"One Bold Step Backward"
The Need for Speed series has had its share of ups and downs. Over the past few years we’ve seen more good games than bad (Shift and the remake of Hot Pursuit to name a couple). With the newest addition to the series, Need for Speed: The Run, there’s a lot of hope that Black Box, with over 9 years developing for the series, can deliver us something just as good and keep the ball rolling.
When initially announced, there was a lot of talk about the direction Need for Speed: The Run would take. First, it would be an epic story; a race across over 3000 miles of America, with in-depth characters, and a storyline that would play well with the fast cars and speed of the environment. Add in licensed cars and beautiful graphics and Need for Speed: The Run sounded and looked like it would shape up quite well.
Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case. The story in Need for Speed: The Run is nothing but a muddled mix of criminals and owed money, shoehorned into the background storyarc of the game: a race to win cash. Okay, so we aren’t getting a weird, supernatural, or bizarre-o story like Driver: San Francisco or anything, and that might be good for most race game players, but unfortunately we’re left with a slew of really inane characters – worse yet, the main character is nobody you feel fond of or want to love. In fact, I could have cared less if he lived or died based on his attitude alone. Every character drive here is for cash, with no deeper themes to be found. A generic and flatly written criminal organization awaits you as your opposition, and the only complication comes from a bunch of cops who want to stop the race.
As epic as a 3000 mile race sounds, NFS: The Run is really a straightforward 10 levels long. Sure, they mix it up, making you do a few time trial challenges and throwing in a handful of on-foot QTEs, but that’s where the variety ends. You’ll be doing the same tasks and challenges over and over again, and somewhere shortly after the first stage you’ll tire of it.
As far as gameplay, you’re going to end up mostly frustrated. With a weird mix of arcade and sim controls, Need for Speed: The Run is confused about in which direction its supposed to go. While I wanted to just go crazy like I did in Driver: San Fransico or Hot Pursuit, The Run tricked me into thinking I could pull off some of those physics-defying moves, while it actually only went part of the way, trying to hold onto some sort of elements of Shift. On top of this, the courses, while absolutely beautifully rendered, giving you a good feeling for a trip across the US, were badly designed as far as turns to straightaway ratios. On top of this, the traffic you end up contending with becomes annoying, as it seems like every car is aimed at your direction.
The 10 levels of NFS: The Run, more frustrating than fun, are also breezy, as it won't take you long to complete the campaign. A few other modes offer multiplayer challenges and skill tests, but none of these are neat or new – all of them offering basic head-to-head racing or time trials we've seen since the 90s.
Overall, the best part about Need for Speed: The Run seems to come from the graphics, while all the tense feelings locked up in the racing segments stem from bad road designs and cheap AI. At the end of the day, Need for Speed: The Run is a step back, again, for this series. But, with so many NFS games, it won't be long before we see more gold like NFS Shift 2. I guess I'll go back to playing Driver: San Fransico when I want pure arcade action, or Forza Motorsport 4 when I want something genuine. Oh, and I'll look for a well told story somewhere else too.
GameDynamo's Score for Need for Speed: The Run (PC)
Three things describe Rando: Good beer, good food, and video games. On occasion, Rando flies a zeppelin through time seeking power crystals.
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