Need for Speed: The Run PC Review
It’s the twitchy, quick-reaction driving that The Run demands that really got us hooked, but other factors play their part. The design of the stages is excellent, with room for different approaches always delivering a challenge, and there's a sense of achievement and exhilaration once you complete them.
Meanwhile, the look of the game is handled by Dice’s Forstbite 2 engine, and as such the world looks stunning. The weather effects are top-notch, with dust and snow all thrown in to great effect. The use of Frostbite 2 also means that the hardware requirements aren’t too great – a 2.66GHz Core 2 Duo E8200 with 4GB of RAM and a Radeon HD 6850 was sufficient to run the game smoothly at High settings. On Ultra, the game looks fantastic, even if the draw distance is too shallow to prevent mountains growing from the ground as you hammer down a highway. An SSD wouldn't go amiss, though, as the load times between events can be long.
Actually, for once, that fire wasn't anything to do with us
The feel of the cars demands praise too, as each handles and performs in a realistic way. Sporty hatchbacks are nimble and quick to accelerate but definitely lack the sense of speed of an Aston Martin or Pagani Zonda Cinque. The game would have you think that you need to change cars all the time depending on the race type: if you’re on a freeway the implication is that you should stop in a gas station (the game’s garage mechanism) to swap from an exotic (European) car to a muscle car. We didn’t find this to be true, sticking with an Audi R8 until we were forced to change to a Porsche 911 GT2. We loved the speed and precise handling of the Porsche that we felt no need to swap it until we were forced to change again by the storyline.
Choosing a car can be tricky, as they’re presented with real-life specs with only the handling style described in a gamey way (from Easy through Normal to Very Difficult). There’s usually not much difference in top speed or 0-60 time between the cars on offer so we usually stuck with the Easy handling cars. Cars with trickier handling tend to have happy back-ends (which can net you slide bonuses to your nitro recharge rate) or sluggish turn-in, although we also felt some sense of the extra power that these cars are purported to offer.
Not only do the cars feel pleasingly different, but they sound pretty good too. The slower cars in the early game lack character, but the Lambo Sesto Elemento roars fire from its exhaust in growls of bass before wailing at your punishment of its throttle pedal. Equally, the police radio interceptor messages add tension and urgency, adding to your workload of simple tasks such as trying to pass a rival, stay on the road and not splay your car across the front of an oncoming truck. These elements mix brilliantly with the mostly excellent sound track, which throws gritty blues from the likes of The Black Keys together with dirty electronica and classics such as Black Heat’s On the Road Again. In fact, developer Black Box has a thing for bands with Black in the name, although it thankfully avoided using the Black Eyed Peas – good call, guys.
It can be tricky to judge which is the best car to choose, so just go by looks and colour
Not everything is great about The Run, though. Every now and then Jack has to get out of his car, usually because it’s upside down. This is where The Run turns into the bastard child of Daley Thompson’s Decathlon and GTA, with button-mashy QTEs where Jack has to avoid the police to endure before you can get racing again.
Also, if Jack’s in such a rush, why does he spend all his spare time hammering out bodywork and repainting his cars for the start of the next event? Damage is largely superficial, because it would be a dull game if it wasn't, although you will wreck your car if you hit anything solid at speed. You also shouldn’t spend too much time thinking about why Jack would stop if he missed an apparently arbitrary catch-up time target along the way, or why beating an opponent to an apparently arbitrary finish line would mean you never see them again, even if you beat them by a tenth or two. Don't try to reason why; just get on and drive. It’s much more fun than logic.
While points have to be docked for the annoying QTEs, the rest of The Run is amazingly exhilarating. The set pieces left us panting for breath, unable to process what had just happened, and the excitement level only dropped to ‘really exciting’ in between. We don’t want to spoil it, but the section in the subway in the last event is spectacular. Some games are called digital crack due to their addictiveness, and Need for Speed: The Run is digital adrenaline from starting the race all the way to the end and beyond.
An update on gamepad support: we previously said that The Run doesn't support gamepads, but what it actually doesn't support is our Raptor Gaming M3 Platinum mouse (most of the time). It incorrectly identifies this as a steering wheel, and ignores your request to use the keyboard or gamepad instead. Apologies for any confusion caused by this bizarre issue and our previous comments.