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PS3 Review – Need for Speed: The Run

November 16, 2011 Written by Louis Edwards

The Need for Speed series has been around a long time, and is now split into two distinct camps. For the simulation lovers out there, you have the Shift series, and for the old school NFS racers, you have games like Most Wanted, Underground, and Hot Pursuit. Need for Speed: The Run falls into the latter category and is clearly geared towards those fans.

The story opens up on the Embarcadero in San Francisco. You play as Jack Rourke. A man that is caught up in some big trouble with some bad people, and needs fast cash to get out of it. A female friend, Sam Harper, gets in touch with him with an opportunity to make the cash he so desperately needs. All he has to do is race coast-to-coast, from San Fran to the Big Apple, and beat out the other 199 drivers and get to the finish line first.

The story takes you through real-life locations, which is a first in a NFS game. The streets of San Francisco look like the real thing, so much so I found myself crashing while looking at familiar landmarks. You’ll find yourself running through Death Valley at top speeds, navigating through dust storms and dirt devils. Then on through Vegas and into the Rocky Mountains. Aspen may be great for skiing and snowboarding, but squeezing through avalanches at 180MPH isn’t always a great idea in a race car. Then you’re on to The Great Plains where you’ll be cutting through cornfields and dodging traffic jams caused by slow-moving tractors. Traveling into Chicago and around the Great Lakes is a welcome change of scenery from the Plains. New Jersey looks nicer than what the former governor of New York would have us believe. Then onto the Big Apple, where the finish line awaits.

The race is broken up into ten separate stages. Each stage is then separated into smaller races, which you’ll have to complete in order to progress on to the next stage. The overall standings in the race are key to completing the game. You’ll have to reach a certain number before reaching a specific city, and all of the races will aid you in this. Reach the top 150 before getting to Vegas, or you’re done. Get to the finish line first, or you lose. There is no second place, only a first loser. If you do fail there are checkpoints along the race, and depending on your difficulty settings, a set number of “Resets” that will take you back to your previous checkpoint. This also works great if you happen to cruise head on into a tree, underpass, or telephone pole.

The races are your standards for NFS. – with four main types. The key to winning is moving up in the standings, so the first type is your basic ‘Finish First’ race. You’ll have to overtake from 5-10 drivers depending on which stage you are on. The ‘Make up Time’ race is a check point race that has you moving from checkpoint to checkpoint at a high rate of speed, dodging traffic and staying on the road. There are also a few “Rival Races” where you’ll face off against one or two other racers and each rival has their own back story.

The most annoying race is when you mix in cops, and in Chicago, mob driven SUV’s. These types of races seem to give the enemy AI much more powerful vehicles and a serious determination to take you out. These guys will come at you head-on, throwing caution to the air-bags, with no concern for their own life. I understand that’s their job in the game, but if I’m cruising at 200MPH and one of these guys blow by me like I’m standing still (and I’m still going 200MPH), then slam on their brakes and have me t-bone them – something’s not right. Oh, and those mob guys in Chicago, they also have guns to go with their brain damage.

EA’s Blackbox Studios is the first company to use a first person shooter gaming engine, Frostbite 2,  in a racing game. The reason for this is they wanted to allow you, the driver, to be able to actually leave your car. This isn’t an open world game a’ la GTA, though. You’ll be leaving your car using quick-time button presses, and then running on foot also using button presses, and then performing other feats, also with button presses. This was a great idea, initially, but seems to have lost something in translation. The tools were there for the developer to have us actually move the character along his linear path, but they decided to do that for us. You’ll only be a spectator as Jack runs along, but pay attention as the buttons will pop up on the screen and missed presses are unforgiving.

The graphics for the game are impressive. From the streets of San Francisco, all the way to the lights of the Big Apple, attention to detail was paid nicely. You can see ice patches on snow-covered roads, and are able to adjust your driving accordingly. Driving through the woods of a state park, it’s clear to see which season you are in, with the leaves changing colors and falling on the roadway. Cornfields, barns, warehouses, everything is detailed. You can even see the farmer behind the wheel of the oh-so-slow tractor.

Each race section is designed to fit the area you are currently in. San Francisco has its well-known hills. Death Valley looks hot, somewhat flat, and dusty. The foothills of the Rockies will have snow flurries flying, and the hills getting steeper and steeper. Windy mountain roads will eventually give way to flat-out high-speed racing in the Great Plains. All of the tracks are strictly point-A to point-B style races, so no lap racing here. Once each stage is completed, you can go back to any stage through Stage Select and try to achieve a better time. All of your times are automatically uploaded through EA’s Autolog system, and you can see how you match up against people on your friends list.

Each stage is designed to be raced using a certain type of car. The cars each handle differently, and some are much better than others. Keep in mind that this is an arcade game and not a simulation game. Realism wasn’t the aim of the developers, and, the Shift series aside, most NFS fans can understand that. Muscle cars are great for flat out racing in the Plains, but you may want to switch cars before heading into a section of winding mountain roads. There are gas stations along your path that can be driven into that allows you to choose which car you want to use. Cars are unlocked as you reach a higher rank and as you complete events in the Challenge Series. As you rank up you also unlock faster nitrous recharging, the ability to draft, and a larger nitrous tank.

As you complete each stage of the race, a series of Challenge Races are unlocked for that stage. These are a series of races ranging in race style. Medals are earned based on your finishing times, and go from Bronze to Platinum. Rewards also may include cars that can then be used in the story. With more than 50 challenge races available, it will take quite some time to get through them all.

The cars look amazing. Real licensed cars are used, and the names are easily recognized. Ford GT, Chevy Z06, Porsche, Lamborghini, Aston Martin. The list is long and the cars look great. There is a small level of customization with some of the cars. You can choose between different body kits but it has no real effect on the handling. You can also choose between different body colors. The developer did a great job of reproducing the cars to a nice level of detail. A few cars seem a little more powerful than they should be (I’m looking at you mid 70′s El Camino that goes 200MPH) but for the most part they seem balanced and are fun to drive.

Online multiplayer allows up to 16 players at once. It is split into six different game type playlists. These are Supercar Challenge, NFS Edition Racing, The Underground, Mixed Competition, Exotic Sprint, and Muscle Car Battles. Each race is specific to a car type with Mixed Competition being a mix of everything. There is also a voting system between rounds so everyone can decide what’s next. After each round a Bonus Wheel is spun and randomly selects a reward and a required goal to go with it.

The Need for Speed series has taken a few twists and turns over the years, but the arcade versions have always tried to stick to the basic formulas. Need for Speed: The Run takes this formula and improves upon it. Adding in real world environments, with real world cities and landmarks, gives the game a real world feel.

PlayStation LifeStyle’s Final Score


+ Incredible City Level Detail

+ High Number of Challenges to Keep You Racing for a Long Time

+ Enough Cars to Keep Almost Everyone Happy

7 out of 10

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