Need for Speed The Run is Quick Time Uneventful «

A skintight-jumpsuit-clad Catherine Bach hoists open the door of a white Lamborghini Countach, pastes the number “155″ over the speed limit sign, and then turns to offer a cheeky wave to the pursuing highway patrolman before slinking back into her supercar and disappearing over the horizon in the blink of an eye. This is not a scene from Need for Speed: The Run — but perhaps it should be.

Instead, The Run takes an awkwardly serious approach to its story, eschewing the over-the-top fun and wackiness of its clear inspirations — movies like the Cannonball Run series and classic arcade games like Cruis’n USA –to deliver a cross-country campaign that’s sometimes exhilarating, but often frustrating and surprisingly banal.

Click the image above to check out all Need for Speed: The Run screens.

Assuming the role of hotshot driver Jack Rourke, you enter The Run: a winner-take-all race with a $25 million dollar purse. Jack desperately needs that loot to pay back a substantial debt he owes the mob, and… actually, that’s about as deep as the story gets.

You’d never guess the setup was quite that inconsequential by the way it’s presented, however. Elaborate cut-scenes featuring Hollywood talent like Christina Hendricks punctuate the racing action, and are periodically accompanied by some limited quick time events. For as much as these QTE sequences were talked about following The Run’s E3 trailer, they amount to very little in the game. There are only three or four such segments — which last seconds apiece.

Behind the wheel, The Run has quite a lot in common with its ancestors. It feels very much like the earliest Need for Speed games and, at times, even the Road Rash series. Those games had a sort of rhythm to them as you weaved your way through the minimal traffic their ancient host systems were able to generate. The Run has a similar vibe, especially as you make your way through the mostly barren Midwestern US. You can practically count off the oncoming cars like a metronome: car, two, three, four, car, two, three, four…

The handling of the cars works perfectly in those scenarios — weaving though sparse traffic and softly undulating roads lets you wind up your vehicle to some dizzying speeds. But when the action turns a bit more technical and tight, the handling of the cars breaks down. All the rides in The Run have a fairly stiff, heavy feel to them, which is hardly ideal for an arcade racer. Speeding through switchbacks or swerving to avoid the police, you’ll wish things were a little more nimble and responsive.

This is especially true when you consider the way The Run plays loose with its racing rules. Crashing your car or going off road in The Run results in a “rewind,” which is not really a rewind in the sense that most racing games use it — in this case it’s the game’s name for resetting you to a checkpoint (after watching a loading screen for about ten seconds). Oddly, sometimes the game will call for a rewind when you’ve barely left the shoulder of the road and are recovering. Other times, you can veer pretty wildly off course without triggering a rewind. Similarly, it’s often unclear which obstacles your car can crash through with no ill effects, and which ones will spell your doom. I’ve plowed right through some pretty good-sized trees and hardly slowed down, and then been brought to a screeching halt by an unassuming lamppost.

If there’s one thing The Run really excels at, it’s in presenting a broad array of beautiful environments to speed through. One of the main benefits of the point-to-point, cross-country race concept is that you get to experience a Reader’s Digest version of the nation’s geography. And Black Box has leveraged the Frostbite 2 engine rather masterfully to bring that geography to life. From towering waterfalls to urban landscapes, everything is recreated in such an impressive fashion that I found myself frequently pausing the game to take screenshots.

A portion of those environments — though not nearly enough — feature some scripted environmental hazards for you to navigate through. There’s an exciting man-made avalanche and a blinding dust storm to challenge your driving skills. And then there’s Cleveland. I won’t say what happens in Cleveland, but I will say that it’s downright bizarre. The problem with all these environmental effects, however, is that they pale in comparison to the ones we’ve already played through in games like Split/Second and Motorstorm Apocalypse. And since they only happen in a few of the game’s stages, you’re left with the preponderance of the game being kind of stale and, well, boring.

It’s also quite short. I finished the story in around two-and-a-half hours (3,000 miles in 150 minutes–not too shabby!), and I suspect some people might do so in under two hours. I won’t go so far as to say that’s not enough content for the singleplayer campaign, but I will say that I was instantly reminded of EA recently carving off the three-hour story portion of Fight Night Champion and offering it up as a five-dollar standalone download. It makes you wonder.

With the story polished off, there are still a whole slew of challenge series for you to tackle, each with a specific set of conditions and/or cars required to complete them and earn medals. All these challenges, and indeed your accomplishments in the campaign, are tied to Need for Speed’s now ubiquitous Autolog system, so you can track who’s the top driver among your friends.

The online multiplayer is a fun, if straightforward, group of playlists which contains its own set of objectives and unlocks. You can join races in progress–a nice alternative to waiting in a lobby for your turn to play, and the game keeps the races close by granting additional nitrous to the driver in last place (a concept that’s sure to have some folks breaking out the word “rubberband”).

I think I was about halfway across Wisconsin in The Run when I realized where I had positioned my Porsche to react to the challenges ahead, and it was in the same position I find The Run itself: middle of the road.

A skintight-jumpsuit-clad Catherine Bach hoists open the door of a white Lamborghini Countach, pastes the number “155″ over the speed limit sign, and then turns to offer a cheeky wave to the pursuing highway patrolman before slinking back into her supercar and disappearing over the horizon in the blink of an eye. This is not a scene from Need for Speed: The Run — but perhaps it should be.Instead, The Run takes an awkwardly serious approach to its story, eschewing the over-the-top fun and wackiness of its clear inspirations — movies like the Cannonball Run series and classic arcade games like Cruis’n USA –to deliver a cross-country campaign that’s sometimes exhilarating, but often frustrating and surprisingly banal.

Click the image above to check out all Need for Speed: The Run screens.

Assuming the role of hotshot driver Jack Rourke, you enter The Run: a winner-take-all race with a $25 million dollar purse. Jack desperately needs that loot to pay back a substantial debt he owes the mob, and… actually, that’s about as deep as the story gets.

You’d never guess the setup was quite that inconsequential by the way it’s presented, however. Elaborate cut-scenes featuring Hollywood talent like Christina Hendricks punctuate the racing action, and are periodically accompanied by some limited quick time events. For as much as these QTE sequences were talked about following The Run’s E3 trailer, they amount to very little in the game. There are only three or four such segments — which last seconds apiece.

Behind the wheel, The Run has quite a lot in common with its ancestors. It feels very much like the earliest Need for Speed games and, at times, even the Road Rash series. Those games had a sort of rhythm to them as you weaved your way through the minimal traffic their ancient host systems were able to generate. The Run has a similar vibe, especially as you make your way through the mostly barren Midwestern US. You can practically count off the oncoming cars like a metronome: car, two, three, four, car, two, three, four…

The handling of the cars works perfectly in those scenarios — weaving though sparse traffic and softly undulating roads lets you wind up your vehicle to some dizzying speeds. But when the action turns a bit more technical and tight, the handling of the cars breaks down. All the rides in The Run have a fairly stiff, heavy feel to them, which is hardly ideal for an arcade racer. Speeding through switchbacks or swerving to avoid the police, you’ll wish things were a little more nimble and responsive.

This is especially true when you consider the way The Run plays loose with its racing rules. Crashing your car or going off road in The Run results in a “rewind,” which is not really a rewind in the sense that most racing games use it — in this case it’s the game’s name for resetting you to a checkpoint (after watching a loading screen for about ten seconds). Oddly, sometimes the game will call for a rewind when you’ve barely left the shoulder of the road and are recovering. Other times, you can veer pretty wildly off course without triggering a rewind. Similarly, it’s often unclear which obstacles your car can crash through with no ill effects, and which ones will spell your doom. I’ve plowed right through some pretty good-sized trees and hardly slowed down, and then been brought to a screeching halt by an unassuming lamppost.

If there’s one thing The Run really excels at, it’s in presenting a broad array of beautiful environments to speed through. One of the main benefits of the point-to-point, cross-country race concept is that you get to experience a Reader’s Digest version of the nation’s geography. And Black Box has leveraged the Frostbite 2 engine rather masterfully to bring that geography to life. From towering waterfalls to urban landscapes, everything is recreated in such an impressive fashion that I found myself frequently pausing the game to take screenshots.

A portion of those environments — though not nearly enough — feature some scripted environmental hazards for you to navigate through. There’s an exciting man-made avalanche and a blinding dust storm to challenge your driving skills. And then there’s Cleveland. I won’t say what happens in Cleveland, but I will say that it’s downright bizarre. The problem with all these environmental effects, however, is that they pale in comparison to the ones we’ve already played through in games like Split/Second and Motorstorm Apocalypse. And since they only happen in a few of the game’s stages, you’re left with the preponderance of the game being kind of stale and, well, boring.

It’s also quite short. I finished the story in around two-and-a-half hours (3,000 miles in 150 minutes–not too shabby!), and I suspect some people might do so in under two hours. I won’t go so far as to say that’s not enough content for the singleplayer campaign, but I will say that I was instantly reminded of EA recently carving off the three-hour story portion of Fight Night Champion and offering it up as a five-dollar standalone download. It makes you wonder.With the story polished off, there are still a whole slew of challenge series for you to tackle, each with a specific set of conditions and/or cars required to complete them and earn medals. All these challenges, and indeed your accomplishments in the campaign, are tied to Need for Speed’s now ubiquitous Autolog system, so you can track who’s the top driver among your friends.

The online multiplayer is a fun, if straightforward, group of playlists which contains its own set of objectives and unlocks. You can join races in progress–a nice alternative to waiting in a lobby for your turn to play, and the game keeps the races close by granting additional nitrous to the driver in last place (a concept that’s sure to have some folks breaking out the word “rubberband”).

I think I was about halfway across Wisconsin in The Run when I realized where I had positioned my Porsche to react to the challenges ahead, and it was in the same position I find The Run itself: middle of the road.

 

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