November 28, 2011

Need for Speed: The Run Review

Its Novem­ber again, and we all know what that means for rac­ing fans; anoth­er Need for Speed. This year we got some­thing just a bit dif­fer­ent. Last year, Cri­te­ri­on gave us a superb game in Need for Speed: Hot Pur­suit. A sim­ple rac­er full of speed and cop chas­es that hit you pri­mal rac­ing instincts while mak­ing you smile every time you hit the tur­bo but­ton. EA Black Box final­ly gets to take the NFS reins again after the hor­rid NFS Under­cov­er. Could EA Black Box redeem itself with The Run or will we get some­thing more mis­er­able and bro­ken than Under­cov­er? The answer is yes, but not an enthu­si­as­tic yes.
Need for Speed: The Run is an unusu­al exper­i­ment. Mix one third action movie, one third rac­er, and one third action game, bake, and what you have is some­thing that is fun but feels awk­ward. When was the last time you had quick time events in a rac­ing game? I can’t think of one. What EA Black Box has done is tak­en the cop chas­es and rac­ing from Hot Pur­suit added a paper thin sto­ry, and then laid a few Bat­tle­field 3 quick time events for good mea­sure and you have a game that suf­fers from an iden­ti­ty cri­sis. But let’s talk about what it gets right.
The Run’s rac­ing is great. The cars han­dle like they should, the mus­cle cars back ends swing out, the AWD super­cars han­dle like but­ter. The sense of speed is there, but could be bet­ter. The cop chas­es are fun with wild crash­es involved. The visu­als are bril­liant. The game runs on Frost­bite 2, which makes the vista and canons of the good old US of A absolute­ly beau­ti­ful. The only com­plaint I have with the visu­als is the same that I have had with the Frost­bite engine since its incep­tion; the washed out col­ors. The orches­trat­ed score gets the heart pound­ing and keeps the ten­sion up despite the razor thin sto­ry ele­ments. Despite the sto­ry there are some real­ly out­stand­ing set pieces espe­cial­ly the last leg of the race in New York. As much as it frus­trat­ed me I must com­mend Black Box for the over­all designed. The career mode is designed like an action game. You have resets that act as lives, the police road blocks are script­ed, you will deal with tad bit of QTE’s and you can only change cars at gas sta­tions spread out over the race, but still at heart it’s a rac­ing game just like any oth­er game in the genre. The car list is impres­sive but most require a hand­ful of chal­lenges to unlock which can be a pain; and there will be pain.
The first pain to come across is the sto­ry. You take con­trol of Jack Rourke a slight­ly cocky douche that has a debt with some mob and you some­how get pulled into a race across the coun­try for some amount of mon­ey to do some­thing andzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz, yea you see where I am going with this. In a game where it’s being sold as a rac­er with a sto­ry, the sto­ry shouldn’t suck; which it does. The cam­era sucks, but this is just a per­son­al gripe. I nor­mal­ly play rac­ers with the cam­era far­thest from the car; this game doesn’t give me that option. We get two bumper cams and an out of car cam that has me eat­ing the bumper at every turn. Despite hav­ing some excit­ing set pieces half of the game con­sist of rid­ing through some foothills “mak­ing up time” which trans­fers to time tri­als or in oth­er words, filler. Even with the filler it comes to anoth­er prob­lem, it’s short; Call of Duty short. Now this is just the sto­ry, there are chal­lenges to keep you going and unlock­ing cars, but wasn’t the game sell­ing itself on the con­cept of a sto­ry dri­ven rac­er? So if the length is rub­bish and the sto­ry is rub­bish what are you left with? Some great look­ing vis­tas and a good rac­er that has this crap­tac­u­lar sto­ry façade hang­ing over its head. The mul­ti­play­er could have tak­en some hints from Hot Pur­suit as well because The Run is about as fun as hav­ing the runs. You get into a lob­by with 8 oth­er peo­ple and race a series of point to point races; that’s it. Where are the cop chas­es, excit­ing one on one rac­ing from the sto­ry, and where is does all this lag come from; shod­dy mul­ti­play­er design that’s where. There is attack heli­copters shoot­ing at you dur­ing the sto­ry, there is Porsche SUVs with gun tot­ing mob thugs hang­ing out of them dur­ing the sto­ry that shoot at you, there is the infa­mous red tint around the screen show­ing your health dur­ing these chas­es and none of this can be shared with any­one. One last gripe and we shall trot on is the reset sys­tem. I like the idea of a sto­ry rac­er where each race is designed to be a lev­el and with­in that lev­el you only have some many tries to get through it; that is what we call pro­gres­sion and I am a fan of it. What I don’t like is when after your glo­ri­ous death sequence involv­ing your super­car crush­ing itself against some $15,000 Dodge hatch­back and met­al, plas­tic, and glass shards are thrown through­out the air like con­fet­ti, you have to wait at least 5–10 sec­onds at a black screen with a puls­ing rewind but­ton break­ing the action of your high speed met­al twist­ing car­nage. You have enough time to down a 12 oz. can of Moun­tain Dew so that you won’t fall asleep at what is essen­tial­ly a load screen because some­one at Black Box took the day off and failed to keep any sense of immer­sion.
Now, despite my gripes, I did real­ly enjoy the game. The dri­ving was fun, I nev­er had to did­dle with cus­tomiz­ing cars and mak­ing them look “pimp” (I hate pop cul­ture), and there was a real sense of excite­ment dri­ving at 150+ while heli­copters are shoot­ing at you while cops are in pur­suit only to switch to a QTE. There is gen­uine fun to be had with The Run, but the fun is dabbed into the sto­ry instead of the sto­ry bathing in it. This is worlds bet­ter and much clean­er than Black Box­es last effort but my com­plaints are out­weigh­ing the pos­i­tives. The game is worth play­ing if you can get it at a good price or even give it a few days rental. The sto­ry dri­ven rac­er is a unique take on a genre that real­ly hasn’t seen inno­va­tion in quite some time. It’s a unique exper­i­ment that result­ed in a stink bomb rather than a crip­pling explo­sion. With a few tweaks, a prop­er title update, and some worth­while DLC this could be a title I could return to in the future. It’s not a bad game by any means, it just need­ed less time between the excite­ment, a sto­ry that won’t be blown away by a slight breeze, and a fleshed out mul­ti­play­er.
 
+ QTE’s don’t get in the way of the rac­ing
+ There are some tru­ly excit­ing set pieces
+ The games visu­al pre­sen­ta­tion is top notch
+ Mix­ing a sto­ry ele­ment into an arcade rac­er and mak­ing it work
— Reset time is irri­tat­ing
— The sto­ry is paper thin
— The main char­ac­ter is flat and annoy­ing­ly smug
— The main char­ac­ter wasn’t crushed at the begin­ning of the game
— Call of Duty like length
 
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