Playing a hot-shot driver on the run from the mob, it’s time to race for your life in Need for Speed: The Run. Win the race from San Francisco to New York City, and earn enough cash to get the syndicate off your back.
The scenery in NFS:TR is absolutely gorgeous. Stunning, even. The Frostbite 2 (Battlefield 3) engine is well suited to the cinematic experience that Black Box developed. The wilderness sections, going through Yosemite, Death Valley, the mountains and forests of Pennsylvania and Maryland … those are phenomenally well-done. They did make the portion of Toledo that you race through MUCH bigger than the city itself, and I’ve NEVER seen the streets of San Francisco, Chicago, or Manhattan so deserted!
Unfortunately, there’s no free-race mode. You can finish “challenges” to unlock new cars and perks, which you can then use in single-player and multiplayer. The cars handle well for the most part, and convey a sense of speed and tension, but picking the wrong car for the track ahead is a recipe for frustration. The mix-up of goals for each race segment is nice, but can get tedious (overtake 8 opponents, make up time, defeat rival, etc). More variety would have been nice.
The opponent racer AI is brutal, and dumb. AI drivers will ignore the shortcuts, even if I took it immediately in front of them. Cop cars will ignore the pack of racers I’m in and focus ONLY on me, knocking me off the road, or into other cars. Cop cars pass me as I’m doing 140MPH like I’m standing still. AI racers never miss a turn, never sideswipe oncoming traffic or the guardrail…
I will tell you this: In your last race against Marcus Blackwell, through the shipping containers on the dock, don’t try to overtake him. It’s a game of survival, not passing him. It took me over 90 minutes of weaving through stacked shipping containers and failing to beat him before I figured out that I simply had to make it through and I’d get the chance to overtake him afterwards.
The set pieces and scripted sequences are hit-or-miss. The snowy pass through the Rockies is great. Racing through a subway tunnel at 120 mph only to be rear-ended by a subway train going faster than me (wait, what?!) is not. The intermediary storytelling scenes are appropriately “Michael Bay-esque” with slow-motion leaps off buildings while a helicopter whup-whup-whups and gunfire is raining around you. However, much like a Michael Bay movie, it’s mostly flash without any substance beyond the button-mashing QTEs that are repeated if you fail them until you get it right. These sections are pretty much “on rails,” meaning that even if you don’t hit the button correctly, the game will restart that section until you get it right. There’s no alternatives; you either hit the right button at the right time, or you can’t move on.
The multiplayer, what I have played, is fun, but the options are limited. I do wish that we had more customization options for our cars. Overall, the MP experience is satisfactory if not mind-blowing. I don’t see this game surviving very long on the single player experience alone; I completed the SP campaign in three multi-hour sessions. Perhaps it’ll accrue a dedicated MP contingent to keep it going. Added to the sense of competition is the inclusion of Autolog, which allows you to log in and see if any of your friends have beaten your time on a particular race segment.
Need for Speed: The Run is a gorgeous racer that performs well, and is fun to play for the most part. A tepid story, and some glaring AI issues really mar the experience, unfortunately. The opportunity for DLC to fill in areas of the cross-country race that aren’t shown in the main campaign is a big one, and I hope that Black Box offers some, because I’d love to do more racing across the wide-open spaces in America.