Hands-On Preview: Need For Speed: The Run

At times it seems like the racing genre is having an identity crisis, the Need For Speed franchise in particular. In the last five years, the series has been a bit all over the place, starting from the release of Carbon, which featured night time only races, an open world, managing crews and continued a story from another NFS game. After that was ProStreet, which took the racing in a more realistic direction with no open world, and no one liked it. Then there was Undercover, which essentially ignored ProStreet and went back to a more arcade style set in an open city. After that was Shift… which went in a more realistic direction and away from illegal street racing. Finally there was Hot Pursuit, which might as well have been called Need For Speed: Burnout, since it was created by the developers behind that series, and while you could free roam, the game centered around exciting arcade style races where you played as either a racer or the police.

Given just the last five years, I wasn’t sure what to expect from The Run. The game is focused around a story about an illegal race that spans across the United States, and it looks like they plan on trying to deliver the thrill of an action movie plot such as The Fast and The Furious to Need For Speed. I’m ambivalent about this, since I think the primary focus on any racing game should be the driving. A racing game doesn’t need a summer blockbuster movie feel to be exciting; when well done, there is almost nothing that is more intense in gaming than a tightly developed racing game where you are flying down the track, neck and neck with the competition.

Once the game started with trying to escape the police, I forgot all about whatever story it was trying to tell. The racing feels like Hot Pursuit, and the game is built on the Frostbite 2.0 engine, the same engine that the recent Battlefield games have been built on. The racing is fast, arcade style, and handles well. There were scripted events in the demo that were interesting, such as being tailed by a helicopter where you had to avoid being in the spotlight while speeding through a specific route until the cops decide that killing bystanders is worth the risk of taking you out. They shoot out a few cars and then a gas tank in front of the vehicle, causing it to flip onto a train track.

This led to what will likely be the most controversial addition in any racing game. As the car was flipped, the camera pans into the car and you control the character trying to desperately escape the vehicle. To do this you engage in a series of Quick Time Events.

Wait, Quick Time Events? In a racing game? Yes, you read that right.

I think we may have just reached critical mass for one of the laziest and most uninspired game design mechanics of all time. I mean honestly, QTE in a racing game? That makes no sense, and I have no idea how anyone thought that was going to be a good idea. I’ve heard some people think that it is a good idea because, if the developers were going to take the action out of the car, then QTE are better than poorly developed third person sections (see Wheelman as a prime example). That’s poor reasoning, like trying to say getting punched in the chest is great since I could have been punched in the balls. I’d rather not get punched at all, or have a racing game have out of car moments, or have QTE.

It is a RACING game, for the love of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. The whole game should be about speed, not slowing the game down so that I can play Simon Says. Whoever came up with the idea of adding this to the Need For Speed franchise should have their nose held in front of a screen with the end of the demo on display, then hit with a newspaper and told “bad developer(or publisher/whomever), no bonus for you”.

After playing the demo all I wanted to do was go play Burnout to wash the stink of the game off of me. If any of that sounds like a game you would want to play, while I have to wonder why, you can press X to continue this November when Need For Speed: The Run hits shelves.

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