NFS The Run Gamescom Review
The story so far…
A recap of that day at the EA Lounge at Gamescom 2011
by F. Rick Reich.
Today I had the opportunity to get my hands on and first real life impression of The Run watching a guy driving a Porsche through a rocky dessert landscape in the EA section of the entertainment area. I was pretty impressed by that, but it was not even close to what I should experience no more than 2 hours later.
EPIC… Yes. That is what pretty much wraps it up! No wait, let me get into details here because I need to help pass some time on this train ride:
After rectifying some minor problems trying to get into the EA community lounge entrance, we finally got in. Rob (from ND4SPDWorld.com), Elina (Rob’s Girlfriend), Pascal and I were able to test out the Red Rock Ridge level by ourselves. Completely stunned by the viewing distance and the awesome handling, it felt like something between arcade and simulation, but completely new and fresh. We had a lot of fun and some real "Woah!" moments while checking it out first hand. When we got into the presentation, the HDMI projection unit seemed to have a personal grudge against the EA people since it didn't want to work the way they wanted it to. With the projector finally working, Drew told us about the history of Blackbox studios, the developer of such titles as Most Wanted, Pro Street, and that same studio is currently developing The Run. He also told us that they are developing The Run with a completely different team and about a few other, very interesting aspects of the game and its features in his typical, funny and straight way, when we reached the time of the presentation when we could actually see the game in action on the projection wall, with a screen bigger than a full size delivery van, he passed the controls to one of us to play it, and I don't think anyone actually expected what we would be about to see.
If you liked the “Buried Alive” trailer, like me, you already know the topic of the certain part of the game that he showed us. As in the trailer, the R8 drove past Jack, destroying the wooden barricade, and the action starts. Our driver had to get the M3 through a terrain that reacted directly to the car, ice killed every chance on a good handling, lifting him over a cliff just about instantly, however, with the brand new replay function (Forza3 anyone?) kicks in and gives our player another chance.
In the following section we had rockets shooting into the mountains wreaking havoc to the environment.
An avalanche started, parts of rocks were thrown right down on us, with our M3 driving right into it - totaled. rewind again. we experience the progress of learning to avoid certain obstacles an directly crashing into the next one. you guessed it! …Rewind. I already love that function.
At some sections in that map you had to be faster than the avalanche or you would be buried. There was no chance for our driver, he lost and so Drew took over, going pack to the presentation. Well…after the HDMI problems were fixed - somehow it felt like projector really didn't seem to like Drew today.
After the presentation, we were allowed to ask some questions. Jason DeLong came and took over, taking time to answer a lot of questions for us, shedding the light we wanted to see - as far as he could, because a lot of questions could not been answered due to the current state of the game.
Well enough about the presentation, here’s the review you’ve been waiting for so I can professionally repeat myself again with a few more details!
This is the second time that the player in an NFS title has been given a name, Our alter ego is called Jack and he appears to have some problems with the mafia, for reasons that are not yet clarified, but it appears that he owes them a lot of money. given that he knows now way out but appears to be a great driver, he joins a 3000 miles and 200 participants heavy race straight through the USA, from San Fransisco to New York to win 25 million dollars.
As we all know street racing is illegal (yes my friends, I hope you know that) so apart from the racers, the mob and interactive cut scenes, the police gives everything to stop the race, and gives Jack a hell of a chase.
In the 2 Races we were able to play in the Community Lounge you had to step up 10 places from position 150 to 140 by racing through a rocky landscape with the name “Desert Hills” and one place through an absolutely stunning snow and ice adventure called “Independence Pass” against a recklessly driving Audi R8.
The Run is being developed by Blackbox Studios which has been away from the NFS franchise for some years to get a clear picture about what NFS should become. Blackbox now has a new team, that serves fresh ideas and tries to do the best to make The Run an adventure none of us will forget about. Additionally some big names have been added to the team and so its no wonder that the physics director of the game has been working on such titles as DiRT, and the games producer has been working on titles such as SKATE and 007: Nightfire.
The Engine and Visuals
The Run uses Frostbite 2.0, the same engine that is used for Battlefield 3. It serves The Run an almost endless feeling drawing distance, stunning graphics and better sound quality, also it gives the developer more freedom in adding new content, testing functions and implement patches. Graphically you can expect explosions, an active weather system and drawing distances of around 2 or 3 kilometers, yet even though the graphics we saw were unpolished and unfinished as it was only an alpha version, I can’t wait to see what becomes from the finished product.
Feature wise Frostbite 2.0 gives us Destructions, Cut scenes, scripted events and weather effects that look absolutely stunning and beautiful, The Run will make extensive use of those and will be a DirectX10 and DirectX11 title only. Speaking of which, the system requirements of the game will be comparable or equal to those of Battlefield 3 and have yet to be announced.
The Run feels different, that’s what I have to tell everyone who wants to know about it. Its like a pizza with champingons, but made of pure marmelade, but the contents are the same...wait. that sounded...wrong! let me start again:
When you first play The Run, you notice how your cars handling feels just as you would expect it, EA calls it a “Pick up and Play title”. it doesn’t feel like it did in Shift, or in Most Wanted. No, my BMW just felt exactly like I would expect it to feel like, a BMW, and I know what I am saying here!
The depth of the gameplay makes you feel like you are right inside of the story, and the environment plays its part by making your car slide over ice, or rumble over gravel and dirt. Driving a track changed quite a bit, because aside of the typical shortcuts, and the fact that it resets your car onto the track when you drive off to the sides or backwards, a new mode has been added called “Rewind”, it is pretty much comparable to the rewind mode in Forza 3 with the exception that its checkpoint based and its amount is restricted by the difficulty level you chose, and if you run out of Rewinds, and you crash into a rock, or get buried under snow you have to restart the whole race.
There is an XP system were you earn XP by doing drifts, or other stunts to unlock new cars, challenges and races.
Whenever you are not driving, you won’t want to lay your controller on the floor and chill out, no chance.
The cut scenes are as interactive as the races and let you no time to breath, even though these cut scenes only make up around 10% of the game, it’s still something brand new and quite interesting to the Need for Speed franchise.
The complete amount of cars has not been released yet, and aside of the 2 cars at the Gamescom, the 2011 Porsche 911 RS 4.0 and a 450HP BMW e92 M3 GTS there will be between 50 and 60 cars.
As Drew put it will be a “Supercool” list of anything you want in a game, and considering we already know some of those cars, like the Audi R8 Coupe, the Mustang Super Snake, the Lamborghini Avantador and the Nissan 200SX (S14), I am pretty sure that his words will guide us in the right way!
Speaking of cars, all traffic cars in the demo have been Dodges, I think I may have seen a Magnum, a Charger, Challenger and a Sprinter Van, but the trailer had shown us a Cadillac CTS and random Nissans.
The Social World
Need for Speed: The Run will feature Autolog again, which, if you don’t know yet is a nifty little tool integrated into the latest NFS titles to keep track of your statistics and what your friends are doing or share your screenshots. this time it will update your friends statistics in real time, and will be integrated into Facebook. Autolog got through a little diet and will feature a dashboard kind of surface, so you have all your statistics and information available in a single blink of an eye.
In terms of online racing we could not get to much information yet, there will be different game modes, but they have not been announced yet, what we can tell you so far though, is that the game will support 12 - 16 players online.
At some point I asked Drew how he felt when he watched the buried alive trailer the very first time and he told me that he was really impressed and that they are using the same tools for the video production that were used in AVATAR, which, I have to say is a nice side information to know.
I think the difference to other racing games, that you have to climb up a ladder instead of finishing a race will change the way people will talk about the game. a friend wont tell you "I’m stuck in this and that level" he will just say "I can’t beat number 140".
Need For Speed: The Run will be released on Nov 15. for North America and Nov 18. for Europe, Later DLC’s will be released for all platforms equally and the decision if a demo will be released or not has not been made yet.
Right here at the end I want to thank Drew for this great day, it was a pleasure to meet him again because it’s always fun when he takes “the stage” and talks about the games and their features. Furthermore, I wish to thank Rob, Elina and Pascal for letting me join them on this adventure, at the Gamescom 2011 in Cologne.
And with this, I take my hat, my cigarettes and gamepad. I am retiring.
- F. Rick Reich