|System: Xbox 360, PS3, PC, Wii, 3DS|
|Dev: Black Box|
|Pub: Electronic Arts|
|Release: November 15, 2011|
|Players: 1 - 12 Players Online|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p|
by Matt Walker
I have to admit that I'm not what you'd call a car game connoisseur. I do like fast cars, but I don't get into all of the engine horsepower, calibers, or any of that other gearhead mumbo-jumbo. While I do love simulation racers, I find myself more inclined to want the raw speed and action of an arcade-style racing game. Sure, the sims are all about authenticity, but if you can feel like you're driving 150+ miles an hour in a game, it's quite a magical experience. Black Box and Criterion know how to do that for gamers. However, there has always seemed like there was something missing from their adrenaline-fueled racing games. Need for Speed: The Run seems ready to fill in that missing link.
Need for Speed: The Run has a story. While it's admittedly not the first racing game with a plot, nothing has been attempted like this before; it's a full-on action movie with racing mixed in. It's a Fast & Furious game without the cheesy plot devices and actors. Simply put, this is a cross country race that is both illegal and has a large sum of money awaiting the winner. As my colleague Josh Engen pointed out in his preview, this plotline is more Cannonball Run than anything else. However, the ill-fated Nathan Fillion Fox television show Drive might be an equally apt comparison, as The Run takes this simple formula and adds the Michael Bay sense of movie making—i.e. tons of explosions—to deliver a winning formula for action junkies.
The opening immediately drives home the point that this is not your typical racing game. You play as Jack Rourke, someone who went left instead of right, or, as the opening scene shows, found himself mixed up with the wrong people. Fortunately, Jack has a friend who knows a way for him to make a load of cash. Just like any action movie involving a racer with something to run from, Jack takes the "job," getting thrown headfirst into one of the most exciting racing experiences I have had in a long time.
One of the reasons this is so much fun is that it doesn't feel like a racing game. You don't select a race type and a car, followed by choosing automatic or manual and all that. Instead, you select your car and hop right into your cross country race from San Francisco to New York. A word of caution though: The car you select in the beginning will be the car you drive for some time. Choose carefully, because it will be a while before you can change your car without restarting the entire campaign. While this can be a bit annoying, the fact you are locked into the car for several race events comes with some benefits. It forces you to get good with the car you're driving. If you decide to be a hotshot and race with a challenging car, you'll have to either figure out how to best control this vehicle or restart entirely. Not to worry though; you will eventually unlock gas stations that allow you to change to a different car. These gas stations don't appear very often though, so, again, be sure the car you choose is one you can handle.
Instead of giving you individual races to compete in to advance, The Run gives you specific points you must reach by the end of an event. Sure, it sounds like the same thing, but it is not. For example, most of the events require you to move up a specific amount of positions, make up time by passing through a set number of checkpoints in the time given, or take down or opponents in special you-against-them events. There are even rival races, where you can potentially take ownership of your opponent's car. Oh, and did I mention the cops will be chasing you too?
What has been a large part of Need for Speed's success is the notorious trouble you can cause as you progress through the game. Officers of the law will chase you through some of the most ludicrous road conditions imaginable—icy roads, desert storms, waterfalls; the list goes on. Black Box really plays off this longstanding staple of the series, with the aforementioned police officers taking center stage. However, the weight of your vehicle, as well as sound and design of the vehicles, is some of the best I have seen in a racing game of this caliber.