Product Type: Electronic Arts PS3 games
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Run for the Hills
Need for Speed: The Run (PS3)
Member Name: SWSt
Need for Speed: The Run (PS3)
Advantages: Fast and fun racing, impressive sense of speed
Disadvantages: Linear gameplay can feel very restrictive, not the greatest challenge
The Need for Speed series is a long-established and highly successful racing franchise. The Run, however, takes it in a slightly new direction which sees you taking part in an illegal road race from San Francisco to New York. The prize? A cool £25 million dollars. Surely that's got to be worth risking your No Claims Bonus for?
The Run is split into 10 different stages covering the route from San Fran to New York, with each stage consisting of four or five different races. Unlike traditional racing games (which require you to get from point A to point B finishing in the highest position possible), The Run is more mission based. In order to complete a stage, you don't need to finish first, but must achieve certain goals (pass a certain number of cars, reach checkpoints within a time limit, catch up with a specific driver).
This is a slightly different approach and is a lot of fun, although it won't appeal to racing purists and it would be nice if there were a little more straightforward racing involved. The objective-based approach does sometimes feel a little linear. For example, on some levels, you have to reach a certain race position (150th) by a certain point. This sounds like a challenge, but it's not really: if you work your way through the levels, you cannot fail to be in that position by that crucial point. Similarly, some levels require you to overtake a certain number of cars. If you manage to do that, you can't further improve your race position by over-taking other cars on that level - you can only overtake the number of cars required to meet the prescribed objective. Sometimes, it can feel as though your progress is being too carefully managed and controlled and whilst the structured approach provided by the narrative is good, a more meaningful Free Roam option would have been nice. As it is, once you've completed Story Mode, there's no real incentive to ever play it again.
This impacts on the game in another way. Since there is a fixed objective for each level, they also tend to be quite short. On the one hand, this is a good thing: it makes the game more accessible if you want a quick race, but don't have much time. On the other hand, it also makes the game feel rather bitty, as you race for a few minutes then have to wait for the next level to load up. And loading times in The Run are a real issue. For every 5 minutes of gaming time, expect to spend 2-3 minutes sitting staring at the screen waiting for the next level to load.
On the other hand, the objective-based gaming is a positive thing. You feel like there is a real point to all the racing and get a genuine sense of achievement and progression from completing a level - you actually feel like you are that bit closer to your target of finishing first in New York. It also makes the game highly addictive. Every time I failed a level, I hit Retry; every time I beat one, I was anxious to see what came next.
It's a shame that the action is sometimes interrupted by some pointless interactive cut-scenes which require you to press a specific button at a specific time in order to escape from a hazardous (non-driving) situation. This is curiously at odds with the arcade racing in the rest of the game. It was presumably included to add a bit of variety, but for me they have no place in a racing game and simply didn't work.
It's fair to say that The Run is not the most difficult of games. There is a generous use of Resets so that if you fail you can have another go from the last checkpoint, without having to repeat the entire level. Checkpoints are also liberally scattered around so you never have to repeat too much of what you have already done. In theory, Resets are limited but you get a generous amount on each stage (depending on the difficulty level selected) and start with a fresh allocation on every new stage.
What can be frustrating is the inconsistency with which resets are applied (since they are triggered automatically). On some levels, you can come to a stop or be driving off-road for several seconds but be allowed to carry on. On other levels, going off the beaten track for even a nanosecond triggers an automatic reset, eating into the number you have available and meaning you have to re-trace your steps.
On the plus side, The Run looks fantastic. Whilst some of the figures occasionally look a little jerky and artificial, the cars themselves are stunning and the cut-scenes that help move the story along also look good. The scenery appears extremely realistic and some well-known landmarks have been faithfully reproduced. Racing under the famous Chicago Railway Bridge is a real highlight and allows you to recreate your own French Connection moment!
Not that you'll have much time to look at the scenery. The Run travels at a blisteringly fast pace. It might sound a no-brainer that a racing game needs to be fast, but I've come across a fair few in my time that have chugged along at a frustratingly slow pace. The speed of The Run makes for an exhilarating experience.
Sound, too, is top notch with full speech, a satisfying roar of car engines and the pained squealing of metal when you crash. Ambient sound (other car engines, the honk of horns from indignant drivers as you cut them up) adds to the overall sense of atmosphere.
Controls are nice and easy to pick up with just a few buttons used. More importantly, they feel right - your fingers naturally fall onto these buttons. Controls are easy to pick up but very comfortable for longer games. Crucially, they are highly responsive and give you a high degree of control over your car. If you crash into something, it's usually your fault!
The cars themselves handle like a dream and all behave slightly differently. With a bit of practice, you'll start to develop a feel for the handling of each and prefer certain cars because they suit your style of driving (you can unlock extra cars and change cars at certain points in the game). Sure, the physics are probably not the most realistic real-world ones and the game is definitely an arcade racer rather than a simulation. That's fine for me, though, since I prefer the arcade approach of The Run over more technical titles like Gran Turismo. When I sit down to play a game, I generally want a blast of arcade action to take my mind off the stresses and strains of the day. The Run fits the bill perfectly.
New copies can be picked up for around £15; second hand copies a little bit cheaper. Whilst I wouldn't have wanted to pay the original full price (£40) for it, I'm more than happy with the game I got for the money I spent.
(c) Copyright SWSt 2013
Summary: Fun for a quick blast, but not much long term challenge
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