Feeling the “need” like never before
Growing up, Burt Reynolds films were always a guilty pleasure of mine, and few have inspired more “someone ought to make a game outta that movie” chatter than the legendary Cannonball Run series. And while EA didn’t exactly shell out the cash to make an actual licensed product, they did the next best thing and ripped off the core concept, fused it with The Fast and the Furious, and crammed the concept into the 18th entry in the Need for Speed series: The Run.
You play the role of Jackson “Jack” Rourke, who’s recently found himself in deep with the mob and, after hooking up with an old business associate, finds himself staked in the “greatest race ever assembled” in the hopes that his cut of the $25 million purse will get him out of trouble, and while he and his costars lack the charm of Burt, Dom, Jackie, and the crew, The Run’s attempt at integrating a solid story into the standard speedster adds a new dimension to the races themselves that I couldn’t help but appreciate. I wasn’t exactly blow away with the level of integration developer Black Box provided at times, as most of the story comes in the form of painfully long quicktime events or lame prerace overlays, but I definitely admired the attempt. If they can up the ante on integration, they could really be onto something here.
The story also gets a hefty helping hand from the art team’s incredibly articulated environments, representing tons of locales between San Francisco and New York City, all of which benefit from the considerable power of DICE’s Frostbite 2 engine. You’ll burn through crowded city streets, narrow country roads, and treacherous mountain passes so chock-full of amazing obstacles, obstructions, and those pesky po-po that you’ll often miss the fact that these are some of the slickest backdrops the series has ever offered.
Beyond the landscape, there’s also a great deal of variety in the actual structure of the tracks and the racing surfaces themselves, but I often wished the races were longer, largely because the game’s cursed with way too many transitional menus. A postrace screen, followed by a story slide, followed by a loading screen, followed by an area preview video, followed by a loading screen, followed by a 10-minute nap and lots of snoring… OK, I don’t snore, but seriously, Black Box, tighten up the pacing, would ya?
Luckily, the big show itself is hell on wheels. Races are packed with incredibly tight controls and an exhilarating sense of speed, and I quickly lost count of the number of nail-biting near-misses and brilliantly split defenses I was able to accumulate in my cross-country journey. The Run also offers a slew of different modes in the core campaign, ranging from traffic-laden time trials to high-pressure battle races to keep you busy, and the time really flies when you’re in the thick of things.
Couple this with a host of online options from “Autolog” leaderboard challenges among friends and a host of custom head-to-head modes for up to 16 players that can be packed into unique “playlists”—where the allure of unlockable rewards adds a ton to the appeal—and you’ve got a garage full of racing goodies that’ll keep you burning rubber for hours on end.
And that’s just it. Need for Speed: The Run is a solid, polished product that’s a bit rough around the edges on occasion, but not so much that it takes away from the core experience, which is boosted by a solid storyline and robust array of online options that makes it one of my favorite entries in the series to date. If you’re looking for an arcade racer with a lot of flash and the speed to match, give The Run a spin. It’s great ride.
SUMMARY: A story-driven racer with a ton of style, Need for Speed: The Run is a great addition to the series and an intriguing spin on the racing genre that’s definitely worth a test-drive.
- THE GOOD: Cool story, precise gameplay, and a ton of online options
- THE BAD: Too many transitional screens, shaky plot integration
- THE UGLY: The occasional help menu that pops up before a hairpin turn
Need for Speed: The Run is available on Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Nintendo Wii, and PC. Primary version reviewed was on the Xbox 360.