Rockets are being fired into the snow-covered peaks of the Rocky Mountains, causing a series of avalanches as I attempt to manoeuvre my incredibly expensive supercar down a snaking downhill road. Chunks of ice crash onto the track reducing visibility, followed by large boulders that block portions of the path and cause me to swerve violently from side to side. The Run's adrenaline-fuelled soundtrack could well make walking a puppy seem like high-octane extreme entertainment, but here it fits, raising my heart rate until near breaking-point before I just about manage to enter a tunnel as the rampaging snow swallows up everything on the mountain behind me.
This level comes approximately half way through Need for Speed: The Run's campaign, and perfectly highlights the kind of game I thought EA and Black Box was going to deliver. Sadly this stage is essentially one of a kind. While there are other blockbuster movie moments scattered stingily throughout, none come close to this standout few minutes. For the most part The Run is a series of point to point races, checkpoint challenges and overtaking missions. They are all carried out at incredibly high speeds, feature some of the most desired cars ever made, and take you through some gorgeous locations, but you are generally just driving from A to B.
There's no doubt that EA wanted The Run to be like a Hollywood movie, but has attempted to do so by delivering the racing inside a paper-thin plot. Jack is in trouble, gets talked into an illegal cross-country street race from San Francisco to New York City, and then finds himself not only on the run from police but also some very bad men with guns. The winner of The Run will receive $25,000,000, of which Jack will net 10 per cent if he wins, but with over 200 other drivers all equally desperate for the cash no one will be walking away unscathed.
While The Run's campaign isn't nearly as explosive as it wants you to believe it is, the constant high speeds and threat of traffic does result in some exciting racing. Car handling is a little heavy for my liking, with the cars not offering the kind of dexterity really needed in a game that requires so much dodging around innocent drivers, but you'll learn what you can and can't achieve before too long. As you race you'll earn XP, which in turn increases your driver rank, unlocking perk-like rewards that make your job easier - from multiplying your XP-earning to a faster nitrous refill.
The Run's main problem is that last year's Hot Pursuit (developed by Criterion) offers a similar high-speed experience, but does so with a better driving model and with more excitement on the track. AI rivals here do little to compete, more or less seeming like they're just coming along for the ride - the constant tussle felt in Hot Pursuit is sorely absent here.
According to the in-game timer that tracks your overall completion time, getting across the US takes about two hours, but that isn't really an accurate reflection of how long the campaign will last. For one, you'll crash a lot. The game's emphasis on long, straight roads allows you to reach some insane speeds that don't sit well with heavy car handling and oncoming traffic. Hit another vehicle head-on or at high speed from behind and your ride is wrecked, forcing you back to the previous checkpoint as you watch a hideous rewind symbol flash on the screen.
This rewind system feels incredibly dated given the slick turning back time mechanics seen in other racers this gen, but get used to it as it'll be on the screen a lot. It's not just collisions that cause this checkpoint reset, either. Veer off the road in a way that the game deems too much and back to the previous checkpoint you go - hell, at points you barely have to have four wheels off the tarmac before you're whipped back. Night stages make visibility very poor, resulting in a lot of smashes into road dividers, while machine-gun-toting goons turn up towards the end and simply opt to blow you up.