E3 2011: Need For Speed: The Run Preview – Driving in Reverse
Written Friday, June 17, 2011 By Dan WebbView author's profile
Whether EA actually understands franchise management, I’ll never know. Just when it looked like they’d finally wised up to why the Need For Speed franchise was dying faster than an X-Factor contestant’s career, they spoil that and prove that they have about as much tactical nous as Britney Spears in the Pentagon. Criterion’s Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit last year was a step in the right direction, as was dropping Need For Speed from the Shift brand, but this… and by this, I mean Need For Speed: The Run, is looking to set the franchise back another few years. Great!
Built using the Frostbite 2.0 engine, Need For Speed: The Run takes players on a journey from San Francisco to New York so that the main character, Jack, can get himself out of a sticky situation – we assume he owes money and this is how he can get it… it always boils down to money, right? Anyway, using tech from Avatar – we hope that’s the motion picture and not the cartoon – The Run is set to place an emphasis on story and cinematics, with the team fully mapping the facial features, including eye movements, of the main character.
Firstly… Need For Speed? Story? What is the world coming to? Next, FIFA will tell the story of a young Mexican who struggles from the streets of LA to win a professional football contract at Newcastle… What’s that? That’s the plot of a film!? Get outta town! Secondly… we know next to nothing about the story, and for a game that is putting an emphasis on such an aspect, it seems odd that all we know is that “Jack” is racing across America. You know, as you do. Would it not be cheaper and quicker to jump on a plane? Well, it would be unless you were flying with US Airways… I think the word you are looking for is “zing!!”
That’s just the beginning though, and when we tell you that you also get out of the car to get involved in some “OMG, what is this, 1990!?” Quick Time Event cutscenes, you’ll start to wonder why the hell this is even a Need For Speed game… Oh, that’s right, it has cars and chases *facepalm* Sure, they may only make up 10% of the game, but that’s 10% too many if you ask us. Okay, so 10% of the game is made up of 10% of these unnecessary cutscenes and the it has a story that we suspect is going to be as convoluted as the Inception-inspired South Park episode, but we can forget all that as long as the rest of the game looks tempting. Well, it doesn’t.
Looking to fall somewhere between Shift and Hot Pursuit from a handling perspective, the action on offer in The Run looks as mundane as watching paint dry. We caught a glimpse of the Chicago level in action at this year’s E3 that has Jack running from the mobs, before running from the cops. So what makes it mundane, you ask? Well, it basically boils down to a few key elements: firstly, racing in linear streets with neon road directional signs seems like a lazy way to develop games in 2011; secondly, these so-called downtown streets of Chicago seemed a little too empty for our liking; and thirdly, the chopper scene, that has you swerving out of the spotlight for a good few minutes. Not only does it look dull swerving around the track, but we can’t possibly see how that would work in cockpit view.
Sure, there may be some explosive cinematic moments, but everything seems rather scripted and sporadic for our liking. I’m not sure what happened in the translation of the franchise, but Need For Speed: The Run is as far away from what we expect in a Need For Speed title since EA created NFS: Carbon. The thought of escaping the city by driving and avoiding a chopper that can seemingly blow up pedestrian cars in a few shots, but can’t blow yours up in a few shots… well, it’s almost turned the franchise into a bit of a farce. The one shining light for The Run though is the use of Hot Pursuit and Shift’s Autolog, allowing you to track your progress across the States and compare it against 150 AI opponents and even your friends.
With the game releasing mid-November, around such big hitters as Modern Warfare 3, Forza 4, Assassin’s Creed: Revelations, Battlefield 3, Halo CE: Anniversary, Saints Row: The Third, Uncharted 3 and Skyrim, on this showing, we can’t see why anyone in their right mind would buy Need For Speed: The Run over any of those. Hell, we can’t see why you’d even buy it over a copy of the Human Centipede on DVD! Black Box has some work to do it seems.
Need For Speed: The Run is scheduled for a November 15th and November 18th release in North America and Europe respectively.