Running in your hands.
EA have, rather predictably, also brought their shiny new racing game to the 3DS, but 3DS owners hoping to continue, or at least replicate, the story from the home console version of The Run will be sorely disappointed, this version has a different story set within the same fictional race. However, if they can look past that disappointment, what they will find is one of the best racing experiences so far on the 3D handheld.
The story plays out through a series of comic-book style panes and begins with the hero being almost killed after his car is pushed into a river. Soaking wet and without a car to enter the illegal cross-America street race, the hero is offered a helping hand by a woman who seems to know a lot about our hero, and who happens to have a high performance car on hand. The characters are fairly stereo-typical and the story feels much more tongue-in-cheek than the home console versions, but it remains entertaining throughout and serves its purpose well.
The purpose of which is to string together a collection of races through different terrain types as the player makes their way across America with the goal of winning the race. The different races are varied by type, with standard point to point, checkpoint races and one on one events as the player works their way through the competition to improve their position overall. Then there are the occasional breaks in the norm, such as when one particular rival begins shooting at your car and it becomes an exercise in avoiding gun fire. There really is nothing to complain about here when considering the other 3DS racing games and the different modes that they have to offer. The Run seems to be running ahead.
However, in an attempt to keep the gameplay fresh and offer even more variety, the developers may have taken a step too far by introducing the occasional mini-game. These events often break any sense of immersion and leave the player feeling frustrated in the worst examples. These mini-games appear in all aspects of the game and, whilst using the stylus to change a tyre within a time limit may not be too imposing, suddenly being told to swipe the screen a number of times in order to successfully jump a ravine is an exercise in frantic finger juggling as, by this point, the players fingers will be well and truly fixed into button pressing race mode. Any chance of getting the stylus out is lost, unless the player cunningly stores the stylus in their mouth while playing, something which I do not recommend.
But there is one type of recurring mini-game that really gets my goat. Occasionally, the view switches to a first-person, on the bonnet camera angle and the player is expected to drive and avoid debris and such. Aside from the fact that it takes the player a moment to adjust, something goes horribly wrong with the handling and the car feels much more like a shopping trolley to control. The player only has a limited number of lives before having to begin the entire “episode” again, and on more than one occasion I lost all of those lives due to this particular event.
Which is a real shame, as the handling in general is really good. The cars drive nice and fast, and feel solid on the road. Other staples of the series appear here as well, such as nitro boosting, taking down opponents and even cop chases. Besides the way that the game looks, it really is as fully featured as its big brothers.
But that is not to say that the game looks bad, it is just that expectations should be lowered for a handheld. In actual fact, the game looks gorgeous and runs very smoothly, as long as the 3D effect is not turned on. Turning on 3D will bring a mildly impressive sense of depth, certainly not the best we have seen, but unfortunately drops the frame rate and somewhat spoils the experience. My advice, keep the 3D turned off.
Then there are the bells and whistles. A challenge mode encourages the player to return to completed “episodes” and attempt them with different objectives for medals. Multiplayer includes two different modes, but sadly finding a game may present a problem as there seems to be very few players enjoying this title.
There is no denying that The Run on 3DS has a few issues. The 3D effect is disappointing and breaking up the racing action for pointless, or frustrating, mini-games was just a waste of time. But if these faults can be ignored, what remains is an absolute blast and easily places Need for Speed: The Run as one of the best racing experiences on the 3DS.