Need For Speed: The Run Review

By Jason D'Aprile - Posted Nov 15, 2011

Need for Speed goes cross country in the Run, a story-driven quest to beat out over 200 drivers for a $25 million purse to race from San Francisco to New York City in an array of speed machines ranging from the mundane to the gorgeously exotic.

The Pros
  • Fast-paced and exciting action
  • Many miles of road to conquer
  • Many cars, each with a distinct feel
  • Excellent online support
The Cons
  • AI frequently goofy
  • Graphics are hit and miss
  • Race objectives don't vary much leading to a lot of repetition
  • Minor lack of refinements throughout

Need for Speed: The Run Review

EA has essentially split off their venerable Need for Speed line between the simulation-centric Shift series and the less real-world style of Hot Pursuit, and their latest, Need for Speed: The Run, falls squarely in the latter category. Unfortunately, this puts it in direct competition with the previous game in the series, which doesn’t do The Run any favors.


Run, Run, Run!

That’s not to say Need for Speed: The Run is bad. There are actually miles of fun to be had here, but developer Black Box’s creation definitely comes up short in comparison to the slick, gorgeous, and nearly pristine driving of Hot Pursuit. The Run is decidedly focused on the cinematic, complete with an exciting escape from a car crusher to jump-start the action at the start of the game.

It seems The Run's protagonist is in trouble with some bad people over gambling debts, but he’s given the chance to correct the situation thanks to an illegal cross-country race. With a purse of $25 million, over 200 racers are in line to go the distance from San Francisco to New York City, and the aim of the game is to constantly move up in the rankings.

The first major goal is hit Vegas in the 150th position and next up is Chicago in the top 50. As a result of this placement focus, every race is either about passing a specific number of competitors or beating the clock (or both). What that really boils down to is that players have to be in first place for every single race.

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Road Rage

The Run is divided up into 10 main stages, each containing numerous races. Some of the races are boss fights, where players must beat a specific character to the finish line. Others are pure timed races where they must hit check points before time runs down, but most are just about passing X number of cars to make it to the finish line first.

The upside of this design is the level of excitement and challenge. Races in The Run can be thrilling as players struggle to avoid traffic, the cops, and other racers to be number one. The handling of each car is refined, and the game conveniently rates each car’s handling difficulty, so experienced drivers can go straight for the unruly super cars, while more casual players can stick to the easier rides.

Cars can be swapped out at gas stations, and there’s no other way to switch vehicles between races. So, players can potentially end up temporarily stuck with the wrong machine for the job because they didn’t swap cars earlier. Each race has a limited number of checkpoint-based restarts as well. It’s not a rewind as in Hot Pursuit or Forza, which seems like an odd step backwards.

While the controls are tight and responsive, especially with the easier to handle cars, there’s a lot of little nagging issues in The Run that hold it back. The sudden use of cinematic displays to show cops or crashes is entirely jarring in the middle of a race and can’t be turned off. Worse, it occasionally causes uncontrollable crashes.

Need for Speed The Run


In general, the AI works, but there are plenty of odd imbalances. The other racers are incredibly aggressive and think nothing of bashing into the player (though not each other), and civilian traffic is frequently completely illogical. In cities, they’ll take sudden turns with no warning from the wrong lane, or just get hung up on obstacles.

This is the second game to use DICE’s Frostbite 2 engine and, much like Battlefield 3, won’t bowl anyone over on consoles. The visuals suffer from a sudden lack of focus as the road goes into the horizon. There’s no pop-up at all, but the yellow lines get blurry much too close to the forefront of the screen and the details of distant objects are rather muddled.

Many of the tracks actually obscure the player’s view on purpose. Blinding sun is common and some tracks have massive dust or snow storms that can make avoiding police blockades frustrating. Finally, there are occasions when The Run steps out of the car, leading to on-foot cinematic chase sequences broken up by sudden quick-time event button presses. QTE gameplay in general is well past its prime, and these few segments just drag the game down.

Multiplayer racers will appreciate the superb online options, including an array of themed racing events available for online competition complete with personal achievement tracking and random rewards for racing. The inclusion of EA’s Autolog also makes certain players can keep track of any friends playing the game (and vice versa), though having to wait for this service to connect every time the game loads is intrusive.

Need for Speed The Run

In Hot Pursuit

Need for Speed: The Run has a lot to offer—over 70 events, including challenge races outside the main game, a large selection of cars with excellent handling characteristics, and some truly intense driving. Unfortunately, there are minor nagging issues at nearly every turn, from the graphic back step and inconsistent AI to the dogged and tiring focus on simply placing first in nearly every race. The Run is a good racing game at heart, but simply doesn’t live up to the legacy of its predecessor.

Still want to play it? Why not rent it at Gamefly?