The Express Route from Frisco to NYC
Need for Speed: The Run takes EA’s classic racing franchise and adds story elements that go far beyond anything the series has ever attempted. Taking on the role of Jack, players will race across the United States from San Francisco to New York in an illicit, cross-country event called The Run.
Along the way, players will cruise through varied environments, including urban settings in San Francisco, Chicago, Las Vegas, and New York, as well as more rural tracks surrounding Denver and Omaha. In all there are over 300 km of track the development team at EA Black Box has created, and the gameplay on hand is a nice mix of arcade accessibility and more technical, simulation-style racing – apparently, The Run’s gameplay sits somewhere neatly between NFS: SHIFT and Hot Pursuit.
- This Shelby Mustang is the star, but many more cars await -
Racing is super fast and chaotic. Drifting in and out of corners, red-lining your gears, and evading parked cars, civilians, and the fuzz are skills gamers are going to need to hone in order to excel. While the game is focused on the single-player experience’s involved plot, Alex Grimbley of Black Box was emphatic that NFS: The Run is “first and foremost a racing game”. As such, the addition of EA’s now famous Autolog functionality will allow you to ghost race against friends' times and track your results on the global leaderboards. After every section of race, players will see their result (times, stats, score, etc.) which determines their online rank. Autolog support is included in order to give veteran racing fans more challenge and greater replay value.
Outside of the racing, players will find themselves on-foot, interacting with the world through plot-driven, adventure-like sequences. Oftentimes, players will be subjected to quick-time event button prompts in order to advance the story. These cinematic, scripted portions of Need for Speed: The Run are intense and action-packed, but they do seem a bit too prescribed and antiquated in their implementation. Of course, this something we'll have to hold judgment on until the full retail version hits store shelves.
- Hopefully the action is as fun as it is visually appealing -
Utilizing DICE’s Frostbite 2 engine, Black Box has been able to not only create visually stunning tracks in Need for Speed: The Run but also implement non-racing sequences that tell a complex tale. In order to pull off the narrative elements successfully, special attention has been paid to facial and motion capturing, as the devs have used some 90 “bones” (motion capture detection points) rather that the standard 30 bones used by most games. The result is fluid motion, realistic expressions, and believable character acting. The dev team even tracks actor eye movement to make sure the cinematic portions hit home.
After our E3 demo, we came away feeling that Need for Speed: The Run is perhaps more ambitious than it is impressive. We’re not sure this Cannonball Run-style racer will be outstanding in any single category; it appears the game may run the risk of pleasing no one by trying to please everyone. Still, we applaud what EA is trying to do with this dominant automotive IP, and we know that if it is going to be successful, Black Box is the developer to pull it off. At the very least, the varied tracks and environments should keep things interesting. What's more, this racer will launch across a multitude of platforms, including PS3, Xbox 360, PC, Wii, and 3DS, as well as iOS and mobile devices. We’ll find out when the game launches in November of this year.
Cutting his gaming teeth at Aladdin's Castle and on the Commodore 64, JC entered into video game journalism in 2008. Helping run GameDynamo as its director is both a dream and a rewarding challenge.
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