Once upon a time there was this thing called The Cannonball Baker Sea-to-Shining-Sea Memorial Trophy Dash. Alternatively this event (which was run more than once) may be more widely known as the Cannonball Run. The event was a race from the east coast of the United States out to the west coast and actually inspired several movies. And now, it seems, it has inspired the newest game in the Need for Speed franchise, Need for Speed: The Run (where they actually race from the west coast to the east, but we forgive them).
The story here is both simple and ludicrous (like that in the films) and involves a poor soul who owes a lot of money to the wrong people. The only (read: quick) way out is for him to join a super-secret illegal cross country race. You, quite naturally, are that poor soul and need to come in first to save your life and allow you to retire in style.
There are really two main questions one has about a game like this – how do they manage to break down the stages in a 3,000 mile race and what is the actual driving like? The graphics and sound and multiplayer and everything else are certainly relevant, but the heart of the game lies within the answers to these two issues.
Dealing with the former, first, the main portion of the game, "The Run," is broken down into 10 stages with several small races placed within each stage. Rather than forcing one to sit down to race for hours and hours (and days and days) on end in order to do the 3,000 mile track, it's broken down into these far more manageable levels which tend to run just a few minutes at a shot.
By making the game into these bite-size chunks, Black Box Studios is able to offer up several different types of races. On one level you'll have to pass 10 other racers, on another you'll have to just stay ahead of a few racers for a certain amount of time, on a third you'll have to get away from the police, etc. Then there are levels where you're outside of your car and just tapping buttons at the right time to beat people up or escape from something exploding or to kick a dog (really). These outside the car, mini-game moments, feature stellar graphics but really do absolutely nothing in terms of gameplay. They only serve to detract from the driving experience and would have been better handled as pure cinematics.