E3 2011: Need for Speed: The Run hands-on

Graham Smith at

Need for Speed The Run thumbnail

I've played The Run, and it feels a lot like every other arcade-style Need for Speed game you've ever played. The difference is in the presentation, which frames your driving not just as a race, but as something much more cinematic.

The area I played was set in Chicago, where the main character Jack was being chased by both the mob and the police: the cops on the ground, and the mobsters firing from a helicopter above.

It's a great concept - I've always loved SSX, for the way its snowboard races are punctuated by avalanches, cave-ins, and other dramatic setpieces. I wish more racing games would find ways of doing something other than just racing.

But in practice, at least in the demo I played, it's a real shame how often it involves moving the camera away and turning it into a cutscene. I'm all for cars being shot and exploding all around me, but I don't want to feel like it's taking control away from me every 30 seconds.

The out-of-the-car stuff is captured using the same tech as Avatar: it tracks fully body motion, facial motion and records voice all at once. Predictably, though, most of it boils down to quicktime events. Out-of-the-car stuff isn't what I come to a car game for, anyway, and EA say it makes up less than 10% of the game.

With the arcade racer covered by Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit and simulation covered by Need for Speed: Shift, EA want Run to be 'pick up and play, but with depth'.

And as much as it feels like every other arcade NFS game to me, I like the other NFS games. This one has the benefit of using Battlefield 3's Frostbite 2 engine, and it's incredibly fast and beautiful.