“Three miles to go, four opponents to beat, hairpin bends to conquer and the cops are driving hard and fast…‘pull over’ he yells – not a chance.”
This is just a taste of what you’ll experience as you get behind the wheel in Need for Speed: The Run, the new arcade racer from EA and Black Box that delivers the same adrenaline pumping out-of-control racing experience that we enjoyed in last year’s excellent Hot Pursuit.
The Run features a singleplayer campaign that sees protagonist Jack Rourke buying in to the underground racing world in a high-stakes bid to race from San Francisco to New York. Rourke will have to face cops, rivals, mobsters and harsh terrain if he wants to snag the $25 million cash prize, pay his debts to some rather unsavoury characters and live another day.
The campaign is varied and will see you having to complete a number of different challenges to progress in the race across the United States. Whether that be Battle Race where you’ll race against the clock to chase down opponents and finish first, or Rival Race where you’ll need to beat the more aggressive, more advanced rival, or Make-up Time where you’ll need to overtake opponents to better your position in the race.
Adding to this variety is the different terrains and situations you’ll need to conquer in order to win, from escaping the streets of San Francisco as the cops try to shut the race down to facing the sandy deserts of Death Valley, from the bright lights and neon signs of fabulous Las Vegas to navigating the snowcapped mountains of the Rockies. Your driving skills will be put to the test as you avoid traffic in the city in one challenge, before taking on hairpin bends on icy mountain roads in the next. Driving in different environments and surfaces means that you are constantly challenged to adapt and overcome the obstacles to finish first in that challenge and continue in the race.
There’s always a real sense of urgency to qualify for each level, whether that be from the environment, your opponents, the nature of the challenge itself or the police. As we first experienced in Hot Pursuit, the cops will do anything and everything to stop you, sometimes placing roadblocks in your path but most times aggressively pursuing you and attempting to run you off the road. The chatter of the police over the radio as they issue orders to try and stop the race adds to the level of immersion that The Run delivers, providing the most exhilarating part of the racing experience for me.
Luckily Jack has a few tricks up his sleeve to help him out. First of all you’ll get five resets per challenge, which means you’ll be able to start again from the last checkpoint if you get busted, wrecked or stray too far from the track. This is an excellent system to ensure that you don’t have to repeat the whole challenge too many times if you run into obstacles along the way, for instance a persistent cop who pushes you off a high mountain cliff or that pesky oncoming traffic which swerved in front of you at the last minute.
You’ll earn XP as you complete challenges, which will be handy in helping you to level up and unlock new cars and challenges. XP can be earned in all the normal ways, like passing cars, reaching top speed, drifting and performing jumps, to mention but a few, but you can also gain XP for the number of unused resets at the end of each challenge. If you’d like to try out a new car, simply pull into a gas station on a challenge and choose something that may be more suitable to the track, sports cars perform well in urban environments while exotics handle well on technical tracks.
Of course nitrous will be your most valued friend in The Run. It will give you the extra speed you need to cross that finishing line first, to stay ahead of the eliminating time and to remain alive when the police are intent on making you a smudge on the tarmac. Shortcuts will also prove valuable once again, so keep your eyes open to discover them and take full advantage of them to shave precious seconds off your time.
Although you won’t have much time to take it in while you’re racing, the scenery in The Run is breathtaking. The cinematic cut-scenes, combined with these beautiful environments, excellent soundtrack and sound effects and dramatic racing result in a polished, fast-paced story that keeps your adrenaline pumping from start to finish. The feeling of high-speed out-of-control racing that to me has become synonymous with the Need for Speed series is a key indicator that the development team has got the balance in The Run just right. My only criticism is that EA were too cautious with the story aspect of the game, next time I’d like to see a deeper story with more cut-scenes to enjoy.
Autolog makes a welcome return, allowing you to compare times with your friends quickly and effortlessly. It works a charm in singleplayer, the challenge series races and multiplayer, giving you a real incentive to put your foot on the gas and beat your friends’ times. There is loads of content for you to enjoy in both multiplayer and the challenge series races, one thing’s for sure you will be kept busy and entertained for a long time with this kind of depth.
Matchmaking is quick and easy in multiplayer, while the Playlists with Muscle Car Battles, Exotic Sprint Racing and more keep the racing varied, exciting and challenging. You’ll also earn XP in these races, which allows you to level up faster and unlock new cars and content. Each Playlist has a different bonus award that is determined randomly, bonuses can be new cars and XP if you achieve the goal. Another usual feature is the Playgroup option which allows you to race online with friends. The only criticism about multiplayer is the long loading times which interrupt the gamplay flow and can become very frustrating.
The challenge series races work in a similar way to the singleplayer campaign – you’ll earn XP, level up and be able to use resets as you careen around corners in various races. Depending on your time you will also earn a medal, but your time and medal stats are only posted to Autolog if you finish first in the race.
After spending some time with Need for Speed: The Run, it’s clear that EA has built on last year’s Hot Pursuit but have taken it to the next level with the help of the Frostbite 2 engine to deliver a polished, well-rounded and fun arcade racer. It will keep you on the edge of your seat while Autolog will motivate you to enjoy ‘just one more race’ – the trademark of a good game.