Preview

Need for Speed: The Run Preview (PC)

As a brand, it's fair to say Need for Speed has become disillusioned. While Hot Pursuit unleashed an adrenaline-fuelled police chase on the world, Shift 2 followed up by penalising players with simulation like rules. It seems EA are content with developing all kinds of racers and throwing them together under the Need for Speed banner. Although this ensures we'll receive annual iterations at the very least, it also means the notion of 'quality over quantity' isn't always adhered to. With the announcement of The Run, and the revelation that players will step outside the car for the first time, EA intend to mix proceedings up even further.
 

Even this screenshot sums up the horrible lack of focus when driving at speed...
Unfortunately, during my preview time with The Run, none of these sections were on offer. As a group of journalists bumbled into the swanky Audi garage opposite The Ritz Hotel, it's fair to say there wasn't a great deal of optimism present. After pleasantries were exchanged, and the winners of the NFS UK Spokes model competition were announced, it was finally time to get hands on with the game.

Even for a distinctly early code, The Run is showing itself to have many problems. The premise for this title is hugely intriguing, as players participate in one long race from San Francisco to New York. Instead of winning on individual tracks, the objective of each section is to pass a certain number of opponents. During my time with the Buried Alive and Run for the Hills levels, I was dropped into the race at around the 140th mark. With a few miles to cover, the objective was then to pass at least ten cars. Failing to do so meant the section had to be replayed, indicating that EA are implementing a Fight Night Champion like narrative into the mix. While each part of the game feels traditional in the sense it forces you to come first, it also provides a grand scale to the racer that is often overlooked. Making your way through the pack, it's easy to feel part of something bigger than a one-off street race against random driver number six.

The A.I opponents aren't pushovers, either. Stray too close to the edge of a cliff, and expect them to put the boot in. At this stage, there wasn't much of a tussle to be had, as EA made it clear the collision system was too sensitive. They were right too, as a minor crash could send my vehicle heading for a nearby wall as if it was being driven by George Michael. It's important the developers picked up on this, as The Run currently suffers from the lack of a good old fashioned tussle. It would have been nice for this to be ironed out before the preview took place, but alas, it wasn't to be.
 
Care are beautifl abd sleek though, as you would expect
The problems didn't stop there, however. Visually, the game isn't on par with previous Need for Speed instalments. Textures are grainy, the sense of speed is less than convincing, and the whole title needs a severe make-over before release. This isn't a huge fault right now, especially as The Run suffers with other defects that look set to hamper it's early reputation. Most instantly noticeable is the lack of flair through each track design. Sure, Buried Alive tried to mix things up by throwing in mini-avalanches and the risk of ...err...being buried alive, but it was hardly original. MotorStorm Apocalypse and Split/Second have done this with more confidence, adding to the feeling that The Run doesn't know what it wants to be.

From what I experienced, this title can be extremely exciting, but a number of design flaws limit the fun. Racing games often include a rewind feature, letting players zip back a few seconds after a crash. This is usually helpful for regaining momentum and getting back into the mix without the hassle of losing many places. When EA decided to implement this into The Run, they obviously felt the needed to tamper with it, probably citing that they need to find another gimmick in the bid for originality. Rewinding time in The Run is exactly that. If you crash, the option to literally suck a few seconds off of your lap time is put in place. Players get a number of attempts to make their lap as perfect as they can, and while this seems fair on the surface, it actually breaks the function of the game.

The Run doesn't reward those who can get through the track without any crashes, it throws better first-time driving back in their face. It's likely that the person who crashed twice and took four minutes to complete the race will actually finish higher than a player who had a perfect sprint and took three minutes. By yanking back the time after their crashes, sloppy drivers are provided a chance to improve their route, while others are not. To round this feature off, every rewind is currently greeted with a lazy image of smashed glass forming back together. Hopefully, EA plan to amend this massively.
 
Track designs leave something to be desired

It's difficult to be too upbeat about The Run. An intriguing premise is currently backed up by sloppy design and uncertainty as to whether all the issues will be sorted out. There's little doubt Criterion set the bench mark with Hot Pursuit, and I'd be surprised if this title challenges the Burnout boys. It has to be back to the drawing board with this one, as right now, Need for Speed is quickly running out of worthwhile ideas.

Top Gaming Moment: One giant race holds lots of potential.

Comments

By hunter612 (SI Core) on Sep 05, 2011
hunter612
Why can't they just go back to the street racing idea? It was doing fine. :/