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Published on June 11th, 2011 | by Ken Yarbrough, Editor

E3 2011: Need for Speed: The Run Hands-On Impressions

Full Disclosure: I suck at racing games. I enjoy racing games, but I’m a terrible player. In the off-screen footage below, you’ll get to experience that first hand. I would like to point out that I didn’t know what the brake button was until after my third crash though. Just sayin’.

Need for Speed: The Run is the latest entry in the Need for Speed franchise. The “Run” in the title refers to a massive race from San Francisco to New York, with legs of the race stopping in numerous cities along the way. The player will face hundreds of notorious street racers, as well as law enforcement along the way.

The game makes use of DICE’s Frostbite 2.0 engine (normally used in FPS) and it shows. Graphically, this game is beautiful. Lights reflect off of slick streets, as well as storefront windows. While racing along in the police car, the red and blues dance realistically enough to nearly cause a seizure. Blackbox has definitely pulled out all the stops when it comes to the graphical fidelity of this entry.

But graphics aren’t what you really care about are they? I can safely say that the gameplay holds up as well. The sense of speed is spot on. Blowing down the road feels tight, and making hairpin turns will take true skill, and ample use of drafting to pull of perfectly. None of this is new, however, and the new on-foot game mechanic is where I was truly impressed.

At certain points throughout the story, the player will find themselves on foot. Getting out of the car in a racing game seems pretty counterintuitive, but thankfully, Blackbox understands that racing fans don’t want an action adventure game. The on-foot segments take place within in-game engine cut-scenes, and feature quick time events. The player might find themselves free running across roofs, and having to press buttons according to the on-screen prompts to successfully jump from rooftop to rooftop. In the demo I played, the quick time event involved me trying to escape my car after a wreck. Pressing left on the joystick and jamming on the action button (X on PS3, A on 360) resulted in my character trying to shoulder ram the passenger door, and ended with my character wincing in pain. Down and the action button saw my character trying to punch out the windshield, and injuring his hand. Eventually I realized that the answer was up and the action button, which resulted in my character releasing his seatbelt, and led to another such event. All of this culminated in escaping my overturned police car mere seconds before it was destroyed by an oncoming train.

Wait…how did I get overturned and on train tracks? As I mentioned above, law enforcement is hunting you. At a certain point in the demo, a police helicopter began to track me. Whenever it’s spotlight was on the car, the helicopter would open fire, damaging my car, and making it a real pain to maneuver. The key here was to swerve to avoid having the spotlight lock on to me, all while trying to dodge traffic, and keeping an eye open for underpasses that would allow me some cover from the pesky bird. After a bit, the police gave up trying to keep civilians alive, and began opening fire on cars around me, causing them to explode in a fiery burst that I then had to avoid. Eventually, they opened fire on a propane tanker in front of me, causing the game to enter a cutscene that had my character flying off the interstate and flipping upside down on a set of train tracks.

EA has also confirmed that Autolog, which has been used in previous entries, will now permeate every part of the experience. From multiplayer to singleplayer, all actions the player makes will be logged within Autolog.

What I experienced during my brief time with the game was that there is a lot of high-action driving going on, and the adrenaline levels get high. My heart was pumping from excitement. If the final product features this much excitement throughout the game, then this will be a must own for any Need for Speed fan, and will definitely be a part of my collection. You can pick it up on November 15th. Along with tons of other games. Thanks EA.

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I'm the guy everyone loves to hate. The resident Devil's Advocate for GAMINGtruth, my words are harsh, my message serious. The gaming industry needs some big changes to keep from destroying itself.

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