Thursday, 26 July 2012

The need to run

Need for Speed The Run

EA's Need for Speed series is one of the gaming industry’s largest racing franchises. Through the years there have been many titles under the brand and many types of racing games. The most prominent features though, have been the races on open roads with traffic through nature landscapes and police cars trying to stop you.

I recall as I'm writing this blog entry some previous NFS nostalgia through the years. From the first games back on PC, to the (at the time) next gen Hot Pursuit 2 on PS2 with awesome surround sound and the Underground game that fused the NFS series with the popular Fast and the Furious movies and rain soaked cityscapes at night. Think over-the-top neon lights, bling rims and plastic body kits. NFS went serious again in, probably my most favourite in the series, ProStreet. It kept the styling options from Underground and went semi-realistic on the driving. Last entry before The Run was a return to Hot Pursuit which although went back to basics in the franchise, it went very repetitive fast.

Perhaps this fear for repetition and an impatient action orientated gaming audience sparked the idea for The Run. It's a different approach to a racing game altogether, originality and a daring idea, yet it goes back to its NFS roots very well.

My favourite: A Shelby Mustang GT500 NFS Edition and it actually exists!

The game introduces you to Jack, who in all fairness to his cocky attitude and appearance is, well, a complete douchebag. Yet something about his smirk and stupid comments, combined with idiotic behaviour made me kind of like him. He has come into bad company and must race across the US of endless roads A (to B) to win a race offered by his beautiful associate (Sam) to pay off his debts. Yes, Sam is so obviously played and modelled after the stunning Christina Hendricks from Mad Men tv-show fame. Their friendship is a one of radio chatter with a caring Sam giving you heads up about tricky parts and your standings in the coast-to-coast tournament and Jack usually replying in a laid back and over-confident manner.

Sam, voiced and modelled after the stunning Christina Hendricks.

The scenes depicting these characters are all in-game, very impressive, and usually contain some easy QTE which lead again to some racing. The very idea behind these are great and set The Run apart from many other racers, in fact it looks and plays like an action movie. The on-foot segments give a nice break from the racing and give some tension to what Jack is going through reaching the end of the race.

Jack being, as he knows best, a complete douchebag towards a cop.

The race from one coast to the other consist of stages, these again contain stretches of road which you must either gain places in the race, make up lost time, fight (ed. race) a rival, elimination type races or simply try to outlive the forces of nature. The race being always from A to B lets you never drive the same road and really gives way for some serious variation in the landscapes.

The Frostbite 2 engine renders landscapes at a large scale very well.

At first I thought the Frostbite 2 engine (think Battlefield 3) wouldn't fit a racing game, the textures for one looking a bit muddy close up for important racing game surfaces like let’s say: the road! But it's the scale of the cities you arrive at, the huge mountains you pass or a whole bloody avalanche nearly wiping you off the road that made me see how great the game looks and needs such a diverse engine to run it. The Run is a really pretty game and it gives you a ton of very diverse scenery. Either it’s detailed cities, highways past grassy hills, traversing dusty canyons, slipping on ice covered roads in the Rockies or sunlight reaching through autumn coloured orange woodlands. It kind of reminds me of NFS 4 High Stakes in its colour scheme and nature filled tracks.

Be prepared to fight mother nature as well as your opponents.

There are issues though. The game takes two or three hours to complete, a lifespan they easily could have increased be forcing you to do some circuit racing along the way and even letting you race all the way back over the US for fun. Even an expert mode where you actually have to gain all the places in the race without being forced to re-race races you didn't make the amount of places would have been great. The handling is as usual in an arcade NFS game far too floaty and sometimes feels as if you are just being carried through each subtle cornered track without much input or control. I found it more real than the last game though.

A beautiful red Chevrolet Camaro, indeed.

The Run really appealed to me, I loved the concept, the stupid story and the sheer variation in its locations. The idea of racing through a whole country was amazing. It could have been such a truly great game with a little more time spent on the development of its replay value. At best it's a fantastic and original racer which feels like a movie, at worst it's a bargain bin game giving you a small handful of gaming hours.



No comments:

Post a Comment