Review: Need for Speed: The Run (3DS)

Enough speed to make your eyes bleed

The high pitched sound of the engines roar assures us that we’re quickly approaching top speeds, but it’s barely noticeable from the techno jams blasting through the speakers. As each corner pushes us closer to the edge of losing control and the infectious music fuels our aggressive driving habits, one thing becomes very apparent as we’re slamming the nitrous button: we’ve got the Need for Speed.

Need for Speed: The Run takes racers on a wild ride across North America, from the coast of California to the downtown streets of New York city — the driver who can successfully evade the police swarms and win the race will take home a cool million bucks. In comic book-styled storyboards, the storyline is filled with mob ties, rivals, a mysterious lady and a garage full of exotic cars, doing a great job of keeping things entertaining in-between races for the couple of hours it last.

Racing clear across the country naturally offers a multitude of sights and terrains, and it’s a highlight that the developer takes advantage of by including a wide variety of unique tracks. From the dusty plains of the western desert to the mountainous central regions, no two tracks look alike. But that’s not to say they look great though, because the low-res muddy graphics featured here are a misstep. While the game is still entirely playable, the dull effect shortens the draw distance and, on the curviest of tracks, it makes navigation a bit more difficult than it should be.

It couldn't be a Need for Speed game without great controls, blazingly fast speeds and smooth frame rates, and The Run makes the shift onto a portable console with great success. Just like in Firebrand Game’s other 3DS title NASCAR Unleashed, the sensation of speed here is off the charts for a portable title. While the minimal 3D effect does little to help the graphics, it’s nonetheless a nice addition, but what’s most impressive is that the high speeds and frame rate don’t take a noticeable drop when enabled. Add in the soundtrack featuring a great variation of licensed rock and techno hits and The Run will have your head rushing and bobbing to the beat at the same time.

While many portable versions of console titles are severely hobbled in translation on the additional features front, this isn’t one of them. Autolog makes a successful appearance here and for those who’ve not yet experienced this lovely little bit of online magic, you’re in for a real treat. Imagine you’re racing a track in the single player game and set one of the best track times in your entire life: wouldn’t you want to shove it in your friends’ faces for bragging rights? Well, that’s exactly what Autolog does — and well. Everyone on your 3DS’s Friends List that plays The Run and connects to the internet will get automatic updates of your best times and vice-versa. SpotPass ups the ante by adding on-the-spot challenges, as well as locally transferring track times. If you’re short on friends and don’t want to miss out on these great features that Autolog brings to the table, then our own 3DS Forums here at Nintendo Life just might help you get started on building that Friends List up nicely.

The trunk loads of extras don’t stop there though: Challenge and Multiplayer modes pack on the replay value and a levelling system is fully integrated into the entire game. Regardless of when or where you’re racing, completing races and challenges (e.g. take down opponents, beating track times, etc.) earns experience, and gaining levels earns new cars and custom parts. While these can’t be used in the main story mode, they’ll come in handy in the others – especially online. Challenge Mode pits you against an assortment of various race types at increasing difficulties and a few of these will even you find you in the seat of a police cruiser chasing down the racers.

Stepping off into the online world will find you door to door against seven other racers in straight multiplayer races, or four-on-four Cops vs. Racers, which is exactly as it sounds. In our time with the game online, we had no issues finding matches to enter and if the roster isn’t completely filled for an event, the game inserts a computer controlled racer to keep the line-up full. Gameplay here is just as fast as the offline modes and the incentive to keep playing to unlock the best cars and parts will have you racing long after the offline modes are completed.

There is one additional feature that’s been included as a 3DS exclusive and it’s one that we could’ve lived without: touch screen quick time events. In the home console NFS games, it takes precision controls to navigate roadblocks and hairpin turns, but here they’ve been changed to QTE’s. Slowing the action and forcing you to make touch screen gestures is supposed to create a dramatic effect, but instead it can be more like hitting a brick wall at times, as the limited time allowance has you scrambling to and figure out what gesture is in need of being performed. These events become trial-and-error experiences and they’ve got another problem too: losing lives. On the normal difficulty settings you’ll only have three lives per race, and seeing how there’s rarely a race finished without taking enough damage to use up a respawn or two, a few missed QTE segments can easily find you right back at the starting line. Regardless of your skill level, between the respawns limits and difficulty spikes, you’ll want to drop the difficulty down a notch for a much more balanced and fun gaming experience.

Conclusion

Firebrand Games might have previously unleashed a stinker on us with a certain NASCAR game, but with Need for Speed: The Run, the studio's proven that it's definitely still got what it takes to give us hours of portable racing enjoyment. While flawed in a few areas, the superb online experience and high speed action strapped into the little cartridge here packs enough thrills to satisfy any 3DS owner with an insistence for speed.