Genre: Action Developer: Publisher: Classification: M Release Date: 17th Nov 2011 Platforms:
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After Need For Speed in its various iterations hit an oil slick, skidded off the asphalt and exploded, leaving gamersí hopes and dreams in a smoking coffin by the side of the road, the series needed a miracle. Criterion answered those prayers resurrecting Hot Pursuit (check out the review here) and it looked like the franchise was back on top. Unfortunately with Need for Speed The Run original developer Black Box has well and truly destroyed all of Criterionís hard work, quite possibly burying Need for Speed forever.
Need For Speed The Run wants you to believe itís cool. That itís a brand new take on the racing genre as you cannonball run your way across Northern America racing for your very life. It wants you to be invested in the plight of Jack Whatever-his-name-is as he moves through a pack of 200 drivers throwing all manner of Michael Bay-esque moments, roaring engines and quick cut camera shots at you.
Racing, for the most part, alternates between overtaking runs to gain overall positions and speed jaunts to make up time. Then there are the race battles where you need to catch and overtake a select group of racers and stay ahead of each one as the timer runs out. Think Burnoutís Eliminator and youíre on the right track.
The rewind system which works so well in titles like Forza Motorsport 4 finds itself perverted here - a 'reset' system instead is forcibly activated if you veer off track or crash into almost anything, sending you back to the last checkpoint.
There seems to be no balancing to the system, no rhyme and no reason. Some of the softest collisions force you back to your previous checkpoint, others rob you of first place for clipping the side of the road. It got so that if a bug hit my windshield I wouldn't be surprised if it reset. It takes what could have been a smooth correcting mechanic and makes it clunky and unyielding.
It also makes it so much harder to get into that racing groove. It all feels forced, with each section win feeling more due to repetition and track knowledge than any particular driving skill. It shouldn't have to be said, but shortcuts don't really work if every single person racing uses it or if your opponents are rubberbanded to your position so you actually gain nothing by taking it in the first place, even burning nitrous. I mean, seriously, why even bother?
Iíve never experienced so many exasperating and mind boggling WTF moments, or had as many rage quits - and I love my driving games. I found it trying to play for longer than an hour, possibly two at the most. Compared with peers like Driver: San Francisco or Forza 4 - which Iíd happily work through all day - this wasnít a good sign.
When the cops get involved adding a Hot Pursuit element the flaws with the reset mechanic become more apparent, especially when negotiating through police roadblocks. The game insists you break through. Circumventing them by hitting the side of the road, which looks completely clear, leads to an immediate reset. Itís completely unforgiving and fails to deliver, much like the out of the car quicktime events, but the less I say about those the better.
There are cinematic moments through specific stages like jumping a bridge, outrunning a dust storm or negotiating through an avalanche which would have felt a lot more visceral if they were free-flowing and organic, rather than following a set predetermined pattern. More often than not youíll misstep, crash, reset and then itís simply a case of remembering to veer left instead of right with these moments losing a lot, if not all, of their impact.
The biggest problem with Need for Speed The Run is the inconsistencies. Sometimes a knocked over mailbox or trashcan will stop you dead in your tracks, in other instances youíll barely clip something and come up wrecked and then thereís the boys in blue. Theyíll spend most of their time targeting you individually rather than the entire group of speedsters, which really breaks the illusion of being part of a massive cross country race as youíre getting hammered constantly while your partners in crime get off scot-free.
Certain sections are very heavily scripted, to the point you can pretty much predict what position youíll be in the pack as you round each corner, which obstacles will be in your path and which burners are the ones to beat. These are not exhilarating or invigorating, just annoying and frustrating and really destroy the momentum and any immersion. Time and time again Iíd call Ďbullshití after being the object of the highway patrolís affection with other participants hitting the nitrous and speeding away to victory with the cops barely batting an eyelid.
Or worse, watching helplessly as your opponents breeze through road blocks and at times knocking you into flight as they smash through you (no joke) in a maneuver that would instantly send you to the junkyard. Itís just so unbelievably cheap. Adding insult to injury are stages where you round the final corner after a failed first attempt to find that elusive bastard that pipped you at the post previously almost waiting for you so they can do it all over again. These instances are not in the final stages of the single player campaign, but in the first third! Not cool Need For Speed The Run. Not cool at all.
Thatís the thing about being cool - you donít have to force it or ram it down peopleís throats. You just are. Sorry Need For Speed The Run, but youíre not. The game might look decent enough, but the overly scripted racing and under scripted plot fail to engage the player or give the feeling of a white knuckle battle to reach the finishing line. You end up barely caring about Jackís plight and when it comes to the gameplay... Lets just say if youíre a fan of the franchise stick to Hot Pursuit, itís where Need For Speed shines - The Run on the other hand just crashes and burns. Repeatedly.