11th December 2011 - Once one of the most respected and beloved racing franchises of all time, Need for Speed certainly has a rich history. But in recent years, constant annual releases and attempted new directions have really divided audiences. The Run is one of the most bold and unique Need for Speed games too, but is it too little too late, or is the ambition new title the series needs to give it a jolt? Read on to find out…
Need for Speed: The Run differs greatly from almost all previous Need for Speed games in one defining factor; it’s attempted to be a story-driven game. Sure, the likes of Most Wanted and Undercover have had underlining stories built into the game, but The Run is the first in the series to really take that to a new level and base the game around it rather than just tack it on for good measure.
This is where a lot of people would get turned off, but I actually found the story of The Run – which see’s our main man Jack on the run from mobsters while competing in a dangerous cross-country sprint to win the money to bail himself out of the trouble – quite good. Sure, it’s nothing to get excited about, but it’s better than the plot of most street racing-based films like the majority of the Fast and Furious series. While also something to keep you interested and wanting to play more, unfortunately the narrative nature of the game directly influences its biggest flaws.
Due to the fact that your character is racing from one side of the United States to the other, every single race is a sprint – a simple race from one point to another, without any kind of circuits. While these types of tracks have usually always been my favourite in the Need for Speed titles, having the entire game made up of 3 variations of them soon becomes extremely tedious and repetitive. I know the words repetitive has no real place when talking about a standard racing game, but a little variation would have gone a long way here.
There is also a severe lack of car choices, which can be linked to the story-based nature of The Run. To change cars, you either have to drive through a petrol station mid-track during certain levels in which you’re given a limited selection to choose from, or reach a certain point of the story where your character needs to get out of his current vehicle for whatever reason and find a new ride. Top this with a complete lack of personalisation of the vehicles apart from base colour on a number of cars, and Need for Speed: The Run does nothing to please petrol heads and car enthusiast who might like racing game for the love of the cars within.
And speaking of getting out of the car, throughout the story you are forced on foot on a few occasions, in which you must complete a series of QTEs (Quick Time Events). These are fairly action packed and very well directed. I looked forward to these few moments as they progressed the story and usually brought something new to the table. They’re entertaining and engaging, and that’s what I like to see in my video games. Thing is, they really don’t have a place in Need for Speed.
Traversing from one side of America to the other allows for some great scenery. In fact, the finest visual point of this game is the scenery and environments. From tight urban cityscapes to desert highways and treacherously icy and snowy mountain tracks, The Run takes you to many wonderful places and back. And with that range comes stunning detail. The game has the most visually impressive tracks and scenery I’ve ever seen in a racing game. But there are still a few graphical flaws. Quite often, I experienced other cars on the road simply disappearing ahead of me. 18 Wheelers, Sedans – the lot. They simply vanish out of thin air as you approach them, and I witnessed this happen quite often. At least every second race I noticed it, so it’s not as rare an occurrence as it should be (in fact, it shouldn’t happen at all). But scenery and magic acts aside, everything else here is spot on. Models and animation look good, albeit nothing ground-breaking, but still certainly far from ugly.
Admittedly, I am unable to comment on the Soundtrack of the game, as I played it through entirely to Trivium records. That said, I am aware of its track list which features the likes of Mastodon, Reverend Horton Heat and Ministry. It looks to be your pretty typical Need for Speed music. On the vehicle side of things though, much like the graphics, the audio here is decent but certainly not noteworthy. Cars are loud and satisfying, but after hearing the engines and roars of all my favourite street machines in Forza Motorsport 4, this really doesn’t cut it in creating a ferocious sense of speed with audio.
Throughout the games story mode, you are given a ‘Total Run Time’ after each race, which is the cumulated time the game has taken you, minus the innumerable restarts and fails by the end of it. Upon finishing the game, my Run Time was just under 1 and three-quarters of an hour. So apart from having to redo the same track a few times when I was stuck, the game only took something like 100 minutes to complete. That’s about the length of a film. Not really satisfying to be able to complete a game in one sitting. There is a challenge mode however, which features as many if not more races than the main Run mode. But the constant Sprint races were only acceptable in the campaign because of the story, so without context, it soon becomes even less enjoyable and repetitive.
At the end of the day, Need for Speed: The Run might not be that great. It might have a slew of issues and be far from what any Need for Speed fan wants or expects, but it’s fun. Plain and simple; The Run is an enjoyable game. Its looks good and it plays good, and that’s what matters most. I feel they should stop putting the Need for Speed title on these games though, because comparing it to the great franchise does neither justice and the game would be looked at in such a different light were it simply titled The Run. So if you’re a racing fan who doesn’t mind a lack of customisation and car choice, The Run is a fast and fun romp that you are sure to enjoy… while it lasts.
+ Vast and beautiful scenery
+ Fast and enjoyable racing
- Some graphical glitches
- Lack of race types becomes repetitive
- Lack of car choice and customisation
- Very short main mode
Reviewed and Written By John Elliott