Need for Speed: The Run

No year in video game racing can be complete without a title from the never-ending Need for Speed franchise, the beacon for casual racers and speed freaks. Need for Speed: The Run, the 18th title in the series, released November last year, follows up EA’s promise to improve on Undercover. After universally poor ratings which left an ugly rubber taste in most gamers’ mouths, The Run continues the action focused street gameplay from previous titles. Most fans are familiar with; stunning cars, car chases, great graphics and a one dimensional storyline. But can all the damage caused by Undercover be forgiven and forgotten?

ADDICTIVE: Probably not as much as Underground 1 and 2.
THINGS I LIKED: Cinematic feel to the gameplay and storyline. It’s great playing through different situations and being chased by both cops and the mob.
THINGS I DIDN’T LIKE: We’ve seen some of this before.

GENRE: Racing
PLATFORMS: PS3, Xbox 360, PC

I’ve discovered that I’m spoilt. I haven’t purchased a game in years – one of the countless benefits of being a reviewer (game critic). But when Need for Speed: The Run didn’t make it to my mailbox I was forced to cough up the six hundred rand at Musica – and boy oh boy was it difficult. For the first time in ages I was forced to weigh up my interest in playing a video game versus my responsibilities of paying off some of the bills. But it was Christmas time and I took the plunge thinking, “Damnit EA this had better be good!”

Shoving the game into my PS3 and watching the introduction sequence play out a weird sense of dejuvu came upon me. Somebody say Underground and Most Wanted?

STORYLINE: The Run features a “somewhat” linear storyline, which places gamers in the shoes of protagonist, Jackson Jack Rourke, a down on his luck guy who has landed himself in some hot water with the mob. We are dropped dead centre into the action aiding Jack to exit a car that’s about to get crumpled in a scrap yard (we’ve seen this in a few movies before). He escapes but becomes the target of the mob and must do everything (including race) in order to survive. When Jack gets word of an illegal street racing event called The Run, with a grand prize of $25,000,000, he sees a lifeline and a chance to pay off his debts.

Ultimately, the premise is actually simple – beat over 200 competitors in a race from San Francisco to New York, with stops through Las Vegas, Denver, Detroit and others – making it the very first title in the series to use real life locations. The task is broken up into events and challenges – overtaking opponents, time trials, chase sequences, and a few one on one races against rivals. Indeed it’s the same repetitive gameplay from previous games, but EA does make a concerted effort to keep it interesting and rewarding.

As with previous titles, gamers start off with a series of low-end cars and work their way up to the collection of high-end sports vehicles, which include Lamborghinis, Ferraris, BMW’s, Mercedes and the works. All the cars can be custom fitted with extras and re-styled to your liking.

You’ll also notice the return of the popular “Po Po”. Cops are now armed and chase you with suped-up racing cars and helicopters – which I always found very exciting. Dodging explosions and gunfire still proves to be super exciting, especially in the midst of on-coming traffic. Another new feature is the ability to pull into a petrol station to change your vehicle during a race. It’s become incredibly important to use the right car for the right races – choose the wrong vehicle and you will find it a good struggle.

Developed by EA’s Black Box over a span of three years The Run makes use of the very sophisticated Frostbite 2 engine (think about the beautiful graphics in Battlefield 3) and works really hard at being a narrative-driven racer. While I’m not quite sure about the latter being so effective, The Run does look stunning.

While Need for Speed: The Run does prove to be a great game (good gameplay, even better graphics and amazing sound) it’s by no measure near its former PS2-era glory or near as rounded as its older brother Shift 2. I also feel cheated by the fact that Jack looks almost nothing like his voice actor, Sean Faris. But watch out for its sequel, probably by the end of this year, I betcha’ they will finally get it all right!

Prior to its release, Need for Speed: The Run was marketed and promoted heavily through the use of numerous Internet and TV trailers. Famed Hollywood action director Michael Bay has directed a TV advertisement for the game. Read more here >>


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