There's a whole lot of America between San Francisco and New York City. Need for Speed: The Run's greatest achievement is the way it sometimes captures the thrill of hitting the open road and experiencing the varied beauty of the American landscape, from the mountains and the prairies to the small towns and skyscrapers. Unfortunately, issues arise that sap some of the momentum from your cross-country trek, but The Run spends enough time doing what it does best to remain an enjoyable journey.
6345543NoneYosemite is gorgeous. Too bad you don't have time for a hike.
You play as Jack Rourke, a racer who has gotten in way over his head with the mob. His friend Sam promises an end to his problems if he can win a cross-country street race and the huge payout that comes with victory. Sadly, The Run's attempts to make you care about Jack's plight fall flat. The talents of actors Sean Faris and Christina Hendricks as Jack and Sam are wasted; their voices emanate from character models with mouths that move oddly and faces that express no emotion. What's more, the story doesn't even make sense. Certain rivals whom you pass early in the race show up again when you're in the home stretch. Thankfully, after an early cutscene that sets up the premise, the game wastes little time with its flimsy storytelling and lets you focus on driving.
The cars in The Run feel good to drive. The wide range of vehicles on offer includes sports cars that respond tightly to your every command and muscle cars that are tough to tame, but regardless of what you're driving, racing in The Run is about balancing speed with control. Sure, you've got highways on which you can gun the throttle and cruise at top speed, but more often than not, you're on stretches of road with some tricky turns. Using your brakes effectively, maintaining a smart racing line, and speedily exiting the turns is crucial to maintaining a good time, and it feels great to put these powerful cars through their paces.
Unfortunately, you may sometimes find yourself in the wrong car for the job. With a few story-related exceptions, Jack can only change cars at gas stations, and in some stretches, these are few and far between. As a result, you may get into a muscle car to power through a stretch of highway, only to wind up facing a particularly twisty road that the muscle car is not ideal for in the next event. This problem is exacerbated by the fact that there's no easy way to return to an earlier event that offered a gas station and choose a different car. If there's no gas station in your current event, you're stuck, and must make do with what you're driving.
Dust storms in Death Valley are among the environmental hazards you encounter.
Jack's got to make the entire drive from San Francisco to New York, but of course, you're only responsible for driving a few hundred miles of that journey. The Run keeps the pressure on in each event by requiring you to meet one of a few objectives. On some stretches of road, you need to pass a certain number of other racers before reaching the finish line. In other events--called battle races--you also need to pass opponents, but here, you need to face them one at a time, getting ahead of one before a timer reaches zero and then moving on to the next. And some events are checkpoint races; just you against the clock. Many events are challenging tests of your driving talents, and it's a thrill to pass a checkpoint in the nick of time or slingshot past an opponent in the final stretch of a race.
It's not just the cars themselves that make driving in The Run enjoyable. It's also the places you go. Starting in San Francisco, your path takes you through Yosemite National Park, the Rocky Mountains, downtown Chicago, and plenty of other locations. The roads in The Run aren't entirely faithful to the real roads that inspired them, but they admirably evoke the beauty one might witness on a scenic trip across the United States. From driving in the Las Vegas dusk to speeding across the rolling Nebraska plains, the varied surroundings for your travels convey the feeling that you're covering a lot of ground, and part of the fun lies in seeing what richly detailed natural or urban landscape you'll be driving in next.
You need to contend with more than just your aggressive fellow racers as you travel through these beautiful settings. In some events, police try to stop you by doing brake checks and setting up roadblocks. You can hear their chatter, though, and see upcoming roadblocks on your minimap, so while it's fun to trade paint with these officers, they don't pose much of a threat. Then there are environmental hazards, such as an avalanche that occurs as you're heading down a mountain. Like the cops, these events aren't likely to cause you much trouble, but they make for an impressive spectacle.