Less of a run, more of a stumble
It’s no good being a run of the mill wannabe racing driver anymore. If you want to make it in this world, you have to reach new extremes to excel adrenaline rather than simply reach the finish line. Assuming you’ll survive to reach the finale of a race nowadays is considered something of a luxury, what with emphasis placed in bonnet smacking, rockets in windscreens and even structure demolishing in more recent titles. Need For Speed: The Run adores the near-death thrills that seem to be all the rage, but comes across more as a kid trying too hard to be as cool as the crowd than a pioneer in death defying. Waking up tied to a car about to be crushed, it’s pretty clear to see that Jack Rourke is in a whole lot of trouble. He seems to owe a shady group a hell of a lot of money, and his one lifeline lies in what could be his final race. A coast-to-coast pursuit with no rules, no restrictions and a bevy of dirty playing racers in their hundreds. The winner gets lavished in millions of dollars. The losers…well, in Jack’s case, being a loser has rather messy implications. Are we here to hear about some cretin get himself out of an (apparently) severe jam though? No, and The Run is always quick to remind us why we shouldn’t give a damn. Though you’re clearly in some money worries, there’s no in depth reason as to why this criminal organisation is chasing Jack across the whole country, characterisation doesn’t so much take a back-seat as much as an ejector seat and Jack himself is about as likeable as an Only Way Is Essex star mugging you of both your wallet and your dignity. He’s clearly in a hell of a lot of trouble, but with the lack of elaboration, you begin to question the point of even having a story. Perhaps people just want a bullet in his head for the reasoning that he’s so unlikeable. He loses places in the race because he gets distracted by bums, he mumbles all his pathetic cliché one liners to his car like a sexually depraved nutcase and whenever he gets weather warnings such as ‘Watch out, it’s snowing!’ in the middle of a blizzard, he responds as if it’s genuinely useful information. Every time a QTE flashed up and gave me the opportunity to rid the race of one more douche, I gladly sat back and left the controller to rumble in his demise. Yes, you read that right; Quick Time Events. Occasionally you’ll be forced out of the car and into exceptionally forced action sequences. In theory, these are meant to be tightly directed button timing sequences that have you gawking as the police attempt to beat you down and helicopters try to turn you into a stumbling mess of bullet-holes. In reality, they just serve as rather dull mechanics to shoehorn in bullets and sirens, and don’t help break the gameplay away from its already rather scripted feel. They can, however, provide some hilarious prat fall deaths should you get them wrong.
For every moment I held my breath back in tension, I had to grace 50 or so miles of the blankest of roads
Apologies for leaving driving analysis so late here, but as half-arsed story elements are shoved so hard in your face it feels like actual gameplay has to take a back-seat. The whole of The Run proudly boasts itself as Fast & Furious collided with Michael Bay’s brain. There are some fantastic little segments where your adrenaline is genuinely zipping to your thumbs in a bid to survive. There were even some brilliant moments where I found myself drifting around bends teetering over mountaintops. Pity these sections are so far apart from each other. The Run follows that annoying trailer trend where you see all the best bits in the previews, and when your adrenaline is on sky high levels and your craving to defy death just one more time, you skid onto 20 miles of open road. That sounds like a nice prospect if you inserted that as a cliché song lyric, but in reality, miles of straight tarmac is about as exciting as going freckle spotting on your friends faces as they sleep. It doesn’t help that the final segments of the game leading up to New York are set on a bloody motorway. The ring road leading off the M23 does a better job spurring excitement than some of the closing segments of the game (mainly because there’s a service station there with a cracking Krispy Kreme/Costa combo). When you are actually tackling the lack of bends, skidding around is smooth and compensates that action movie feel the game tries to rile up. Other factors weigh in that add to the dramatic chases, however result in more suspicious climaxes. Dodging police roadblocks is all very exciting, but attempting to smack other drivers or police vehicles off the road leaves them standing tall defiantly, as if they were destined to lose in some other way. Sure enough, you find suspicious amounts of opponents moronically drift into roadblocks like they’re comforting vehicular cuddles allowing you to breeze into first. Every time you approaching the final legs of a race, you always seem to be second, before the dominating opponent brakes for no apparent reason allowing you to take the win, regardless of difficulty. It’s easily noticeable, and soon you begin to grow suspicious of each late breaking win. Thanks to the bumper car like physics and the severe lack of competition, the script feels like it’s trying to worm its way into your controller and snap the interactive element out of your hands. Problem is, it’s very hard to justify spending £40 on something that’s trying so hard to be a predictable film. Just because the tracks are rather monotonous in design doesn’t mean to say their surroundings match, though. Yes…the closing segments are on a motorway, but before that each area you enter is a true testament to the extreme conditions you’re up against. The bright lights of Vegas contrast with the sun blessed forests of Pennsylvania, and the beauty of the icy mountains you’ll have to tackle almost make you forget how deadly they become. As racing come accompanied by a soundtrack that sounds like it’s lifted from every single season of 24, the roar of engines and the ever increasing pitches of violins begins to sound somewhat generic over time, but it certainly fits with the tension the game is-bless it, trying-to build. One feature that seems to be becoming a staple mode for the NFS series is the ‘Autolog’ function, and its compulsive competitive record tracking is something of a saviour. Seeing how much I was owning my pals best times or helplessly flagging is the only thing that got me from start to finish in the coast-to-coast campaign. Usually a solo mode that only lasts 3 hours long at best would usually infuriate those who have shelled out, but record breaking addicts will most likely attempt to defeat the game as quickly as possible. The fairly unique set-up respectively doesn’t work in other regards. Demolish yourself in a race, and you won’t spawn straight away to start again. You’ll be forced to rewind to a checkpoint, having to replay the same sections of race over again, often dull segments of field ridden paths or unfairly traffic cluttered roadways that crushed you in the first place. It’s ironic that a title that proclaims its desire for speed will stop at nothing to hinder your progress after a crash even further. You can’t pick a car on a whim, rather at pre-determined stages or passing through se
rvice stations. As such, with barely anything to unlock along with the general feel that anything you pick can slay anyone, it’s hard to find your high speed trek rather rewarding. If you grow addicted to exhaust fumes just as the credits roll, however, there is an extra challenge mode to participate in standard races to grab some medals to boost the old ego. Competitors thankfully have more of a mind of their own in these races, but tracks have the exact same problem, even new ones thrown in fail to thrill with the murky demeanour and lack of adding challenging bends possibly in immature fear of being called gay. Despite being a more conventional format, it only highlights the dull A.I. that occupies the story. Fundamentally, we have a good Need For Speed game here. It’s just elements that are rather familiar have been done better in older titles and new additions are plain rubbish. I appreciate it trying to add some spice to the now overly familiar career racing modes, but for every moment I held my breath back in tension, I had to grace 50 or so miles of the blankest of roads as if I was indebted to them. More and more racing games are trying to get your blood pumping in more and more ridiculous ways these days, and you’re left free to improvise carnage in a bid to make it to the finish line. Need For Speed: The Run however, forceably chucks action sequences down your throat, leaving the racing to become as natural as Scaletrix and ironically comes off duller as a result. If you and your pals feel deprived of an NFS title, then this will surely dampen your thirst somewhat. Otherwise, this is only a merging of sub-par ideas pulled off with maximum style, minimum finesse.
The Bad: Ridiculously scripted feeling races, Dull track design, Incredibly vague story populated by extremely dislikeble cretins