E3 2011: Hands and eyes-on with Need For Speed The Run

Electronic Arts has been putting a lot of effort to reviving its Need For Speed series in the last year or so. 2010 saw the release of the MMO game Need For Speed World as well as Need For Speed Hot Pursuit from Burnout creators Criterion Studios. Earlier this year we saw Shift 2 Unleashed, a new game in the spin-off racing sim like series. Now EA is doing something different yet again with its next game in the series, Need For Speed The Run.

We got a chance to check out a long but live demo of the game at E3 2011 behind closed doors. The game comes from EA's Black Box studio in Vancouver who have made previous Need For Speed games. However this is the first time this studio has made a game in the franchise for some time and as a result they had more time (over two years) to develop Need For Speed The Run.

The game is different from previous games in the series in several aspects. One is the fact that the game's campaign takes place in the real world in an illegal cross country race from San Francisco to New York City, as well as a number of cities and locations in between. Previous games in the Need For Speed series were all set in fictional locations. Another different is that for the first time some of the game's action has the driver getting out of the vehicle to do some action on his own. We were told that these sequences take up about 10 percent of the total game experience, so fans who think the game is turning into an action title can rest assured that the vast majority of Need For Speed The Run takes place behind the wheel.

The demo took place in Chicago where our lead character is participating in the race but is being attacked from above by the mob. We see him outside the car at night as he fights a policeman and uses God of War-style button mashing combos to take him out and steal the police car. The game switches to a driving game as he has to avoid being shot by an attacking helicopter. The goal is to stay out of the chopper's spotlight while driving. Finally we crash the car on a train track as a train is approaching and we do more button mashing to discover how to escape the car before we become a part of the train.

We also got to play the sequence of driving the game through Chicago and the final train quicktime sequence on the PS3. While Need For Speed The Run uses the Frostbite 2 graphics engine that's also being used on the shooter Battlefield 3, the art and textures don't appear to be quite as sharp as Digital Illusions's game (it might be due to the PS3's limitations though). Otherwise the game feels slick and tight to drive and its clear that Black Box has done a good job adapting the engine to a driving game.

There's still not a lot we know about Need For Speed The Run such as multiplayer options, what real licensed cars will be included and more. We do know that Autolog is coming back to track player's statistics. Hopefully we will learn more before the game is released on November 15.

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