Need for Speed: The Run
A decent racing game...when it doesn't ask you to change a tire, or avoid boulders, or rub the touch screen like crazy.
The Nintendo 3DS doesn't have much to choose from in the racing department, with Ridge Racer 3D the best the system has to offer.
With this in mind, we held out hope that Need for Speed: The Run would somehow manage to shine, that Electronic Arts would actually care about the handheld version of its big budget speedster, instead of simply phoning in some half-hearted effort.
Much to our surprise, the game is mildly entertaining. That is, until it asks you to do silly things.
The Run follows the same basic premise as the Xbox 360/PS3/Wii versions, in that you compete in a cross-country race (from San Francisco to New York City), taking down rivals en route to a big payday. It's a fun idea that EA mostly pulls off, despite the cornball story, with tracks in SF, Yosemite, the Redwood Forest and plenty of other locales.
What's more, the game has a cool Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit and Burnout vibe. The Autolog returns, tracking your race career, while the inclusion of takedowns give this title an arcade style feel.
The actual racing, meanwhile, delivers some cool thrills, complete with sick jumps, cops hot on your trail and good old fashioned nitrous for that added boost. There's a very slight dip in frame rate with 3D turned on, but the game doesn't necessarily suffer as a result. You'll still be able to dodge rivals and make split second decisions without performance getting in the way. Even better, you'll do this while steering a variety of licensed vehicles from such manufacturers as Mazda, Ford and Volkswagen.
What hurts this title, though, are the included mini games. At specific points, and without warning, EA will suddenly place the camera on the car's hood, then ask you to dodge boulders or slip through a police barricade. Other times, it'll force you to frantically rub the touch screen to build up speed, or press left or right to execute a trick.
This is much too jarring, especially since it means taking one's hand off the accelerator (right shoulder button) to then deal with the touch screen, or adjust to the new first person perspective. Much trial and error ensues, made worse by the fact that you only receive a certain number of "lives" per race. You could be more than 50 percent complete and on the way to a perfect run, only to slam into a boulder and go right back to the beginning. That's awful.
Meanwhile, the game does little to showcase the system's processing muscle, with bland/borderline washed out environments that don't come close to matching the graphics on many iPhone and iPad racers. Cars take damage, but that does little to make Need for Speed: The Run visually stimulating.
Outside of the single player campaign, the game comes with off and online multiplayer, with two modes to choose from: Sprint, and Cops vs. Racers. It's just a shame we couldn't experience either, since the online lobby doubles as a ghost town.
Taking all of this into account, Need for Speed: The Run is a tough game to recommend. Although it shows signs of life, those bothersome mini games get in the way of what could've been the best 3DS driving game.
On the flip side, if you can deal with its faults, there's some fun racing to behold.
Review copy provided by Electronic Arts.
What's Hot: Hot Pursuit mixed with Burnout, a nice variety of locations, fun racing, plenty of licensed vehicles, online play, Autolog.
What's Not: Annoying mini games, cookie cutter story, slight dip in frame rate with 3D, tough to find online opponents.