There’s a ton of words that can be used to describe the new Need for Speed. If I had to choose one, it would be “frantic”. The latest installment in the franchise drops the track action that the last few have seen and kicks us back to the days of NFS 3, 4 and 5 – the good old days. It’s you, the car, and a long stretch of road.
You play Jack Rourke, who’s on the run from the mob (or something like that) and you get given an exit ticket by an old friend – race from San Francisco to New York in a Cannonball Run-type event. The stage is over 3000 miles, of which you see about 300 miles, still a mighty chunk of road to cover, and the speeds are insane. On the way you’ll have rivals trying to knock you out of the race, cops trying to catch you and that unknown mob trying to kill you. You start the game by escaping the mob and racing off in one of their cars, dodging bullets and SUVs. You then meet up with your friend, where the action really begins. Pick a car from the unlocked selection and hit the road.
The Run has no money system, no real manual tuning or upgrade system, instead going for a model of either stealing a car in the next tier or stopping at a gas station along the road and somehow having the ability to choose (and change the bodykit and paintwork) a new car. Changing vehicles is hardly ever an issue in single-player though – I managed to play the entire campaign using only the cars chosen at the mandatory changes in tier.
The cars and scenery are absolutely superbly crafted – with a price. The stunning scenery and lighting tends to slow the game down on both PC and Playstation, subtracting quite heavily from that feeling of speed. In the sections where everything goes smoothly though – it’s a beautiful thing. You almost feel sucked into the game, weaving through traffic like it’s real. The handling model is perfect for the game -yes it is arcadey, but then this is not a simulation. The Run is the closest you can legally get to taking an exotic car and blasting across the US coutryside. It’s fun and never tries to be anything other than fun. The storyline hints at seriousness but it’s soon forgotten as you get sucked into the next stretch of road, then the next, then the next.
Oh yes! The way the levels are loaded on top of each other is addictive. You don’t get much of a menu between screens – instead the next level loads as soon as you pass the finish line and the experience counter gets added. You have to force yourself to manually open the menu and press Quit. All sense of time seems to drift away as you push toward the next town.
Apart from the racing there are also a few interactive cutscenes – the usual rubbish where you have to mash buttons to jump fences, punch cops and sprint. In my opinion it doesn’t really add anything to the game and could just have been standard videos. The true gameplay comes in one of a handful of challenges – make up time between stages, pass X amount of other racers or beat an elite rival. The last stage in the single player campaign is an absolute humdinger which you absolutely HAVE to see, and also sets up events for a sequel.
To summarise a review that’s getting way too long – The Run is great fun. The multiplayer elements and challenges add a bit of replayability to the extremely short (4 or so hours) campaign. With this installment I believe that EA has returned to what made Need for Speed great all those years ago. It’s a pick up and blast game. No technical details to daunt you, just take your car and drive, drive, drive. It scores high on the graphic elements, barring the slowdown glitches. The music suits the scenery perfectly. The gameplay is spot-on for what it’s supposed to be. I score it 4 out of 5 – an almost perfect masterpiece, screw the other critics.