Put on your fake mustaches (Talkingship patent pending) and put on your cowboy hat, because you’ll be emulating Burt Reynolds in Need for Speed: The Run. Or will you? Will this game live up to the classic movie?
The clear, unambiguous response to that question: I have no earthly idea. After getting my hands on Need for Speed: The Run at PAX this year, I’m more undecided as to whether I want to buy the full game when it comes out than I was going in. I had a great time with the driving. It will be very familiar to anyone who has played the 2010 gem Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit. However, there were a couple of enhancements that improved the driving experience. The cars felt heavier and less floaty than the cars in Hot Pursuit. It felt like you really needed to brake properly to execute a tight turn, not just pop the handbrake at the right time. The Run also implements a rewind feature as was introduced in Forza Motorsport 3, allowing the player to hit the Back button (or Select button on the PS3) to rewind the last 30 seconds or so of the race, in case the player wrecks or gets spun out by another racer. In Forza 3, you were allowed to use this mechanic without any restriction, and while it made the game infinitely approachable, it somewhat took away from the difficulty of the game. In The Run, both the nitrous (boost) ability and rewind ability are governed by the same meter, which fills as you make clean passes and turns and depletes as you use these abilities. Tying the rewind ability to that meter grants a clear advantage if it’s never used, but gives the option if it’s needed.
All that said, it’s simply not enough to warrant a purchase for owners of Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit. The two aforementioned tweaks were the most immediately apparent gameplay enhancements over Hot Pursuit, but as a whole, the experience felt almost exactly the same. The game looks beautiful, the cars run well, and the action is frenetic. But all this was available in 2010. This game is going to hinge on the quality of the story. If there is a strong story component to The Run, it will be worth a look, but likely only after a price drop. If you want to play a Need for Speed game with your friends online, the clear choice is Hot Pursuit, which you can get today, and likely for a cut-rate price.
Keep your eyes open for Need for Speed: The Run, but set your expectations appropriately – this seems to be a game that could have been a large DLC pack for Hot Pursuit.