If Michael Bay was in charge of a directing a summer blockbuster movie, you would expect it to be 2 hours long, full of non-stop fast cars, close up camera angles and explosions. Lots of explosions. It would also lack an engrossing story line and any character depth whatsoever. For what its worth, Michael Bay has seemingly had his hands all over EA’s Need for Speed: The Run. Except for the story part of it all, or the lack thereof, might be worse than anything I have seen in any of his movies.
Waking up as Jack Rourke, you find yourself duct-taped to a steering wheel inside a sexy looking red Ferrari. The car, and subsequently you, are dropped into a car compactor as you’re still coming to. Narrowly escaping a crushing death from the crime organization (aka the mob) that put you there, you find out that you owe them money, enough money that they want you dead. How do we learn this you ask? Well through the use of loading screens. That’s right, the backstory is given to you through the loading screens in the game. An associate of yours, Sam Harper, attempts to help by entering you into a 3000-mile cross-country race from San Francisco to New York City. The only thing standing in your way of your freedom and your cut of the $25,000,000 is over 200 other drivers who have zero problem running you off the road.
The Run — as the race is called — is broken up into 10 different stages, each consisting of multiple races. The on-foot missions, which are only a handful, are spread out across The Run and only consist of quick-time events. These moments are meant to try and add a more cinematic feel to the game. If you don’t mind QTEs they do provide some cool chase sequences. There are four main race types that cycle throughout each of the stages, but the goal is still the same: get to the finish as fast as you can. One has you gain a set number of positions; another has you racing a rival to the finish line or you may just be forced to beat the clock to the next checkpoint.
Police will join in pursuit in a few of the races and try to run you, and seemingly only you, off the road while setting up road blocks and their presence creates a great deal of unwanted frustration. You also gain XP throughout the races by passing cars in a clean or dirty fashion, although doing it the clean way will earn more XP. The XP will unlock new ways to recharge your boost, new background images and profile pictures as well.
There are 3 different car types to select — exotic, sport and muscle — but the difference is so minor I stuck with an exotic throughout the entire campaign. To switch cars, you have to find a gas station during the race and pull into it. These gas stations do not appear in each stage, so you may be stuck with a car you do not like for quite awhile. The cars themselves feel floaty and unresponsive most of the time, which in turns doesn’t result in you having too much fun while driving in a racing game. Pulling around corners requires precise use of hand braking and hitting the gas, otherwise expect to wobble around or possibly spin out.
I found that making very small adjustments proved more difficult than it should have been, as the camera will pan slightly. This will throw off the your viewing angle making you feel like you need to re-adjust, when in actuality you do not. Going into a hard turn, the camera will pan and zoom around the car to get a very cinematic feel, further throwing you off.
Even with all of the game’s faults, the racing is still fun when it is not being frustrating. Weaving in and out of oncoming cars while driving 200 mph is a blast, until one of those incoming cars turns into you and results in a head on collision complete with the slow-mo wreckage. Crashing will use one of your resets and using them all will force you to restart the race from the start. You are able to activate a reset at anytime, so if you miss a turn, feel free to use it and try again.
The game’s trek across the U.S. is a little roundabout and not very direct. It takes you from the hilly streets of San Francisco to a path through the snow-covered Rockies early on. It then shoots north through Yosemite and later has you speeding across the New Jersey Turnpike and even throughout the New York subway system. However, these are some of the best looking environments in a racing game today — each being full of personality and eye-candy. The dull mid-western stages have a certain “edge” to them that isn’t expected as you speed through a cornfield at upwards of 200 mph. There aren’t a lot of branching paths and shortcuts to be found and the few that are there, the A.I. will take most of the times.
The game tried to have a robust online offering with multiple game modes, most which must be unlocked. It also has up to 8 players online, but bugs ruin almost all of the enjoyment here. The game also supports drop in/ drop out support, but why did they do this in a racing I will never know. How is it fun to join a race that started 30 seconds before you joined? Matches are setup into playlists of different tracks, but these playlists suffer from loading bugs. Once the race is over the game has issues trying to load the next race which forces everyone to quit and join a new match.
The Run campaign can be beaten in roughly two hours and in its current state the online has nothing that can save this game from being anything other than a solid weekend rental. Not being able to have matches load is a death sentence for the online community and unless EA fixes this immediately, the number of players online will steadily decline until it’s a barren wasteland. The game’s audio is very well done especially well; the soundtrack really adds to the tension in the tight races. If you plan on only playing through the single player I would recommend to rent the game, but if you want to join the online community I would wait for a price drop. There just isn’t enough here to warrant the full-price admission.Note: Need For Speed: The Run was reviewed on PlayStation 3. A physical copy of the game was purchased by SelectButton.