Need for Speed: The Run Preview (PS3)

Wow, have there seriously been eighteen Need for Speed games already? That's a lot of speeding right there... not even Final Fantasy has reached that many yet. Contrary to what was hinted at when it was first announced, Need for Speed: The Run does not involve any actual running. Sure, you do get out of the car, but it's only for story-driving interactive cut scenes and QTE's, so it doesn't really count.
Shame you're too busy trying to be first / not die - you might have been able to enjoy the scenary...
'The Run' is actually a 3000 mile illegal street race across America, from San Francisco to New York, and the game is broken up into around 10 stages, each one dealing with an area of America that you have to race through. You play as Jack Rourke, a guy who's "arrogance and skill" has led him to be in a lot of debt and a wanted man. So he's a bit of a dick, basically. Helping you is Sam, and old childhood friend who's only motivation for helping you seems to be all the money she gets for winning. Other loosely established characters also make appearances, from some rich -kid who for some inexplicable reason wants to see you crash and die horribly, to the pair of racing chicks who are as good looking as the briefness of their role in the game.

There's a wide variety of different types of races that you'll be engaging in as you trek across the US. There's normal competition races, where you simply have to overtake a set number of people before you get to the end of the segment. There's time attacks, where you have to reach each checkpoint before the time runs out, there's battles, where you have to overtake someone and hold the lead until the time runs out, rival battles and a handful of other race types. You chop and change between them all as you race, so it keeps thing interesting so you're not finding yourself doing the same thing repeatedly. Unless you kept failing a segment, then you would be because you sucked ass.

Even without the snow, those tight windy corners are a bitch
DICE's Frostbite 2 engine really works well for this game, as everything from the cars to the environments themselves are wonderfully modelled and rendered. Each stage encompasses a general geographical area in America, so a lot of the tracks within a stage will be a bit samey, but it's still a site to behold. The cars as well look gorgeous, and there are three main cars you can drive in the game - Muscle, Exotic and Sports. Each type is useful for particular track types - Muscles are good for straight freeways, Exotics take windy tracks better, and sports cars are perfect for urban environments. Apart from special story instances, the only way you can change cars is by pulling into a petrol station en route, although not a lot of them are dotted about.

Of course, there's not just the single-player you'll have to contend with - The Run also comes with multiplayer and a 'challenges' section. In the online multiplayer, up to eight people can race against each other in 'sets' of tracks that follow a similar theme. These tracks are taken/based on the single-player tracks, although you only get to pick one car for the whole track. This adds a very tactical element to the game, as after the whole set is won there is an overall winner - do you try and go for the early or late wins, by choosing are that excels on only some of the tracks, or do you try and be an all rounder? Multiplayer also comes with 'Group' and 'Solo' objectives that you can try and complete across the whole set which will get you bonus xp, and you can also earn badges for all kinds of things that also net you xp. There's also a random reward given in each set. All these points count towards your overall Driver score, so it's all transferable.

The Challenges mode presents the player with a series of tracks, either from this game or from past games that you can unlock as you go along. In each track, there is a different 'type' of race that you can engage in, and the point is to try and earn medals by performing well. They are pretty tough, so beware - in the time attack modes, the sheer length of some of the tracks can sometimes have you falling behind. The Autolog also makes a triumphant comeback in this game as well, still acting as the social-networking / matchmaking service that it was in previous games. It'll still be keeping track of stats and times etc.., and comparing them to that of your friends. IT will also recommend tracks to you if someone has, for example, beaten your time and so you need to defend your crown.
Once again, the Police seem to have better cars than you do

With only two weeks to go, we wonder how much can really change before release. Hopefully some optimisation issues like loading times etc... will be iron out, but other problems like the trigger-happy resetting may take some additional patching, who know. Still, as an addition to the franchise, there have been worse. Breaking up the race into bite-sized chunks, whilst making it hard to flow well, keeps people interested and keeps people wanting to make it all the way to the end. Not to mention all of the other stuff available for players, so Need for Speed fans should be pleased to say the least. Need for Speed: The Run is due out on PC, Xbox 360, Playstation 3 (And Wii / 3DS) on November 15th in North America and November 18th in Europe.

Most Anticipated Feature: Multiplayer is a lot of fun, so seeing what else they can do in that space will be interesting.