Ads Top

Need for Speed: The Run preview: Action distraction

It seems to be a given these days that at anything EA related the mere glimpse of a car will signal that a new Need for Speed title is on the way and, sure enough, at E3 the latest installment of the ‘seventeen games and counting’ franchise was shown off to the world. Need for Speed: The Run is being developed by EA Black Box who have a few NFS titles under their belts already in the form of Carbon, Underground, Most Wanted and, more recently, the PC only MMO Need for Speed: World.

Dubbed the “ultimate high stakes chase” you find yourself involved in a relentless and pulse-pounding race from San Francisco to New York; so, from one side of the United States to the other for those of you who skipped geography class. The premise is simple: you have to get to New York by any means possible; along the way you’ll find yourself in various climatic predicaments but the end goal always remains the same – get to New York and get there first, whatever the cost.

I had seen the trailer a day earlier at the Electronic Arts press conference, but now it was time to get the all-important hands on with the title. Nestled precariously outside of EA’s showing of Star Wars: The Old Republic, the Need for Speed: The Run area sat precariously in the shadow of the gigantic TV screen which continuously played trailers and the like.

The game starts with you out of your car, a first for the Need for Speed series, and in need of a new set of wheels. A conveniently placed police car catches your eye but there’s still the matter of the two police officers who need dealing with. Your character approaches them; you’ve been spotted. Combat begins, which is dealt with via a series of quick time events, and before long you’re behind the wheel. Driving through a built up city landscape, the first thing you notice is how the car handles; you can’t help but acknowledge the fact that it doesn’t actually feel like it’s sat on the ground, instead, seemingly hovering. The whole thing must be what the puck feels like on an air hockey table – no matter how hard you try you’re never quite in control.

So, you’re driving through the city when the token helicopter decides to begin pursuit. It’s here that you are first shown a glimpse of the almost cinematic shift in camera angles; as you drift around a corner the camera pans out to an almost top down view before returning to its original state. It’s a rather nice feature and one which possessed a level of finesse; it didn’t subtract anything from the gameplay and, if anything, added that little bit extra; a good touch.

view more screenshots and read ....

The helicopter continues in its pursuit, opening fire with its machine gun at any given opportunity; a game of cat and mouse in full swing. Swerving left and right out of the glare of its spotlight resulted in a brief moment of calm while the conveniently placed tunnels, which, despite being only half built, offered a more permanent level of protection.

The pacing picks up and towards the three minute mark you soon find yourself driving alongside a train track when the ultimate action movie cliché happens: you crash in a cinematic extravaganza, resulting in you upside down on the tracks. A quick close up signals a sigh of relief; you’re ok… and then you hear it. The alarming sound of a train bell getting louder and louder and the best you can hope for now is a quick fade to black transition effect, but developers Black Box have another idea. Another round of quick time events results in you fighting with your seatbelt and various other car escape mechanics before you finally wriggle your way free; missions accomplished, job done.
Graphically, the game is looking great and so it should, bearing in mind that it’s using the Frostbite 2 engine – the very same one that’ll be powering Battlefield 3 later this year. The demo on display featured plenty of eye candy such as lighting and shadows, but even the basics have been done right, with textures and models (of the cars in particular) looking very nice. There’s clearly nothing to worry about on the aesthetics front, Frostbite 2 has it covered.
The game certainly has a particular Need for Speed feel to it, but whether or not it will follow in the success of Hot Pursuit and Shift 2 remains to be seen. The driving aspects are showing some good promise but still are a long way from being the finished article. The whole “get out of your car” mechanic has left me tentatively biting my lower lip in uncertainty. It could work and if it does then fair game, however, there’s a very real possibility here that through their aim of putting some fresh life into the series the developers could well end up alienating all that was good about it.

It’s perhaps worth noting that the demo on show was played on both the Playstation 3 and Xbox 360 and no noticeable differences were apparent.

Need for Speed: The Run is due to ship on Nov 15th in North America and Nov 18th 2011 in the UK. It will be available on the Nintendo 3DS, Wii, Xbox 360, Playstation 3 and PC.

EA gave us a quick runthrough (sorry) here at E3 for their upcoming Need for Speed: The Run, a title being put together by Black Box Software up in Vancouver. The Run brings a number of new features to the series, including a deeper story than we've seen in most racing games, 325 kilometers of actual real world locations from San Francisco to New York City rendered with the hyped-up Frostbite 2 engine, and of course the much-publicized out-of-car sequences, featuring protagonist Jack running along to a series of button-press quicktime events.

So on paper, Need for Speed: The Run seems like a thrill ride, and that's what Black Box is definitely going for, with "racing" sequences that send Jack riding through the streets of Chicago while being chased by the mob, the cops, and even an attack helicopter. The problem? This is purportedly a racing game. Autolog is right here on display front and center, and if the whole point of the game is to set a great time on the leaderboards (certainly something any Need for Speed game should aspire to), then all of the explosions and over-the-top action end up distracting more than anything else.

Black Box certainly tries hard -- they loaded up the Chicago segment during the hands-on demo, and immediately, Jack and his car were thrown into the middle of the high-stakes cross country race, flying through the Windy City's streets with maybe half a dozen other racers. Not thirty seconds into the ride, Jack gets side-swiped by a black sedan, and in a short cutscene we see that it's the mob; apparently he's run afoul of the wrong people.

Wasn't there supposed to be a race going on here? Indeed, despite all of the action, the whole stage is still timed, so Jack isn't just running for his life -- he's also running for the leaderboards. In fact, Black Box has included EA's Autolog service in the single-player campaign, so while you're personally running across the country, you'll also get updates on where your friends are, and how long it took them to drive the stage you're running.

The problem, though, is that all of the action seems like a distraction from the reason why you're there in the first place, which is to set a time and shave some seconds off of it. The explosions and action are indeed reminiscent of Split/Second, and that was a game that arguably combined precision racing with over-the-top spectacle. Even with the demolition, was still about the actual competition of racing. The Run seems to be crashing this story about Jack into what's supposed to be a competitive sport, and though the demo was still hands-off, it seems neither side is coming out well.

Finally, a gas truck appears on the road ahead of Jack, and the helicopter of course shoots it, causing it to explode and blow Jack's car off the road -- where it lands right on a train track with a locomotive bearing down in the background. Jack's in the crash upside down, and he's got to get out of the car, so you need to press the left stick forward and tap X. Wait -- that sequence didn't work, so try left stick and square. That didn't work either -- the icon just flares up in a flash of flame and disappears. Try left stick and triangle! That works -- Jack punches a window out just as the train hits and --

Black screen. Mission complete. And by the way, while you were running from the mafia and trying to keep your stolen police car from being hit by the gatling gun on that helicopter, you also hit second on the speedwall.
The race then becomes a chase, and Jack abandons the crashed car to run across the rooftops. The actual out-of-car gameplay will only make up about ten percent of the game, says Black Box. In their previous Need for Speed "action titles," the story of the game was portrayed in cutscenes, but in this one, "we're asking you now to play the story," I was told. As you've probably seen in the videos, the sequences are basically just button-press events -- tap X repeatedly to run, press triangle to jump this gap, pull both triggers to grab this ledge. There's no direct control of Jack, and it's unclear, so far, just what happens when you fail. Black Box told me there would be "failure states," but as far as I saw, there's no branching stories or decisions to make.

No matter what you do, in other words, Jack will jump off the rooftops, get caught by the cops, and eventually steal their cop car (press square to kick this cop in the stomach). In the cop car, the chase gets even more hectic, with mobsters still trying to take him out, and soon a police helicopter shows up on the scene armed to the teeth, firing down on Jack, who has to try to dodge a spotlight while flying through a respectably rendered version of Lower Wacker Drive.
Powered by Blogger.