by / December 15th, 2011 /

Need For Speed: The Run – PS3, X360, Wii, PC (EA)

The latest instalment in EA’s arcade racer series re-invigorates the genre somewhat, while simultaneously harking back to some classic racers of old. Instead of focusing all the action in one fictional city, this time it’s all about a coast-to-coast road race across the United States, and it’s all the better for it.

You take on the role of Jack Rourke, who begins the game strapped to the wheel of car that’s about to be crushed on the outskirts of San Francisco. Rourke owes the mob, who have decided to call in their debt in blood rather than dollars. One quick escape later, and our hard-nosed anti-hero is signing up for The Run, an epic road-race over more than 3,000 miles from San Francisco to New York, competing against more than 200 other drivers for a top prize of 25 million dollars.

Unlike recent games in the series, this isn’t about amassing cash to buy cars (although gaining XP does allow you to upgrade your motor at the various garages en route), but gaining places in the field is your goal. For example, you have to be in the top 150 racers by the time you hit Vegas, and the top 50 when you reach Chicago. The race is split into relatively short levels (most, in and around the five minute mark), and variety is provided by the type of challenge – some require you to overtake a set amount of cars within a set distance, others are time trials, while the more interesting levels see you going head-to-head with rival drivers to a set finish line (with limited re-starts for each level, depending on your skill set).

The graphics are terrific, the sound top notch and the voice-acting is comparable to a B-movie (which is all you want from a racing title), but it’s the frantic racing, the spectacular crashes and the real feeling of serious mileage that will keep you coming back for more. Add in some cracking online game modes and you have a serious contender for arcade racer of the year: like Out Run meets the 21st century, which can only be a good thing.