Game Review: Need For Speed: The Run (Xbox 360)
Every year it seems like video games get a bit more polish and shine…sometimes. It started with the sports games. Every year the rosters got updated, the graphics a little shinier (hopefully), and game play tweaked just in time for whatever sports season was about to begin. I fall prey to baseball every year. Many other non-sports games followed suit and now we have sequel upon sequel released on an annual basis to the point where new original games are the rarity. The Need for Speed (NFS) franchise is no stranger to wash, rinse, and repeat. The 18th in the franchise, Need for Speed: The Run is just another racer, but this one comes with a twist unlike any other NFS game. Instead of racing on the underground circuit, running from the cops, or tearing up an imaginary city, Need for Speed: The Run, uses real cities with a clear objective; race from San Francisco to New York in order to cash in and break away from the mob bosses that “own” you.
Though this game was released in late 2011, it is new to me. One thing a gamer such as myself can count on is the price reduction of Need for Speed games. When it hits about half price from the original release price (and they always do), that’s when I pounce on it because I know it’s just another tweaked racer. The thing that excited me the most about this version was the fact that some of the story and game play takes place outside the vehicle…a first for NFS. Though that is true, it’s such a small part of the game. Most of the “outside” the car scenes happen early in the game then in the middle. Once the race starts, it’s all about speeding through very scenic, beautifully rendered American landscapes.
Need for Speed: The Run is both good and not so good. Perhaps the best thing, in my opinion, is that the gamer doesn’t have to race the same tracks over and over to achieve goals. That’s one thing I found tiring with this franchise; having to race the same track several times even if it was forward, backward, or long and short versions of the same track. On, The Run, there is no repeat racing. Once the race starts it’s point A to point B…every track is new except for a few runs that are backwards…which makes no sense at all in a cost to coast race. I guess the developers got a bit lazy?
Despite the fresh concept, most of the standard racing styles are intact, but have new names. (Make up) time is basically your time trial races. These are short races where the player needs to get to checkpoints before time expires. There are standard races where the player needs to gain a certain amount of positions in order to move on (circuit racing). Then, there are (one on one) races where the racer attempts to beat a mini boss…so to speak. Once the race starts in San Francisco there is very little interaction with your friend who tries to give you advice over the phone. One feature I was hoping to find more of is running from the police. That just doesn’t happen enough. Running from the police was one of the initial reasons I ever played NFS to begin with. I still like that feature and one would think speeding across America would invoke more police chases than actually happens in The Run.
Graphically, the game is quite pretty. The designers captured the American landscape as I remember seeing driving across America myself several times. The Desert, the mountains of Colorado, and the Plains are all depicted accurately complete with weather and the damn sun in your eyes in some cases. While others complained of a lackluster frame rate, I didn’t have any unpleasant experiences with glitches or anything that would detract from playing the game. The loading time, however, seemed exceptionally long.
Despite having more actual road mileage than any other NFS game, it only takes 2-3 hours of game play to get to New York. The cars are what the game is about, really. I thought the selection was quite limited and tweaking of the vehicles is kept to a minimum. Other than picking a body style and a coat of paint, there isn’t much to messing with the cars. Keep in mind NFS isn’t a simulator. I was able to stick with three or so cars to get through the entire storyline. So, how do you change cars when you are traveling 3,000 miles across America? The designers put in gas stations that you can stop at during the race to change your car. It doesn’t make much sense realistically to do that, but it’s a good way to fuse car changes into one long race. You do lose a tiny bit on time when you do change vehicles. It’s not enough to fall so far behind though. So, feel free to change cars as necessary.
One element that keeps the game flowing is a feature that backtracks time if you wreck (automatically) or fall too far behind (you can decide to rewind time). The game will rewind itself for about 1-mile of game play. If you accidentally drive off a cliff or get hit head on, a simple rewind can put you back in action without having to start the race over. Unfortunately, there is a limited amount of rewinds, so you do have to actually try to race on the road and avoid traffic. I also like the fact that there are over 200 racers to beat along the way. It makes the trek across the United States more interesting…having to pass so many people. Think of the movie The Cannonball Run and you get the picture.
The game play is mostly standard along with other NFS games, but with a twist as mentioned earlier. The race is across America; therefore racing the same tracks repeatedly is a thing of the past, for the most part. Graphically, the game is attractive and you do get a sense of location when blazing through the roadways of America. The game felt a little boring when the race started. After the initial rush in the beginning of the game where the story builds, you end up on the road with little interaction with anyone save for a few cut scenes here and there. I would have liked to see more interaction with America’s finest highway patrol officers. Chases always add a bit more excitement. As far as the AI goes, it seems to me that the game is designed to allow you to win. I felt it was hard to pass the other racers, but it always seemed to work out the closer I got to the finish line. In the end I am not complaining, but the AI seems forgiving, so if you go off-road a little bit, chances are you will make up time and come out on top in the end. Need for Speed: The Run won’t blow your socks off, but if you are a fan of the franchise, it is a worthy addition to your NFS collection. I would wait until you see it drop to about $20-30 though…which should be now. Enjoy!
For those of you youngsters that never saw the classic movie.