#365Games37:Need for Speed: The Run – PS3

The Need for Speed series has produced some awesome games over the years, giving you the ability to get behind the wheel of cars you will never see in your life and fly down highways avoiding cops. Dope. It never tried to compete with Gran Turismo in terms of realism but it’s always been solid.

After the previous NFS games received low ratings, the developer Black Box decided to take it’s time with this one (3 years) and create the biggest NFS game to date. They dumped tons of money in a marketing campaign that included a Michael Bay directed trailer and grabbed Christina Hendricks and some Sports Illustrated models to contribute to the game. They went all out.

The plot is fairly generic (from Wiki): “Need for Speed: The Run features a linear story mode, which places the player in the shoes of Jackson “Jack” Rourke. After an incident leaves him in bad standing with a mysterious crime organization, Jack becomes a marked man and must flee for his survival. The consequence of his situation leaves him owing large sums of money, which he cannot pay on his own. He is directed to a massive illegal street racing event called “The Run” by an associate, Sam Harper. The Run is a 3000 mile (4828 km) journey across the continental USA, starting in San Francisco and ending in New York City. She informs him the prize money, $25,000,000, is enough to secure his freedom from the organization, but he has to beat over 200 other drivers to the finish line to win. To complicate things, he is in debt to both the police and the criminal organization, and both want to make sure that he never finishes the race.”

So yeah, you hop behind the wheel of a variety of high-powered vehicles and drive from San Fran to NYC, passing by sort of landmarks and encountering inclement weather, cops, the mafia, helicopters and everything else the game throws at you. It’s like an edgier version of Cannonball Run. To change things up a bit, they’ve introduced these quick time events that take you outside of your vehicle for the first time ever in a NFS game and push buttons as they flash on the screen. It’s kind of lame but at the same time it breaks up the monotony of the game and is used sparingly. They also give you the ability to “rewind” after you hit checkpoints within the stage, so if you crash or just want to redo it, you just rewind it and try again.

The game has solid graphics and the locations look authentic. The Vegas stages with the neon lights reflecting off the car are among the best I’ve seen in a racing game and the avalanche parts in the Colorado stages really get your heart rate up. Driving a Ferrari on icy roads sucks enough but when you have to avoid falling snow and rocks then it gets really ridiculous. The cars have always looked slick and they’ve increased the number of options by including additional color options and body kits. The Countach body kit options are pretty dope. The dopest ever. In the world.

In addition to the coast-to-coast cruising, they have events that are unlocked as you complete stages to open up the game a bit. I’m one of those guys that likes getting behind the wheel of a sports car and drive it around without a time limit or enemies and I could have used a free run.

The gameplay is solid and each car has it’s own unique handling mechanics to increase the challenge and force you to plan your next vehicle before each environment. I often chose the wrong type of vehicle simply because I had no idea what type of stage I was running into and the game only lets you change cars at gas stations that pop up every few levels so I had plenty of issues with torque monsters spinning out on hairpin turns.

It was clear they spent a lot of time on the vehicles and the locations, too bad the actual humans look like crap. Who cares if you used a Sports Illustrated models if their faces are a mess of distorted polygons and they jerk around with awkward movements? I’m not a fan of a butt with sharp angles. You can’t skip the cut scenes either so you have to sit around for a few minutes listening to a story that you don’t care about before you can race again. The game has a few strong stages, either the visuals or the obstacles but those are actually few and far between since you’ll just be driving straight down a highway for most of the game, occasionally dodging cops or guys shooting at you but it starts to blend after awhile and since the story is so bland, the game begins to unravel after a bit. There are also a lot of points where you have to conform to the lame plot so cars you passed minutes ago magically appear in order to initiate another sequence. Lame.

NFS: The Run introduces some new concepts to the game and the graphics are slick but even with all of the terrain it covers it still feels claustrophobic, you never get a chance to fully explore the levels and go anywhere but on the predetermined path. The story weighs it down but the graphics and unique locations balance it out. Average.