EA’s venerable racing series, Need For Speed has now reached its 18th game in the franchise. Titled “The Run”, the game revolves around Jack – who ends up getting in trouble with the mob and must pay to save his life. In order to do so, he must travel 3,000 miles from San Francisco to New York to win this race across America and be #1 amongst 199 other drivers for a $25 million dollar cash purse.
By that description, you’ll realize there’s a bit more story than ever told in prior Need For Speed games. And unfortunately, that’s where it begins to fall apart, right away. At no point did I ever feel connected to Jack. He’s a rebellious anti-hero who, without any detail given to us – fails to give us any reason to attach ourselves to this character and feel compelled to win. It would be best if you picked a character or never saw your own face to help cement that maybe you are the one trying to save your own life.
Soon enough, you’re able to pick from a small group of cars and go full throttle towards the starting point in San Francisco and luckily that’s where The Run picks up. There are ten Stages to The Run, each Stage has about four to seven events. Almost immediately the fuzz are on the tail of all who are participating in the race. The best part is that each time you run into the cops, they’re not all after YOU, you’ll see them bumping and harassing other drivers. It’s easy to lose them if you get them on your tail, but they put up a good fight as they put up vehicle roadblocks and will try to P.I.T. you every chance they get.
While racing, nearly everything you do while advancing in The Run earns you XP to level up your driver; whether it be jumps, reaching top speed, and clean or dirty overtakes. Unfortunately it’s completely arbitrary and holds no value other than unlocking upgrades for your driver. Something as simple as nitrous doesn’t appear until Level 4. It’s all an artificial hold back that doesn’t make much sense. Levelling up is shared between Singleplayer and Multiplayer.
Autolog returns and will pull from your friends list on Playstation 3, Xbox 360, and Origin on PC. From there you’ll be able to compare your times for each Stage or for the full Run and set competitive times to beat – the best part being that no two players have to be on at the same time to do so, it creates and “offline challenge system”. Now, if you’re looking to trade some paint, you do have the option to play online. Though prepare to be restricted as there’s only Playlists to choose from, as there’s little to no customization.
Each Stage of The Run takes you through a unique part of the United States that doesn’t feel like you’re treading the same ground. Need For Speed The Run utilizes DICE’s new Frostbite 2 engine that debuted with the release of Battlefield 3. It looks and plays spectacularly. It runs at a solid 30fps on all platforms. Each car has immense detail and looks fantastic with the background vistas having immense depth, looking unlike any game before it. All tracks are point-to-point, as to be expected.
Within the point-to-point tracks, various types of races exist: pure racing, making up time, battling rivals, and escaping cops or the mob. Changing cars can only be done within a race, by visiting gas stations. The race freezes and you pick your new car and then pick up where you left off. Specific points of the game you’ll be forced out of your car and into the seat of a new car because the one you were driving has fallen apart. In-between car segments, Jack will be on foot and you’ll have to go through a series of quicktime events to get him to the next section to get back to the driving. There’s a small handful of these sections that it’s rarely a bother, but it maintains the game’s momentum and excitement.
Every race is exciting and demands precision in order to succeed. There’s absolutely no down time to the game which is to it’s benefit. When I finished The Run, my total time was: 2 hours, 14 minutes, and 33 seconds. Now bear in mind, I spent closer to 4 or 5 hours playing the game. That time does not include loading races, rewinding/replaying events, and cutscenes. After completing each Stage of The Run, you unlock “Challenge Series” levels that are specific challenges to earn Platinum, Gold, Silver, or Bronze medals – and they’re quite difficult.
The Run may seem off-putting at first, but it offers a great racing experience that never lets off the gas pedal. It’s a bit on the short side, but there’s a lot of replability and multiplayer, autolog, and challenge series to extend the gameplay. You should try The Run when the price is right – play it any sooner and you’ll feel you’ve been walked on.