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.[drop]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.[drop2]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.
- 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
- 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.