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Review

NFS: The Run Review (PS3/360)

I Am Jack's Complete Lack of Surprise.

Jack, player character and all round minor renegade, is in something of a pickle. Not that you’ll start the game knowing what that pickle is, of course, apart from the apparent fact that a mysterious woman with a briefcase can get you out of it. There’s a race with a lot of money for the winner, you’ve got a garage full of incredible cars and – irrespective of your current financial situation – she’s got the entry fee.

This meeting’s actually done rather well, DICE’s Frostbite 2 engine offering up reasonable figures and the exact same speckled lighting from Battlefield 3.  There’s tearing, though, alongside the hammy acting, but it’s shot well and plays out like any of the recent Fast and Furious movies which – we assume – was the intention.  Before all this, though, you’ll find yourself trying to avoid getting mangled in an old car junkyard.


The Run has depth of field blur and it's not afraid to use it.
Quick time events, like the ones that make up most of this sequence, aren’t all that bad.  This isn’t a racing game for racing fans, it’s a racing game that – as clearly illustrated by the menu option that has the sound set for ‘film mode’ – is for people that want something a little bit different.  Whether or not the Need for Speed name is being misused in this context is down to the individual, I personally don’t see much of an issue – it’s not like it’s particularly pure these days anyway.

Out on the road, normally book-ended by real time cutscenes featuring the ridiculously goateed maverick, this distinction is even more obvious.  The rides, even big heavy muscle cars, are drift happy and generally stick to the surface regardless of how much you squeeze the throttle – the handling’s basic, for sure, and yet it seemingly doesn’t really matter which car you pick as they’re all roughly the same in that respect.

Further admissions to the game’s target audience abound: 800BHP monsters regularly get passed by hatchbacks, a Lotus takes corners the same way as an Aston Martin and – for the most part – there’s not really any clear benefit in actually changing cars.  Not that it’s easy to do anyway, the sporadic garages whip past before you’ve had a chance to slow down and see what they’ve got for trading anyway – otherwise you’re stuck with your choice until dictated otherwise.

The titular race itself is hardly the thrill it was billed as, either.  Starting from San Francisco (amusingly shortened on the map), Jack makes his way across the States towards New York, his ultimate goal.  Like a longer, drawn out and considerably less happy version of OutRun: Coast To Coast, Black Box’s latest feels compelled to intersperse what moments of racing there are on offer with a smattering of challenges and missions, in a clear attempt to keep up the otherwise fake suspense of Jack needing to be in a certain position at given locales along the way.

The first time this happens you feel like you’re in control – you need 150 to enter Las Vegas (although it’s not clear why) and as you leave the desert in 151st place it’s all rather thrilling.  However, a place-card showing two other racers (and an embarrassingly cringe-worthy cutscene as they refuel) highlights that this is all prescribed well in advance, you’ll get to Vegas exactly in 150th if you’ve completed the missions beforehand – and they’re not optional.

Each location, then, is split into a series of races, tasks and battles, and each of these into checkpoints.  Make a mistake and you can ‘rewind’ to the last checkpoint to try again; fail a level and you have to restart from scratch though, oddly, each retry is accompanied by load times that’ll eventually start to grate.  Indeed, the game’s decision making on when to force a retry is baffling, I literally left the road by a couple of feet at one point and that was apparently enough to commit one of my rewinds.


Gorgeous, deadly snow.
Puzzling design choices and ultimately scripted, linear events aside, at least The Run looks half decent.  The cars aren’t as close to perfection as other titles, but they’re damageable and chunky looking, and the choice – if you can call it that – is certainly wide enough in scope.  The camera views are mostly terrible though – behind the car is too close, bumper is too low and the bonnet view – ironically – is easily obscured by metal if you take a bump.

Engine notes are throaty, if not lost amongst the music soundtrack on the default settings, and the presentation’s sharp enough, even if those load times get in the way a little.  I actually quite liked the interludes from the racing, though – the story’s not actually that terrible and the QTEs never really outstayed their welcome.  As a racing game, The Run really isn’t all that, but as a game trying to ape a movie it’s a step in the right direction.

Pros:

  • Plenty of variety to the locations
  • The story focus is a novel twist, even if it’s not pulled off that well
  • A section amidst an avalanche is brilliant

Cons:

  • The main mode doesn’t stay around that long
  • The racing isn’t technical nor particularly challenging
  • Lots of the courses are hugely dull
  • Ridiculous rubber banding
  • The rewind system is hugely annoying, and inconsistent

The Run’s main mode is only really about two hours in length – the game proudly tallying your time as you go – but with menus, retries and cut-scenes the playtime’s actually about double that.  There’s Autolog to commit to if your mates are picking up the game, and the Challenge Series will give a fair amount of replayability down the line, especially if you’re the type that likes to better themselves.

But when all is said and done, The Run is probably best experienced as a rental.  It’s not nearly as strong as it could have been but there’s enough here to provide a day or two’s entertainment and – given the nature of what EA were trying to do – it at least succeeded on that level.

Score: 6/10

39 Comments
  1. freezebug2
    Member
    Since: Dec 2008

    It all looks and sounds a bit samey samey as expected. I certainly didn’t pre order the game as I normally do with NFS’s, I’ll get it when it arrives at the B-Bucket department.
    Noticed earlier that it’s debut at Shopto was No 12 in the chart, which wasn’t a huge surprise tbh.

    Comment posted on 18/11/2011 at 09:09.
  2. Foxhound_Solid
    Is a smart cookie.
    Since: Dec 2009

    Great read.

    Comment posted on 18/11/2011 at 09:25.
    • nofi
      One for all.
      Since: Forever

      Thank you.

      Comment posted on 18/11/2011 at 09:28.
    • Grey_Ghost13
      Member
      Since: Aug 2009

      Agree very honest, was expecting a bashing from all the negative stuff I’ve heard but, the review was non biased.
      Was waiting on this review to base my decision on whether I pick up my pre-order or cancel it and get it at a later date. And I’ve decided now to leave if for a while, a long while!

      Comment posted on 18/11/2011 at 09:42.
    • FalconRedux
      Member
      Since: May 2011

      Great review, confirmed it now as a rental. The demo had made me quite interested but 4 hours for the main ‘campaign’ just doesn’t warrant £30+.

      Comment posted on 18/11/2011 at 11:17.
  3. Tuffcub
    On the naughty step.
    Since: Dec 2008

    Sod the racing, Alex can you please score the tits and arse in the game?

    Comment posted on 18/11/2011 at 09:36.
    • moshi
      Member
      Since: Jun 2009

      There really isn’t any just 2 lesbian racers who just want to be together.

      Comment posted on 18/11/2011 at 11:46.
      • Amphlett
        Member
        Since: Jul 2009

        Sounds interesting…

        Comment posted on 18/11/2011 at 11:53.
      • moshi
        Member
        Since: Jun 2009

        That’s all you get im afraid unless they appear in the end credits

        Comment posted on 18/11/2011 at 12:59.
      • nofi
        One for all.
        Since: Forever

        They don’t. They disappear as quickly as all the other racers that just ‘appear’. Except for those that appear multiple times, despite you leaving them behind about 2000 miles back.

        Comment posted on 18/11/2011 at 13:01.
      • moshi
        Member
        Since: Jun 2009

        Well that’s one less thing to look forward to.

        Comment posted on 18/11/2011 at 14:32.
  4. Jas-n
    Since: Aug 2008

    2 hours isn’t good, especially when its advertised as a 3,000 mile race. I’m sure thoce cars can’t do 1,500MPH.
    Here is probably one of the reasons why a yearly cycle is problematic.
    And what is it lately with racers and controller lag, I’ve literally played 2/3 races of dirt 3 since lanch. And the previous 2 NFS’s were a struggle most of the time.

    Comment posted on 18/11/2011 at 09:39.
    • nofi
      One for all.
      Since: Forever

      Total time is 2 hours. That’s not bad given the variety of tracks – that whole aspect has been massively overblown.

      When did I mention lag?

      Comment posted on 18/11/2011 at 09:47.
      • Jas-n
        Since: Aug 2008

        You didn’t I was referring to previous titles, which has put me off.

        Comment posted on 18/11/2011 at 10:47.
      • Jas-n
        Since: Aug 2008

        That and the huge rubber banding

        Comment posted on 18/11/2011 at 10:48.
      • kjkg
        Member
        Since: Apr 2010

        The rubber banding in Hot pursuit was the most awful thing I’ve ever encountered in a racing game. Utter crap.

        Comment posted on 18/11/2011 at 11:39.
    • affa
      Member
      Since: Dec 2010

      to be fair, i beat it on hard and it took far longer than ’2 hours’. that’s two hours of perfect driving, no mistakes. if you rewind (which will happen) that time is not counted. i mean, you can speed run most games in a fraction of the time a ‘real’ playthrough takes, and using that ‘time’ as the standard is silly.

      not to mention, there are tons of challenge races plus online challenges. i’ve easily spent 15+ hours on it, and love it. it’s not as good as hot pursuit, but it’s not terrible at all.

      oh, and the ‘year development’ cycle is incorrect. Different devs are releasing different games each year (for example, Criterion did Hot Pursuit) and each game is getting more than a year. I think The Run got 3 if I remember correctly.

      Comment posted on 20/11/2011 at 03:03.
  5. IAmJacksMedullaOblongata
    Member
    Since: Nov 2011

    Great subtitle!
    :P

    Comment posted on 18/11/2011 at 09:41.
    • bacon_nuts
      Member
      Since: Mar 2011

      Glad somebody else noticed. I was starting to worry! :P

      Comment posted on 19/11/2011 at 00:25.
  6. Awayze
    Member
    Since: Jul 2010

    OMG just give us Underground 3, I want to pimp out a Hummer H3.

    Ever since Underground 2, NFS has lost it.

    Comment posted on 18/11/2011 at 10:00.
    • kivi95
      Member
      Since: Oct 2009

      +1 or atleast give us a remake of underground 1 and 2.

      Comment posted on 18/11/2011 at 10:33.
    • Jas-n
      Since: Aug 2008

      YES!

      Comment posted on 18/11/2011 at 10:50.
    • MayContainEvil
      Member
      Since: Feb 2011

      Agreed. Give us the HD Collection, then, when Criteron are free get them to make Underground 3. Unless they already are, they’re working on a yet to be named open world racer are they not? Fingers crossed.

      Comment posted on 18/11/2011 at 15:37.
      • Forrest_01
        Member
        Since: Jun 2009

        Would much rather have Burnout Paradise 2 (or a different Burnout maybe) tbh.

        Comment posted on 18/11/2011 at 19:18.
  7. Forrest_01
    Member
    Since: Jun 2009

    Yeah, this was as expected to be honest – I only played a couple of the racing levels at eurogamer & didn’t see much of the cutscenes or on foot sections, but the driving did feel decidedly NFS. That sounds like a compliment, as generally when something feels similar its following a successful formula, but unfortunately that wasn’t a good thing for me on this occasion as all i got was the feeling of ‘been there done that’.

    Add to that the playtime of what could amount to not much more than 4 hours & I’m afraid that equates to a miss from me.

    I might give it a go when it hits bargain basement prices, but I certainly won’t be ‘running’ out to make a purchase. Ho ho.

    Thanks for the well written review Al.

    Comment posted on 18/11/2011 at 10:03.
  8. Omac_brother
    Member
    Since: Nov 2011

    Fantastic Read. Im going to pick this game up when it reaches the bargain bin (see 2 weeks). Makes me think that EA should give the NFS IP a rest for a few years though.

    Comment posted on 18/11/2011 at 10:38.
  9. Mickey2010
    Member
    Since: Jan 2010

    Great read! great review! was going to pick this up but this has convinced me to wait a few weeks/months until the price drops

    Comment posted on 18/11/2011 at 11:21.
  10. shields_t
    Member
    Since: Oct 2008

    It sounds like there’s a good idea in there somewhere but the stories in NFS games always seems so very contrived.

    A Gumball 3000 game with a bit of free roam-ability might work better. Though I seem to recall a previous GB3k game being about as awful as awful can be.

    Comment posted on 18/11/2011 at 11:40.

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