I never thought that after NFS: Hot Pursuit 2, which clearly marks the end of the era of classic NFS games, I will ever play another arcade Need for Speed game again. The reason I changed my mind is because they peaked my interest with the idea of a long race, splitting the whole continent, and that the story is an integral part of the game, not just some lame excuse written in two lines.
Since this is the first racing game I review here, I have to tell you in a few words, that I'm a hardcore fan of realistic physics in games involving cars, and also realistic damage and crashes. But I'm not a hardcore fan of hardcore simulations. Confusing right? Wait I'll explain: Hardcore racing simulations force things like boring fiddling with car setups, strict rules, and most of the time uninteresting closed circuits. But I wish for the thrills of the streets, and to be in the drivers seat right away. This means there aren't many racing games that suit my taste. Because street racers almost always have lame arcade physics and controls, and they laugh at you if you try to play using a racing wheel and pedals. And the games that have good realistic physics and controls, usually don't have the game modes I desire. So far the closest game to my wishes was Test Drive: Unlimited, closely followed by NFS: Porsche which is no surprise as the two games were developed by the same now defunct company.
The Run is certainly on the more arcady side of the scale, in physics, but fortunately not the bad kind of arcade physics. Even though it's simplified, the cars still react to control inputs as a car should react. They managed to get the controls right, which is a rare thing among arcade racers. If I'm satisfied with the controls that's great praise for a racing game. Well almost satisfied, Because the way they implemented drafting in the game, is against all the laws of physics and aerodynamics. As you may know drafting means going in the thin air caused by a car running in front of you, which in short reduces aerodynamic drag, and makes it possible for you to achieve a higher speed as long as you stay in the draft of the car(s) in front. Now in this game, if you follow a car, that starts to fill a drag meter, and if you fill it up, you get a boost when you get out of the drag of the car, and so you accelerate wildly when you do this. So it's the complete opposite of what drag looks like in real life. Oh and of course if for just one second you get out of line from the back of the car you're following the meter instantly goes back to zero, so you have to start filling it again. I don't understand why did they do it like this. So average Joe can have a meter, that tells him if he's doing things right or not I don't know. I do know however that I hated it, and I wanted to shoot the designer responsible for it in the head so no trace of this idea would remain.
The story takes you on a race from San Francisco to New York. You start in 250th position, and the goal is to reach New York in first place. It all sounds great, there are a few race types: Elimination which is called battle here, simple race where you just have to overtake everyone by the end, and time trial runs. And then there are story missions, which usually means someone trying to run you off the road or shoot you to hell. And in a few cases you get a combination of them. Like win the race, while evading angry mobsters.
Everything sounds peachy until now, but the realization has many flaws. You can't really go wrong with time trials, so I have nothing against that. But in races and chases, the artificial catch up in the game is horrendous. No matter how well you drive, even if you have a flawless race, you still can't overtake your opponents before the last seconds. This means that the game is very annoying. You can run a flawless race until the last seconds and then make one mistake at the end and still loose. And this is compounded by the long loading times, even if you just want to restart a race you have to watch a loading screen for two minutes. I can't believe they couldn't have found a way to make it faster had they tried. And on top of that the game likes to place civilian cars directly in your racing line. So if you're going flat out you have zero chance to avoid crashing into them. And the AI opponents regularly fool you by jumping out of the way in the last possible second, leaving you no time to react to the oncoming car. Because of course you're constantly trying to fill your idiot drag meter, so you have to go directly behind them.
Another thing I disliked that the cars you can use in the game all have very similar performance, the stats that the game keep shoving in your face about the cars have absolutely no meaning, contrary to the narration of the game, that car choice is very important. And on top of that the only way to switch cars during racing is by stopping at a petrol station. Which means loosing a ton of time. And of course 90% of the cars are not usable in the story mode. And you can only unlock most cars even for regular races, by accumulating multiplayer points.
Even more disappointing is the fact that all races are predetermined in story mode. There is an exact number of opponents you have to overtake in each race. You can't overtake one more, or one less. Which is sad, because it'd have made the game much more fun and open ended. It'd have been great to be able to overtake more cars in a few races, leaving you room for error in later ones. Of course such a system would've needed some development to implement. But it would've worth the effort ten times over.
I read in some reviews that the races are too long in the game, but that's bullshit. If anything the whole game is too short. You only drive one tenth of the real distance of the race. Which ends up in 4 hours of gameplay for story mode. And even this short amount is divided into 50 individual stages. That averages out for less than five minutes/race. And if I subtract the loading time it goes to three minutes. So anyone complaining about too long races can come to me for a free slap. Thankfully I got the game for free, so I didn't worry about value for money.
- The story gives alternate meaning to a racing game
- Movie style implementation of the story
- Controls (for an arcade racer)
- The few on foot missions are a good way to let off steam after some annoying races
- The indivudal stages are too short
- No freedom, the outcome of all races is predetermined, you achieve it or game over. And you can't even do better than the minimum.
- The AI is unrealistic, they are so aggressive, they put kamikaze pilots to shame.
- Too strong catch up, it's ok to have it in an arcade game, but this is way over the top.
- The performance of the cars are too similar from beginning to the end of the game.
- I think the story part is still not strong enough, I'd have liked more interaction with NPCs, and more cutscenes.
- Loading times are too long, it should have worked on it especially for simple restarts.
graphics : 8/10 The frostbite graphics engine really does a good job, the graphics is quite nice, no problems there.
realization: 5/10 the idea they had is the right one, but there is much room to improve in the implementation
story: 7/10 let's be fair, there is nothing new here, there are no elements of this story we haven't seen somewhere before
gameplay: 7/10 deduction for drag, catchup, and too short races
Overall impression: 8/10 It's quite high, due to the fact that the game kept me going, it cemented me in the driver's seat. I almost finished the whole game in one go.
It's a really pleasant surprise. It seems to me that if I read mostly negative reviews from mainstream magazines about an arcade racing game, then I will like it.