Need for Speed: The Run doesn't break any new ground for the NFS franchise, but it's a decent racer that has quite a few flashes of brilliance.
The Run, a cross-country race from San Francisco to New York, is clearly the game's best feature. There are 10 stages — races that offer a variety of challenges and beautiful scenery — as you make the trek across the country. In one race, you might be tasked with working your way up the ranks to get closer to the top spot. In others, you might have to outlast one opponent at a time.
Cops make this journey a challenge, and escaping their pursuit can keep you on the edge of your chair occasionally. Cruisers just pop up on you sometimes. You'll hear the scanner chatter when they've identified a street race. After that, they come for everyone pretty aggressively, and their cars are just as fast as yours if not faster. You have to employ a bit of strategy and create an accident to escape.
It can be challenging enough trying to weave through the city and onto highways to catch up to other racers. It's far more difficult when you have a throng of cruisers tailing you and police roadblocks miles ahead.
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The story line isn't the strongest, but it does a decent job of moving the game along. There are times when The Run, developed by Black Box studios, breaks from racing to provide you with more variety. For example, in Vegas, you must escape more cops. And — without giving away too much of the story line — there's even a foot pursuit. There's a combination of buttons that have to be pressed at the right moment in order to flee. It's a cool way to keep the game from getting stale, but it doesn't happen much after you get out of Sin City.
As far as driving goes, it's more of the same. This NFS iteration embraces many of the same mechanics that made the others in the series solid — and realistic — games.
For example, it's more difficult to drive at night because your vision is somewhat impaired. If it's dark, you see what your headlights will illuminate, and that means it's tougher to see roadblocks and obstacles that might cause you to swerve or brake. It's much easier to drive during the day. There are plenty of cool effects, including dust, in your environment. Vegas is a fun stage, and the same holds true for the Rockies and Yosemite National Park. Those places, along with the New Jersey Turnpike, are all true to form and well detailed.
There's really nothing about The Run that gives this game any longevity or playability after you beat it. What is cool, however, is that you can race against your friends online. Your times are posted on the Web, and you can give your buddies grief if you've passed them in the rankings.
You can unlock vehicles and then swap them when you see a gas station, but there just isn't as much freedom as in past titles, such as Most Wanted. The Run seems too controlled, and you can't just find trouble in an open world as in so many other games. That hurts the game a bit because it has potential to be better.
In essence, Need for Speed: The Run isn't a game I would buy, but it's — at the least — worth renting.