When EA first showed off Need for Speed: The Run, I was in the audience at their press conference at E3 2011. What was shown was a series of quick time events followed by a short racing sequence. I was pissed. While I was a fan of the series back in its prime during the Hot Pursuit and Porche Unleashed years on the PC, the more recent installments didn’t hold me the same way. So as I reluctantly fired up my review copy of Need for Speed: The Run I was pleasantly surprised to find this game had more in common with some of my favorites of the series than previously thought.
Need for Speed: Then Run puts you in the shoes of Jack Rourke, a dude on the run from the mob. He owes them a lot of money and apparently the best way to get it is to race across the country in a 3000 mile event with a few million dollar cash prize. After an initial quick time event sequence in which you escape a car compactor...there isn’t another for quite some time.
Instead it’s immediately off to the races, literally, as you start your trek from San Francisco to New York City. I said before this game shares similarities with games of the past and the biggest reason for this is the point to point races with shortcuts. Gone are the odd tracks created from pieces of a city, instead are finely tuned racing area with awesome shortcuts and environmental set pieces to avoid like avalanches and more. This gives you a much greater sense of speed and adds to the excitement.
The game isn’t just about straight up racing either, in one race type you might need to pass a certain number of vehicles while another has you racing head to head against an opponent. Still others provide a checkpoint like system where you need to make up time all one trying to move from spot 250 up to #1.
The tracks themselves offer a pretty good variety as you move from locale to locale. Each area of the country seems well represented, and even things like the mid-west’s plains end up providing a unique experience despite a bunch of flat land. The game also mixes things up by throwing cops into the mix, recreating the “hot pursuit” factor.
If there was one disappointing thing with Need for Speed: The Run, it’s the loss of focus on the actual cars themselves, there’s very little reason to use different cars through most of the game, and for the most part I drove the entire game with just two different vehicles. That’s not to say that others aren’t available, you can switch at anytime by driving into a gas station, I just never felt compelled to do it.
Need for Speed: The Run surprised me with it’s almost retro like feel and a return to arcade racing for the series. In a way it’s like Cruisin USA meets Need for Speed, which in my mind, is a good thing. With a $40 price point now and the inclusion of an Autolog feature for real time leaderboards against friends, Need for Speed: The Run is a great value and a worthy addition to the series. It's out now on the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC.
Score: 4 out of 5