The Run may not be winning plaudits when it comes to its short campaign, but there should be no doubt that it boasts some intelligent and impressive multiplayer features underneath the hood. We shine a light on our favourite inclusions and explain what other racing games can learn from them.
Autolog: This tech was first unveiled in last year’s Most Wanted, and like Criterion’s title Autolog permeates every aspect of The Run. You’ll receive updates on friend activity, whether they’ve beaten your fastest times in respective Challenge Series and other competitive alerts. Now in functionality terms this is very much the same as what Need for Speed fans have experienced before but Black Box have used the information in much more imaginative ways.
For example when you attempt to beat a rival’s time you’ll no longer receive a target time in the upper right hand corner, instead you’ll receive a real-time display of how much time you’re ahead or behind their attempt. This means that you’ll know exactly which corners you’ve picked up the most time and where you need to go quicker in order to beat the existing time; it’s a simple step forward for Autolog functionality, but it can make a massive difference in understanding why a friend is significantly faster than you on one track.
Bonus Wheel: Anyone who’s ever played a racing game online will tell you that other players dropping out of events mid-race is a very common occurrence. Reasons for quitting range from getting frustrated, crashing out or simply not knowing a certain track, but The Run has a very nifty way of offering a random reward to players for finishing a championship. Basically the way that it works is that at the start of every championship the Bonus Wheel is spun to determine a reward for a certain number in the group ranging from free XP for everyone who finishes the championship to a free car unlock for those that finish in the top three.
Bonuses act as an incentive for players to keep on racing despite their fortunes in the hope that they’ll unlock a reward. The fact that these are given out at the end of a championship and declared before another one begins means that you’re always tempted to keep on playing. We predict every online experience will have a mechanic like this in the future, it’s that much of a game-changer.
No More Waiting for Races: Most Need for Speed games in the past have forced players to wait for races in progress to run their course before enabling players to join, but not The Run. Using the game’s checkpoint structure, when you join a race in progress you start at the last checkpoint passed by the leaders enabling you to at least have a little fun before the next race. Obviously you’ll never win from joining a race midway through, unless something pretty dramatic happens, but this solution is far superior to watching dots race around a 2d map.
Reverse Grids: Due to obstacles like traffic, bollards and other environmental distractions it’s good to know that if you finish last in one race, you’ll start ahead of the bunch the next. Each race in The Run always uses rolling starts, so starting at the front isn’t the biggest advantage, but it helps to avoid those road users who can’t help but hit their competitors. Of course the flip-side of this is that when you win a race, you know you’re going to have to deal with the more aggressive competition at the back of the field at the start of the next event, but reverse grids do offer something extra and are something which other racing games usually fail to chuck in.
Awards and Objectives: Most online experiences have an XP-based progression mechanic to reward long-term play and The Run is no different. Although rather than just offering a standard amount of XP per race, The Run tailors experience earned in accordance with performance via special badges. All sorts of achievements are rewarded ranging from lowest top speed to not touching any barriers. These badges function like a post-race evaluation, singling out your performance in comparison to everyone else’s and they’re usually very interesting to look at. Continuing that incentive to play The Run a certain way are the Objectives. These goal-orientated tasks are designed to incentivise players to try and race a different style to what they’re accustomed to e.g not wall riding or hitting other competitors. It’s a very good system and one which consistently rewards the player.
The critical response Need for Speed: The Run received earlier this week could be easily described as mixed, but that doesn’t mean it’s a title which lacks its fair share of appeal. The multiplayer alone is worthy of acclaim thanks to the array of improvements it brings to the online racing genre and we hope these additions are at least considered for the next chapter in this series.