It's been a few years since Blackbox Games got involved with a Need for Speed title, but at E3 2011, we saw them back at the series with a completely new entry in the franchise. Need for Speed: The Run sees the return of racing games with an overarching story, but this time, instead of a faceless and nameless protagonist, you take control of a guy named Jack who's gotten into hot water with some shady people. His only means of escaping the situation is to get out of San Francisco and get to New York. Luckily for him, there's an illegal street racing event called The Run that's designed to do just that. During our demo, we got a pretty good idea of what to expect from the game.
Before the demo began, we were told a few things about The Run. First, the handling is going to be a mix between the realism of the Shift series and the arcade feel of Hot Pursuit. Since we didn't control the game ourselves, we had to take their word for it. The other thing they wanted to tell us was that the game would be using the Autolog system from Hot Pursuit and Shift 2: Unleashed for both the single-player and multiplayer components. Not only would you be able to tell how quickly your friends completed the particular section of The Run you're currently on, but you can also see how much of the story mode they've completed. Whether it'll motivate people to finish the mode any faster remains to be seen, but it is an interesting move.
The demo started off in the downtown area of Chicago at night. One of the things that the developers emphasized was that this was going to be the first game in the series that would take place at real-life locales, and from the looks of things, even though we didn't see any of the big landmarks of Chicago, the overhead trains look like they were ripped out of the city. Graphically, it looked great thanks to the use of the Frostbite 2 engine, but one thing noticeably absent during the demo was damage. No matter how badly a car got scraped, you never saw the damage on the vehicle. The only time it ever happened was when the car was t-boned in a cut scene crash, and that led to a mechanic that's never been seen in the series: going on foot.
The decision to bring on-foot action to the game was made based on the desire to have interactive cut scenes, and to that end you can't control Jack's movements. More or less, you're participating in various Quick Time Events throughout these scenes. For the demo, the user had to hit buttons to dodge enemies, jump from rooftop to rooftop, and get into a brawl with a cop to take his vehicle. When questioned, the developers stated that the decision for QTEs was so that the player could quickly go back into racing instead of spending time messing around in the environment and taking away from the story. It was also said that these events would comprise less than 10 percent of the story; depending on how long the campaign may be, this figure could be very bad or very good.
The racing in Need for Speed: The Run still looks solid, and that's something you can always expect from the series. Depending on the locales the developers decide to visit, the courses could be interesting, and the story could also be worth going through. The on-foot events could either make or break the mode, depending on how many there are and how often they occur. We'll have to see how it pans out when the game hits this November.
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