash compactor by the mob, and him having to escape. Right from the get go the game introduces you to quick time events (which do occur at different points in the story), but once Jack breaks free of his car prison just seconds before it is crushed, he jumps into a car and takes off down the road. This is when we are then treated to a scene where Jack meets with a woman named Sam, and accepts her offer to enter in an illegal cross country street race called "The Run." With a high cash amount of 25 million at stake, Jack picks out his first car and takes to the streets as quickly as possible.


From here on out the game follows Jack as he races across the country. During this time he has a few run ins with the mob, cops, and other ace drivers. Typically cutscenes occur before each chapter, and some dialogue is spoken during the races, but the game is mostly about racing--the story is more of an excuse to do what you are doing.

The Gameplay:

As expected The Run is an arcade racer, but it is one that is unlike previous entries in the series. Rather than picking race events to compete in, The Run is broken up into stages with different goals to complete in each one. In one stage (or race) you may be asked to gain so many positions before reaching the end of that checkpoint, but in another you may have to play a sort of knock out game where you have to get ahead of the car in front of you, and stay ahead of them for so many seconds to knock them out of the race. There are also time trial events where you must complete sections within the time limit, and there's also escape stages where cops or even the mob will actually shoot at you and try to kill you. Since your car can be wrecked, or you can be killed, you have to drive fast but as safely as possible if you want to win, but luckily in the easier modes you are supplied with a set amount of "retries" which will reset you to the last checkpoint in that event (yes, races are so long that they have checkpoints). While damage such as this has been seen in other Need for Speed games, the fact that the game gives you lives and checkpoints is a lot different from what we've previously seen, and being shot at is a whole new experience as well.


Besides cops and thugs with guns, cars, houses, and other objects you might expect to have to avoid, The Run also has some other curve balls to throw you thanks to the game's engine. This time around the game is running on the Frostbite 2 engine which is used for the Battlefield series with it's mass building destruction. Thanks to this engine, EA Black Box was able to create some pretty impressive set pieces for you to drive through, and these make for some of the most exciting parts of the game. One example of such is when you have to race through a blasting zone in a snowy mountain region. As you race down the winding paths the world around you is exploding, rocks are falling, the road is giving way, and an avalanche is quickly approaching. The stage is a heart pounding one, and easily one of the most memorable moments in any racer on the market (sure Motorstorm Apocalypse does something similar with all it's tracks, but still).

As mentioned before, while linear sprint racing is the main aspect of the game (no circuit races guys), there are some moments where you must put up with quick time events, and some insanely hard car navigation. The quick time events are mostly just cutscenes where you have to mash a button form time to time, or react quickly to something (so they aren't that bad), but some people may find it annoying that they are even in the game to begin with. As for the crazy action sequences (mainly near the end of the game), they will require some perfect driving through some crazy busy city streets, and may cause you to die a lot. These sections really burn away at your retries, and can become quite annoying after failing time and time again. While I personally never had too much trouble with them, these are the sort of cheap challenges which some racing fans may dread. It's not quite the same as a random car pulling out in front of you and slamming into you in front of the finish line, but it is pretty annoying, and makes the game a bit more challenging than it should be... These moments are exiting though, to say the least.


Another major difference in The Run is how the cars actually work. Rather than letting you buy cars, upgrade them, and fully customize them, cars are simply given to you during the race. You pick a car to start with (I personally prefer the Camero), and then during the long (long) race, you can pull into a garage to change. While some parts of the race do force you to change cars due to different things that happen in the story, switching cars is mostly optional, and you can even pull into a garage to get your old car if you really liked how it handled, and you want it back. Other than that though, the game really is lacking options. One huge aspect which made a lot of Need for Speed games fun is gone in this one, and instead we're left with a smaller list of stock cars to use. It does make sense considering how the game is set up, but it is a bit of a let down none the less.

The driving and controls of the game itself are what you might expect. This is a full on arcade racer, but cars are kind of in between racer and sim like handling. You're going to slide around if you don't watch your speed, you'll lose control of your car from time to time if you're not careful, and handling will change based on the type of ground you are driving on. You have to drive carefully and not try to overdo it, but at the same time it isn't as strict as in a racing sim. Each car does handle differently, but once you get the hang of it you'll be dominating races in no time.

Extra Modes:

While the main game is a linear race across the country, challenge races are unlocked as you progress, and there is also a multiplayer mode where you can race against others online. Sure these features aren't as extensive as what you would find in other racers or in other Need for Speed games, but at least they are something extra for you to do once you finish the main game. You can also go back to old stages and compete for higher scores if you'd like, but other than that there's really not much of a reason to go back. Sure there's also harder modes to push you even harder, but again most of this game's replay value comes from the extra challenge races (which are simply harder versions of tracks you raced through in the story), and the multiplayer--which even then are a bit lacking in general. It's very clear that Need for Speed: The Run isn't your standard racing game, and is more of an action game, but with cars you race with.

The Good and the Bad:

Need for Speed: The Run actually isn't a bad game on it's own. It's graphics look nice for it's time, it has some very impressive set pieces, there's some pretty crazy driving action, the story is fine for what it's worth, the races can be as easy or as challenging as you want to make them, the sound effects and music are pretty good, what cars are in the game are great, and in general it is quite a lot of fun. It's the type of game you can sit down with and play through in five or so hours, and then take it online or head on over to the challenge races to push yourself even harder. It's a fun little game, but that's also sort of where it's weakness lies.


The main issues with The Run is the fact that it is just a small game. It's a game you finish, maybe spend a bit more time with, then possibly never go back to. There's no car customization, there's a lack of cars in general, the story actually has quick time events that you have to put up with, some of the action parts become annoyingly hard later on in the game, and for those of you who aren't too experienced with racers you may be unhappy to hear that there is no race line to guide you in this one. In short the game lacks a lot of features you would expect from a Need for Speed game, but for a stand alone action game it is fine. Personally I played through the game twice (once on Xbox 360 with a controller and once on PlayStation 3 with a high quality racing wheel), and both times I did have a blast, but it's not a game that has a lot of staying power.

If you can find The Run cheap, or possibly event rent it, it may just be worth it. There is some fun to be had here, and it can easily be picked up and completed in a day. If you have a race wheel you'll most likely have a lot more fun (I recommend getting one that can rotate at least 2.5 times in both directions), but the game does play just fine with a controller as well.

With all things being said, I have to give The Run a 7/10. Again it's not a bad game, but it can't stand up to other racers on the market. It's more like a roller coaster. Short and fun, but not something you're going to want to play over and over again when there's other rides (or racers) to get on.

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