Reviews

Published on December 11th, 2011 | by Ben Gray

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Review: Need for Speed: The Run

Review: Need for Speed: The Run Ben Gray
Story
Gameplay
Graphics

Summary: Ben returns once again where he tackles Need for Speed: The Run. But does it deserve it’s place in the franchise?

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User Rating: 0 (0 votes)
It wasn’t that long ago since I didn’t really see the NFS franchise as anything special, or anything diverse. Gran Turismo and Forza were besting the games for the most realistic and content-heavy racing series, and it felt as if a games like the Shift era were trying to play catch up. That was, until E3 2010, where I was both saddened and surprised by the news that Criterion Games were now working on the NFS franchise. I’d wanted a new Burnout game since Paradise and with this news, it didn’t seem like I was going to get what I wanted anytime soon. Alas, a year ago from now, I was pleasantly surprised at their unique entry into the franchise that gave Need for Speed the revitalized boost it needed. Of course, after the success of Hot Pursuit, it was inevitable that EA and Black Box were going to continue to try and make that kind of racer with or without the aid of Criterion. Unfortunately, with The Run, they’ve fell short. You start off in The Run as Jack Rourke, who’s pulled the nerves of a crime organization and has left him in quite some debt (not the best situation to be in during recession). So, he teams up with a stereotypically good-looking associate named Sam Harper, who during the entire storyline I was expecting to stab me in the back at some point, and participate in an illegal street race to pay off his debt (as you do!). There isn’t really a start to this race, you just drive out of a garage and it’s there, already happening. In fact, there’s never really a middle to the plot of The Run, there’s just a beginning and an end, even the many QTEs that attempt to bring action and excitement outside of the car by limited means of player interaction feel more like excuses to change cars rather than have any significant meaning. Needless to say, this game wouldn’t have been worse without these sequences, in fact it would have largely been better. One good thing that does come out of all these cinematic shenanigans is seamlessly smooth transitions between gameplay and cutscene, to the quality of games such as Dead Space and Uncharted. Sometimes you forget that you’re back in control of the vehicle because the change is so fast and integrated, and Black Box deserves some credit for this. Except one of the main reasons people have probably gone out and brought this game, is not for these transitions, but for the graphical power of Frostbite 2, the engine that’s got everybody raving these days. However, the engine doesn’t hold up too well during The Run. Textures occasionally flicker from low to hi-res during both the gameplay and the cutscenes (more noticeable during the latter) and at top speeds, it’s all one big blur. If anything, the usage of Frostbite 2 in the game feels more-so an excuse to add it to the credits to encourage more sales, rather than used well to any degree. Sticking with the visuals of its predecessor (Hot Pursuit’s engine would have done nicely) would have been a better design decision. Throughout the game, there’s a sense of instability and danger that makes the races feel more intense, however, cops and choppers are used to nowhere near as greater effect as they were in Hot Pursuit, feeling more like a set-piece rather than an obstacle or threat. The only threat they pose is when you’re casually cruising along in pole position, when out of thin air (literally) a roadblock appears in front of you and completely wrecks you out. Despite this, there’s a vast improvement on shortcuts though – taking them poses a risk, a risk of driving off the road and crashing into some conveniently placed tree if you go too fast, but taking it safe and easy will take the “short” out of “shortcut” and just leave you with a pointless alternate route. This is how shortcuts should be done in games, and it’s one of the few things Black Box has improved upon over Criterion’s effort. The developers attempt to extend this openness within linearity onto the main race route also, but on a number of occasions I found myself going slightly off the road and being forced back to a checkpoint, even though I could have easily drove out of it without changing my position in the race. I wouldn’t mind this, except checkpoint restarts are forced at times and limited, meaning you’ll want to hold onto them for as long as you can, not have them wasted because of some dodgy track boundaries. Going back to the characters now, I did feel as if I should be playing as one of the very minor characters who don’t develop further than a small biography on the loading screen, because they are more deserving of the win than this Jack Rourke. For instance, one of these obscure rivals, Cesar DeLeon, wants the prize money to look after his family and his newborn child, and you have to deprive this guy of that chance because you ticked off some criminals. For shame! This is why the storyline of The Run, which the game revolves around, is so basic and lackluster, as the characters of the game are two dimensional and nothing more, and you wonder why they even bothered trying to include some form of storyline. Perhaps it would’ve been better off if the main character was anonymous and it focused on the nitty gritty racing? Now for what many will see as the biggest criticism of The Run. When completing the main game, it will add up all your race times (successful race times, mind) and combine them into one overall time. For many, that time will be between two to three hours, which leads many to the assumption that the game’s main mode is rather short. Even including the amount of times I failed, and had to retry races, that figure would still be pretty small. Luckily, the game’s saving grace are the challenge and multiplayer modes that prevent it from being labelled a throwaway cash-in. Whilst they do take you back to familiar areas from the main game, they’re an enjoyable extension for those feeling motivated to continue their experiences. The Autolog integration works as well as ever to provide challenge and competition between friends, unlucky if you have no friends (they should probably mention that on the box). However, for many, I fear the experience of The Run may end after that final time is given. The leveling system in the game seems to have taken a rather large step back, and that sense of reward felt in games like Hot Pursuit has diminished. Instead of unlocking cars, you’re now unlocking profile images and backgrounds for your Autolog profile, which is nowhere near as satisfying, given the fact that you won’t be judged online by what colour or texture your profile is. Gamers want the stuff that counts; brand, spanking new cars, and in both quantity and quality. Whilst the game does offer that, it does it through challenge grinding and Autolog recommendations (another reason to get some friends), stuff which will come after the main game, after that impression that the player is left with. For someone to be motivated to play until the dying end, the rewards need to come quick and fast at first, and progressively get better but few and far between so that they will strive and play on to achieve this. Having unlocked few cars and completing the main game in a matter of hours, I don’t feel very motivated at all. Need for Speed: The Run felt like it was trying to be too much like Hot Pursuit in nearly every respect, but in the end we’re left with a short game, a meaningless storyline and an ever-growing pile of backgrounds for my profile. Some areas are respectable efforts, cinematic transitions and the feeling of danger, but in the end I think that Black Box should stick to what they’re good at, straight-to-the-point track racing, and leave these kind of racers to those who know how to do it, and know how to do it right.

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  • I agree with everything except two things:

    1) The graphics point: 5/10. The Run didn’t optimize Frostbite 2 to the fullest, capping at 30fps even on PC (where I played and reviewed it), it gave the game’s race across America some beautiful vistas that not many games can show off.

    2) This statement: “Need for Speed: The Run felt like it was trying to be too much like Hot Pursuit in nearly every respect,” – That’s actually the problem of The Run – it wasn’t trying to be that in ANY way, it was trying to be like the movie Cannonball Run but they lost the focus of the game half-way through. I didn’t feel as if the cop chases were intended to be like Hot Pursuit. The levelling system that Hot Pursuit uses was definitely better, I think The Run’s was just poorly implemented – as was most of the game. 

    The fun is in The Run if you ignore a lot, but yeah it’s not a good game, just okay.

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