On critics: the case of Need for Speed: the Run

NFS_TheRunPS3Need For Speed – The Run (PS3) – I think we as consumers of video games, in general, are getting greedy.  We want more for less.  We want perfection.  And worst of all we want innovation with no concessions made in what we known and love.  In short being a developer would suck because there is no pleasing the audience – which unfortunately can often lead to less than stellar commercial returns on investment and unfortunately, job losses.

And it’s largely because we have so much critique of a game before it even hits our stores.  Online reviews, whats left of magazines and snarky podcasts all influence how we view the games we play, and what we expect from them.

Take Need for Speed: The Run .  It is a well put together, content packed entry into the long running series that has an impressive premise and enjoyable racing action.  Critics were cool on it at best, and scathing at worst.  On average it was a luke-warm response to what I consider to be a pretty enjoyable racer.  But that doesn’t mean it’s not without its problems.

Those problems are mostly in the handling of the cars.   The driving mechanics in the Run are more grounded than we saw in both Hot Pursuit and Most Wanted.  Drifting is entirely optional you can feel the immense friction between the tyre and the road and unlike those games knowing where the apex of a turn will help in getting through it as quickly as possible.  Slow in fast out prevails.   So you can guess from all of this that the cars handle like, you know, cars.  The cars are fast, but the last thing I would describe them as is ‘nimble’.  Driving doesn’t seem to have any subtlety, and at times steering can feel like it’s either full tilt in one direction, which still doesn’t change your trajectory like a real car would, or straight. Which is a problem.  The game often requires precision beyond what the handling model is capable of.  Steering a lumbering piece of metal through a gap slightly larger than its own width can at times only be achieved through sheer fortune.  Which will inevitably lead to a pervasive sense of frustration when the game gives you a task but not the tools to complete it.  Not a terminal problem, but one that you can never quite shake throughout your few hours with the game.

One of the main criticisms of the game was that it was short, which at face value is a fair assessment.  “The Run” aspects of the game, which see you driving from the West coast of the United States to the East, last little more than two hours.  Not a long time even when compared to an ever-shrinking Call of Duty single player campaign.  But that’s not all there is, and while it is the main innovation of the game, there is plenty of racing to be had elsewhere through the racing challenges that open up after every stage of the campaign mode.  They may be conventional point to point races without a premise, and sure it’s not why you came to the pool party, but seeing you’re here you may as well make out with your friend’s sister in the pool room.  Who knows you might just like that a bit more.

There is no doubt that Need for Speed: The Run is pretty good, and while there is always  a feeling that there is a better game sitting underneath somewhere in there, its not worth taking marks off for what it isn’t.  I’d rather add them on for what it is.  In a nutshell The Run is a modern take on outrun, that while not quite as good as Outrun 2 and related properties, is still a rollicking good time.

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